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FedEx Blockchain Strategist Sees Teamwork as Key to Developing Blockchain Business Models

Senior executives acknowledged the technology is not yet superior for its purposes, while remaining optimistic about development.

A senior executive from American delivery services company FedEx is unconvinced about the benefits of blockchain technology in its present form, Memphis-based local news outlet Commercial Appeal reported on May 20.

In a new interview, the firm’s dedicated blockchain strategist, Dale Chrystie, said FedEx remains pragmatic about blockchain despite its previous efforts to integrate it.

As it stands, conventional processes covering the shipping database aspect of its operations are superior, at least in part due to the nascent stage of blockchain.

“To kind of burst the bubble, it’s not our only database, it’s not our best database, it’s not currently very fast or very scalable and it’s not very mature, right?” Chrystie said.

His words echoed those of both FedEx CEO Fred Smith and CIO Rob Carter, whose previous comments on blockchain Cointelegraph reported on last year and last month respectively.

While advocating for industry-wide standards and acceptance of the new technology, Carter understands the majority of progress is yet to occur.

“This technology is still in its early days but has immense potential to transform cross border commerce by reducing friction and increasing integrity in how things move around the world,” Carter wrote in an April LinkedIn post.

Chrystie agreed on the need for cooperation.

“Yes, everyone wants to monetize this technology, but we’re all going to have to work together to get it built. That’s why I refer to blockchain as a team sport,” he added. Chrystie continued:

“Once it is built, a lot of people will be able to figure out a business model for it. Right now, it’s not built.”

As Cointelegraph reported, various large scale trials are underway — or have already completed — focusing on blockchain’s role in international shipping and supply chains more widely.

For its part, FedEx joined enterprise blockchain ecosystem Hyperledger in September 2018, while a year previously, it became a member of the Canada-based Blockchain Research Institute.

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FedEx Executive Advocates for Industry Blockchain Standards

The CIO of American delivery services company FedEx, Rob Carter, has called for blockchain standards for the industry.

Rob Carter, the chief information officer of American delivery services company FedEx, has called for uniform standards in the blockchain industry, tech-focused media outlet Computerworld reported on April 25.

Speaking at the Blockchain Global Revolution Conference, Carter argued that mandated standards would help create uniformity for blockchains used in supply chains. He also noted the technology’s ability to improve the tracking of a good’s provenance and streamline the shipping process:

“There is an incredible amount of information moving with an international package. An incredible amount of paperwork [such as] certificates of origin, and certain commodities require specific licenses. That information moves sometimes in digital forms and sometimes paper forms. As we move toward a more digital world, blockchain is where you piece all that together.”

FedEx together with two other major international delivery services firms DHL Express and UPS is a member of the Blockchain in Transport Alliance. Last September, the firm joined Hyperledger, an open-source project established to improve cross-industry blockchain technologies. The collaboration will purportedly enable the company to build blockchain-based industry-grade applications, platforms and hardware systems.

In March, UPS and e-commerce technology company Inxeption jointly rolled out a blockchain-powered platform dubbed Inxeption Zippy to improve merchant supply chains. The platform purportedly enables merchants to monitor the entire supply chain from product listing to delivery, ensuring that sensitive data like contract-specific pricing and rates are only accessible to the buyer and seller.

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FedEx Institute Partners With Pharmacy to Use Blockchain for Cancer Medicine Distribution

The FedEx Institute of Technology has announced its partnership with pharmacy services company Good Shepherd Pharmacy to develop new blockchain-based infrastructure to help cancer patients get medications, news outlet Commercial Appeal reported July 6.

The FedEx Institute of Technology is an organization that serves as a promoter of interdisciplinary research in emerging technologies that operates in tandem with the research infrastructure of the University of Memphis. The institutions launched the Institute in February of this year in order to make University of Memphis a center of technology and research.

Memphis-based Good Shepherd Pharmacy reportedly recognized blockchain as a means to retrieve unused medications from cancer patients and pass them on to economically disadvantaged patients who would not be able to regularly afford them. A secure and immutable ledger would allow for a safe and confidential distribution of medical information. Good Shepherd Pharmacy’s CEO Phil Baker said:

“In Tennessee alone, over $10 million worth of perfectly good prescription medication gets flushed down the toilet every year. Blockchain is the solution for that problem. The REMEDI project (REclaiming MEDicine) will divert valuable medication into the hands of patients who would not otherwise use it.”

The Institute will host an event to attract blockchain experts and enthusiasts to discuss Good Shepherd’s proposed initiative. The event will be held in tandem with Blockchain 901, a professional organization that aims to expand the tech workforce in the Memphis area.

In May, FedEx CEO Fred Smith said that blockchain is “the next frontier that’s going to completely change worldwide supply chains.” In February, FedEx joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), a focus group whose members include rail operator BNSF, JD Logistics, and GE Transportation.

Last month, another blockchain-based pharmaceutical project was announced by Microsoft and supply tracking solutions provider Adents. The new system offers end-to-end traceability and visibility from the point of origin along the whole supply chain, which allows users to trace single product items within a case.

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DHL Announces Partnership With Global Blockchain Trade Finance Platform TradeIX

DHL is partnering with blockchain trade finance platform TradeIX, according to a presentation today, June 5, at the Money20/20 conference in Amsterdam.

Becky Taylor, Vice President of Commercial at DHL Supply Chain UK and Ireland, spoke about how the company has been looking to “create more efficient networks” through digitization, including a way to “serialize products to be able to track that product through its life.”

Taylor then announced the partnership by saying that DHL on its own “can’t achieve those types of funding rates to create an attractive price [for customers], so we started to work with Trade IX.”

Daniel Cotti, CFO of TradeIX, noted that the current lack of standards and interoperability in the trade finance market creates disconnected trade systems that rely on “manual, costly, tedious, error prone and redundant processes.”

According to the presentation, blockchain technology can power “leaner, more automated and error free processes and increased visibility.” TradeIX’s TIX platform will reportedly allow DHL to “embe[d] multiple funding and risk mitigation options into their product offering.”

This is not DHL’s first foray into blockchain tech – in mid-March, DHL and consulting firm Accenture announced they had jointly created a blockchain-based supply chain prototype for the pharmaceutical industry.

In mid-May, the CEO of delivery service FedEx said that blockchain is the “next frontier” for global supply chains.

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FedEx CEO: Blockchain Is The ‘Next Frontier’ For Global Supply Chains

Delivery services multinational FedEx said it is “quite confident” blockchain has “big, big implications” for supply chains in a speech May 14, as it continues engagement with the technology.

Speaking at the Consensus 2018 conference in New York Monday, FedEx CEO Fred Smith said that the time had come for businesses to ingratiate themselves with blockchain or face “probable extinction.”

“We’re quite confident that it has big, big implications in supply chain, transportation and logistics,” he said during a panel quoted by Bloomberg and other sources, continuing:

“It’s the next frontier that’s going to completely change worldwide supply chains.”

FedEx has had positive experiences looking into the potential blockchain holds to improve its businesses model. In February, the company joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), a focus group whose members include rail operator BNSF, JD Logistics, and GE Transportation.

FedEx’s goal, industry media reported at the time, was to strive to “create common logistics standards” based on the technology.

Prior to that, in October of last year, it became a member of the Canada-based Blockchain Research Institute, Don Tapscott’s initiative dedicated to “conducting the definitive study of the impact of blockchain technology on business, government and society.”

Earlier this month meanwhile, Cointelegraph reported on how the issue of modernizing supply chain structures of all descriptions has become a central focus of  governments globally, in addition the private sector. On May 10, Cointelegraph reported that Australia’s home affairs ministry is currently looking at how it could implement blockchain in its trade supply chains. That same week, two United States House Subcommittees held a hearing focused on how blockchain can be used in supply chain management.

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FedEx CEO: Adopt New Tech Like Blockchain or Be Disrupted

“Blockchain has the potential to completely revolutionize what’s across the border.”

Speaking at CoinDesk’s Consensus 2018 in New York today, Fred Smith, chairman and CEO of the U.S. logistic giant FedEx, doubled down on his commitment to embracing blockchain technology as a way for the decades-old company to maintain its game in a rapidly changing digital world.

Smith explained that one major issue that the logistic and transportation industry has faced is the “massive amount of friction” in cross-border logistics, since different countries have different standards, regulations and terminologies.

He told the audience:

“For cross-border shipments, ‘trust’ is legal requirement for every transaction. What blockchain has is a potential for the first time ever to make the information available for everybody.”

As such, the FedEx chief praised the “chain of custody” that blockchain can bring to the entire logistic industry.

All this talk isn’t just hot air, either – FedEx joined the Blockchain in Transportation Alliance (BiTA) in February this year in a bid to explore potential blockchain applications alongside other partners within the logistic industry.

At the time, the firm also launched a pilot program to establish what data would be needed for a distributed ledger to ease disputes between customers sending and receiving goods through FedEx. The shipping giant also wants to use blockchain to store its records.

Also speaking at the panel session, Robert Carter, FedEx’s CIO and executive vice president of information services, said the firm will first explore that deployment in the freight industry, since one single ship could contain millions of transactions at the same time.

Carter commented:

“We move easily 12 million shipments a day and that more than doubles during the peak seasons. While we absolutely believe this technology is going to scale, right now it makes sense for us to do this in our freight world,” 

Answering a question from the panel’s host, author Don Tapscott, on how he persuaded Smith  to approve the decision on blockchain exploration, Carter said, in fact, it was the other way round.

“It’s Fred that dragged me into this,” Carter said, adding:

“The application of these custody chains … is so critical to the information aspect. We’re operating on this plane between the physical world and the digital world.”

Speaking on the importance of moving with the times as a company, Smith concluded:

“If you are not operating at the edge of new technologies, you will surely be disrupted. If you are not willing to embrace new technologies like internet of things and blockchain to face those new threats, you are, maybe subtly, at some point … going to extinction.”

Panel image via CoinDesk

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FedEx Moves Forward With Blockchain Logistics Plans

Global shipping giant FedEx has begun efforts to integrate blockchain-based platforms into its daily operations by joining the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA)

Freightwaves, a cargo shipping news organization, reported that FedEx had begun developing a set of industry standards for blockchain usage as part of the BiTA. The company, which joined the organization as a founding member, has already begun testing some blockchain platforms.

FedEx, which is part of BiTA’s standards board, launched a pilot program using blockchain to store data for dispute resolution, said vice-president of strategic planning and analysis Dale Chrystie. The project hopes to establish what data would be needed for a permanent ledger to ease disputes between customers sending and receiving goods through FedEx.

The shipping giant also wants to use blockchain to store its records, he said, expanding:

“We have millions of records a day in our system, and we think of blockchain as a secure chain of custody that could transform the logistics industry. We believe it holds a lot of promise in that space and would streamline all that data exchange in a very secure way.”

Similarly, FedEx senior vice president of IT Kevin Humphries told Freightwaves that blockchain platforms would allow customers to more efficiently track packages, not only while they are in FedEx’s possession but also before and after the corporation picks them up.

While FedEx has only outlined a few possible use cases so far, Humphries said he was “hopeful that blockchain will have many use cases.”

FedEx plane image via Mike Fuchslocher / Shutterstock

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Major Companies like Tencent and FedEx Join Blockchain Research Institute

Several major companies and organizations like Tencent, courier delivery service provider FedEx, and the Ontario Ministry of Health have joined the Canada-based Blockchain Research Institute as of early October 2017. The other notable new members include Fujitsu, the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. (DTCC), telecom firm Bell Canada, Deloitte Canada, and gold miner Barrick Gold.

According to Tencent’s Blockchain head Ray Guo, the institute is a good platform for companies to pursue their Blockchain research projects, among others.

“Blockchain Research Institute provides a great platform for Tencent and other members of the institute to carry out Blockchain research and discussion, which is of great significance to Tencent and the industry. We believe that the Blockchain+ era is coming!”

Brief profile of the institute

The Blockchain Research Institute was established by Don and Alex Tapscott in March 2017, with the support of major companies like International Business Machines (IBM) and PepsiCo, as well as several Blockchain startup firms. The institute was designed to serve as a center for academic research around Blockchain. The institute currently has over 50 experts who are conducting research and analysis.

In its latest announcement, the institute claimed that its team will be working on more than 70 projects. The institute has also started to issue reports on various research that has explored the possible applications of Blockchain technology.

Other new institute members

Aside from the previously mentioned companies, other new members of the institute are Capgemini Canada, Cimcorp, the Institute on Governance, and professional services provider KPMG LLP.

Also joining the institute as members are MKS Switzerland, interbank network operator Interac, food retailer Loblaw Companies, and Moog. These new member firms will be participating in the research projects being pursued by the institute.

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Tencent, FedEx Back Blockchain Research Effort in Canada

A Canada-based blockchain research effort has added over a dozen members including major companies Tencent and FedEx, and the Ontario Ministry of Health.

The Blockchain Research Institute was originally founded in March by Don and Alex Tapscott, and backed by a group companies like IBM and PepsiCo, as well as a number of blockchain startups.

Aimed to serve as a hub for academic research around the technology, the institute’s new members also notably include Deloitte Canada, the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), Fujitsu, telecom provider Bell Canada and gold mining giant Barrick Gold.

Those backing the effort expressed optimism over the effort in a press release, including Tencent’s blockchain lead, Ray Guo, who said:

“Blockchain Research Institute provides a great platform for Tencent and other members of the institute to carry out blockchain research and discussion, which is of great significance to Tencent and the industry. We believe that the blockchain+ era is coming!”

The institute – which has more than 50 experts developing research and analysis – has also announced that its team will now be working on more than 70 projects. The group has already begun releasing reports exploring blockchain’s future potential in a variety of use cases.

The other new members to have joined the research effort are: Capgemini Canada, Cimcorp, the Institute on Governance, KPMG LLP, MKS Switzerland, food retailer Loblaw Companies, interbank network operator Interac and Moog.

FedEx packages image via Vytautas Kielaitis/Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is an independent media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. Have breaking news or a story tip to send to our journalists? Contact us at [email protected].