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UPS Integrates Blockchain Platform to Improve Merchant Supply Chains

Logistics giant UPS and e-commerce tech firm Inxeption have launched a blockchain platform aimed to improve merchant supply chains.

Major American postal carrier UPS and e-commerce technology company Inxeption have jointly rolled out a blockchain-powered platform to improve merchant supply chains. The development was announced in a press release published on March 21.

The new blockchain platform dubbed Inxeption Zippy is designed to help companies list, market and distribute their products to customers. 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.

By using the platform, merchants will purportedly be able to upload product information, schedule orders, monitor returns, process transactions, and review sales and marketing analytics, among other services.

Farzad Dibachi, CEO of Inxeption, said that the platform “creates simplified pricing solutions for B2B merchants with limited digital marketing and IT resources to easily manage all aspects of selling and shipping from one secure place.”

In mid-January, UPS made an undisclosed equity investment in Inxeption. Dibachi said then that “business customers need secure platforms that protect their customer data and proprietary information, while making it easy for them to interact and even collaborate more effectively with their customers.”

Businesses in various industries have been widely exploring the ways blockchain can improve supply chain. Recently, the U.S. National Pork Board partnered with blockchain startup ripe.io to test out a blockchain platform for pork supply chains, which will purportedly enable it to monitor and evaluate sustainability practices, food safety standards, livestock health, and environmental protections.

Earlier this month, North America’s largest branded shelf-stable seafood firm Bumble Bee Foods launched a blockchain platform for seafood traceability. Customers will purportedly be able to observe the entire supply chain, and access information on products’ origins and shipping history by using a smart device to scan a QR code on the product package.

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Singapore Launches Pilot of TradeTrust Blockchain Shipping Initiative

The progression follows a Memorandum of Understanding between government and industry players in January.

The Singapore government will press ahead with a pilot of its blockchain-based maritime trade platform TradeTrust through an official partnership, trade news outlet Asia Middle East Maritime Focus reported on March 7.

TradeTrust, which aims to leverage blockchain to streamline complex manual processes involved in international shipping, will first focus on blockchain-powered electronic bills of lading (EB-Ls).

Processing the essential trade document can often incur long time spans and considerable extra costs using paper-based methods.

The pilot follows a January Memorandum of Understanding signed by Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), Maritime Port Authority, Singapore Customs and the Singapore Shipping Association.

As part of the TradeTrust pilot, the IMDA will also gather feedback on the initiative, as well as requesting industry advice on how to best implement it in future.

“TradeTrust is an initiative to develop a set of standards to help businesses securely exchange digital trade documents,” the publication quoted Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information, S. Iswaran, as telling parliament on March 4.

Transferring EB-L issuance to blockchain has become a preoccupation of various schemes worldwide. As Cointelegraph reported, Singapore was also involved in a project by IBM and shipping company Pacific International Lines last month.

Elsewhere, HSBC in India has also experimented with the idea, along with Israel’s largest cargo shipping company, Zim.

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France’s Main Trade Seaport Joins Blockchain Pilot for Freight Logistics: Report

France’s largest port, Marseille Fos Port, has joined a blockchain pilot for freight transport on the Mediterranean-Rhône-Saône axis.

The main trade seaport of France, Marseille Fos Port, will participate in a blockchain pilot for freight logistics in June 2019, local industry news outlet PortSEurope reports on March 6.

The project aims to use blockchain technology for supply chain logistics and intermodal freight forwarding on the Mediterranean-Rhône-Saône axis (MeRS) transport corridor.

According to the report, the blockchain initiative is supported French authority, the Interministerial Delegation for the development of the port and logistics for MeRS. The project is also reportedly backed and supported financially by the French public sector financial institution Caisse des Dépôts, navigation authority Voies navigables de France and electricity generation firm the Compagnie National Rhone.

The initiative intends to conduct a pilot to examine blockchain’s capability to boost the efficiency of data management on the digital transport chain. Specifically, the pilot is aiming to bring increased security to data sharing directly between the parties involved in port logistics.

The pilot is reportedly developed by three firms focused on logistics, supply chain and blockchain technology, namely Marseille Gyptis International, BuyCo and KeeeX.

Marseille Fos Port, or Grand Port Maritime de Marseille, is known as the second largest Mediterranean port and the fourth largest port in Europe.

The French port has not responded to Cointelegraph’s request for comment by press time.

Recently, Russian shipping transport firm Infotech Baltika announced the development of a blockchain-enabled system for handling port operations.

Also in Russia, the Ministry of Transport is reportedly planning to trial blockchain shipping solution TradeLens, which was developed by IBM and Maersk.

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Too Soon for Blockchain Benefits in 2019, Says UPS Executive

Neither UPS nor United Airlines appear to be envisaging a blockchain breakout next year, the Wall Street Journal writes.

Senior executives at United Airlines (UA) and logistics giant UPS think 2019 will not be the year blockchain goes mainstream, the Wall Street Journal reported on Dec. 28.

Speaking to the publication, UPS chief engineering and information officer Juan Perez and UA’s executive vice president of technology and chief digital officer Linda Jojo remained level-headed on blockchain’s prospects.

“We have a small team looking at blockchain, but we are still searching for the killer use case,” Jojo said.

As 2018 draws to a close, blockchain has faced mixed reviews in the press and from businesses, some sources claiming the technology is not developed enough to fulfil its disruptive and even innovative promises.

By contrast, the year began with companies seeing huge share price increases simply by adding the term “blockchain” to their name.

Gauging genuine interest from the international community has been difficult, with a survey by India’s Tata Communications this month nonetheless revealing a 44 percent uptake rate for blockchain across international respondents.

Governments also continue to signal their desire to get a hold on the phenomenon, with Italy this week publishing a list of 30 “high-level experts” who will help develop an official state strategy.

For UPS, however, it is still too soon for real implementation.

“I don’t expect significant benefits in 2019, primarily because the technology itself is continuing to evolve and mature,” Perez continued, adding:

“It requires a lot of parties to come to the table to participate and evaluate the technology.”

In August, the company had issued a blockchain-related patent for the logistics industry.

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US Defense Dept. Wants to Use Blockchain to Improve Disaster Relief

U.S. gov’t officials say they see “a lot of potential” in blockchain technology for disrupting centralized processes.

Blockchain could make its way into disaster relief operations from the United States Department of Defense, the organization revealed in a press release Dec. 21.

During a presentation hosted by the Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) office in Philadelphia earlier this month, officials reviewed how blockchain technology could help emergencies responses.

Efforts to provide aid following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico were used as a case study.

“We think there’s a lot of potential [in blockchain],” CPI management analyst Elijah Londo commented, quoted in the press release:

“Where do we want to be as an organization in shaping and influencing where the [Department of Defense] goes with blockchain?”

The technological improvements would target centralized aspects of the current system, notably areas of logistics that depend on multiple centralized entities. Data sharing under such circumstances is an area ripe for innovation.

Also under review are “transaction processing and in-transit visibility of shipments.”

“This is where I can see where blockchain would have been a big help,” Construction and Equipment deputy director Marko Graham continued:

“Flowing [materiel [sic’ specifications and tracking data] from the manufacturer buying the raw materials to…getting the transportation and getting it on the barges.”

The broader U.S. defense setup has targeted blockchain’s benefits for several years, involving everything from blockchain workshops to a cryptographic chat platform.

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Global Retail Giant Auchan Expands Blockchain Tracking Solution to Five More Countries

French retail giant Auchan has expanded its blockchain products’ traceability solution after successful a 18-month pilot in Vietnam.

Global retail giant Auchan is expanding TE-FOOD’s blockchain solution to improve the transparency of products’ history, U.S.-based news agency Cision PRWeb reports today, Dec. 4.

The French retail group, which is reportedly the 13th largest food retailer globally with operations in 17 countries, has extended TE-FOOD’s FoodChain solution to five more countries.

FoodChain is the international traceability information ledger by TE-FOOD, first applied by Auchan in its Vietnam branch. After a 18-month test of TE-FOOD’s blockchain tool in Vietnam, Auchan has now decided to deploy the products’ traceability solution in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Senegal.

The blockchain-powered retail monitoring system provides tracking for selected product categories from farm-to-table, as well as recording food quality data and related logistics information. Auchan consumers are able to check products’ history via their smartphones by scanning the products’ QR codes and getting access to authentic data recorded on FoodChain.

According to the article, TE-FOOD’s blockchain solution implemented by Auchan is reportedly the world’s largest farm-to-table food traceability program in Vietnam, with over 6,000 clients including major global food giants such as AEON, CP Group, Lotte Mart, and others.

In mid-November, another French retail giant Carrefour revealed it was implementing a blockchain-enabled food tracking platform powered by Hyperledger for tracing poultry in Spain.

Earlier in September, U.S. retail giant Walmart and its division Sam’s Club, a membership-only retail warehouse club, also announced that they will require suppliers of leafy greens to deploy farm-to-store tracking system based on blockchain.

In late November, a fintech expert predicted that market value of blockchain in global retail will see a 29-fold increase in value in the next 10 years.

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Walmart Explores Blockchain for Connecting Automated Delivery Drones

Walmart’s recent patent efforts have showcased how the retail giant is investigating blockchain, and a new filing points to a focus on autonomous delivery drones.

The application was published on August 30, detailing a system by which “autonomous electronic devices” communicate with each other wirelessly and pass transported objects to each other after an identification process.

After one drone travels to a specific spot where another one is located, they exchange authentication signals using “blockchain keys,” and if the first robot successfully recognizes its “co-worker,” it passes it the package. Drones would rely on a database of delivery information stored on whichever blockchain the company is operating.

To identify each other, robots use can use a variety means to actually send signals from one to the other, including RFID codes, QR codes or ultrasound, the patent filing says.

Further, each of the delivery robots can be kitted out with unique features in order for it to be easily identified by other drones.

Per the filing, the use of automated technology is envisioned as a way to reduce the times at which elements of the delivery process have to be “trusted.” Indeed, Walmart argues that the fact that consumers would have to trust the delivery of their goods to flying machines “raises challenges related to security” and requires a reliable system of identification for the drones.

The blockchain system described in the filing comprises “a plurality of nodes configured to generate computational proof of record integrity and the chronological order of its use for content, trade, and/or as a currency of exchange through a peer-to-peer network,” the document says, and “each node works on finding a difficult proof-of-work for its bloc.” Smart contracts also can be built into this framework, according to Walmart’s team.

Walmart has been actively working on various blockchain solutions for its business and recently applied for patents related to the management of smart appliances and delivery control, among others.

Drone in a warehouse image via Shutterstock

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Japan: IT Giant NTT Data, Ministry of Economy Announce Blockchain-Based Platform for Trade

Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) is working on a blockchain-based data sharing system for the trade industry, Cointelegraph Japan reported Thursday, August 23.

The NEDO, Japan’s largest public management organization that promotes research and deployment of industrial and energy technologies, is reportedly developing a blockchain-powered project to streamline the infrastructure for trade information sharing.

The organization is operating under the instructions of its parent body, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).

The project, dubbed “Development of Infrastructures for Creating New Industrial Models Taking Advantage of IoT” aims to establish an infrastructure system that will digitize and enhance the process of logistics data sharing between trade entities, such as shipping companies, brokerage operators, port authorities, banks and insurance companies.

Specifically, the project intends to explore a more efficient and accurate system of sharing data by replacing the current processes that use paper-based media or PDF files. According to the official press release, these processes require expensive and time-consuming manual work, such as checking for errors and redundant data inputs.

Overview of a new infrastructure system for trade information collaboration

Overview of a new infrastructure system for trade information collaboration. Source: METI

The blockchain project by NEDA is a joint venture conducted in partnership with Japan’s NTT Data, one of the largest IT companies in the country. According to NTT’s press release, the company also plans to introduce social implementation of the new infrastructure platform during FY2019, in order to boost the global supply chain.

Earlier this week, Cointelegraph reported that one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the U.S., the Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is about to launch a live test of a blockchain-based shipment tracking system.

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US Customs and Border Protection to Test Blockchain Shipment Tracking System

One of the largest law enforcement agencies in the U.S., Customs and Border Protection (CBP), will launch a live test of a blockchain-based shipment tracking system, tech news and media agency GSN reports August 24.

In the upcoming test, the CBP will reportedly combine two separate systems: the CPB’s legacy application and a blockchain-powered platform developed by the agency’s parent body — and the country’s primary border control organization — the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The test results will determine how the distributed ledger technology (DLT) is able to enhance the verification process of certificates of origin from the partners of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Central America Free Trade Agreement, as well as reduce the time-consuming procedure of the resubmission of shipping data.

While testing, the agency also intends to establish standards of interaction between different blockchains in order to ensure that all firms and software will be easily connected to customs without the need for additional customization.

Vincent Annunziato, director of CBP’s Transformation & Innovation Division, commented that at the moment various blockchain platforms are not compatible enough, stressing that ensuring data security is “of the upmost [sic] importance.”

The CBP is also reportedly developing a proof-of-concept scheme for dealing with intellectual property rights. At this point, Annunziato stressed that the successful testing of the blockchain project will enable consumers to define if a certain product is authentic or not.

According to GSN, the CBP is also now collaborating with blockchain startups such as Factom and the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) on another blockchain project to combat the interception of data from sensors and cameras on the border. The project is reportedly at the stage of a six-month field test in Texas.

The DHS had previously announced that it is preparing to implement blockchain technology in securing the sharing and storage of data collected by security cameras, sensors, and internal data bases in early 2017, in a move to prevent manipulation of data and potential hacking attacks on devices operating on the borders and airports.

Earlier this month, tech giant IBM and Danish transport and logistics giant Maersk launched a joint blockchain-based shipping project, “TradeLens,” with 95 organizations involved and 154 million shipping events shipping events already captured.