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After VeChain Partnership, Walmart Will Sink $1 Billion In China’s Logistics

Walmart VeChain China

Towards the end of last month, Walmart announced
that it was partnering with VeChain to develop the “Walmart China Blockchain
Traceability Platform.” The platform is intended to enhance the traceability of
products such as rice, fresh meat, and mushrooms, among others.

According to reports:

“By scanning the desired products, customers can acquire detailed information, including the source of the scanned products and geographic location received by Walmart, logistics process, product inspection report, and many more data points. Data collection and data availability are to be continually added to the scale of the platform and its use of blockchain technology.”

From
Vechain To A Physical Warehouse

Apart from partnering with VeChain, Walmart is taking food safety to another level by investing heavily into logistics; Walmart will therefore invest $1 billion in China logistics.

As per SupplyChainDive, a news outlet:

“[Walmart’s] 1 million-square-foot warehouse in Dongguan, China, is part of 8 billion yuan ($1.16 billion) Walmart plans to invest in logistics in China. The facility is outfitted for fresh, frozen, and ambient storage.”

Notably, another warehouse built by Walmart in
Huanan, China, opened in March this year and is reportedly serving over 100
stores “in the Guangdong and Guangxi regions and can ship up to 165,000 boxes
per day.”

However, Walmart’s current investment of
approximately more than $1 billion is the heaviest since it entered the Chinese
market more than 20 years ago. From the onset, Walmart is banking on the
competitive Chinese grocery market with shoppers turning to online stores for
their grocery.

To cater to the demand, Walmart joined hands with JD.com three years ago to improve food delivery in China. As per the agreement between the two leading stores, Walmart would handle the back-end of orders made on JD.com’s front-end.

The news outlet noted that:

“Walmart emphasized the technology in the new facilities that will ensure the different storage temperatures remain constant.”

Although the current investment is Walmart’s most significant, the store seeks to build roughly over 10 more warehouses in a span of 10 to 20 years to serve the burgeoning grocery market in China.

Warehouse,
Blockchain, Crypto

Notably, Walmart’s investment in logistics has overflown into blockchain, and the crypto community is optimistic this will bring good tidings. For instance, cpres10, a Redditor, commented:

“This is awesome for crypto. They are using the blockchain as their backbone. No more dept. etc. All email/checks/deposits/ everything a comp does is in blockchain. Now add money to that backbone!”

More stores are turning to blockchain for product verification. For example, Rakuten, one of the leading e-commerce stores in Japan, partnered with Techrock to curb counterfeits.

Walmart
Is Not Alone

Ye Jianyou, Rakuten’s vice senior manager, said that:

 “Together with Techrock, we can further develop blockchain traceability and work towards cross-ecosystem integration of our platforms’ loyalty points.”

As these e-commerce giants invest in
blockchain technology for product tracing solutions, the crypto community hopes
that “some of that money will flow into crypto.”

The post After VeChain Partnership, Walmart Will Sink $1 Billion In China’s Logistics appeared first on Ethereum World News.

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VeChain Is Worth Watching, Deloitte, PwC, Walmart China Are Partners

VeChain

It is now close to one year since the first VeChain block was mined. The VeChain Thor blockchain went live on June 30, 2018, and the startup hit the ground running. Walmart China, for instance, has recently announced in a press release, that it is teaming up with the blockchain project. Consequently, the Chinese arm of the US retail giant is going to use VeChain’s blockchain to track food products in its supply chain.

This will assist the retail firm to
adequately address food safety concerns prevalent in the East Asian nation.
There have been extensive
food safety scandals
in China, ranging from “gutter oil” sales to
contaminated baby milk. On its plan with the Walmart China partnership is the
synchronization of data between suppliers, and local government traceability
platforms.

A Blockchain Traceability Champion

The Walmart China Blockchain Traceability Platform already 23 product lines onboard. Additionally, VeChain says that it has 100 others on the waiting list that should be listed by the year’s end. The product lines come from 10 product categories that include rice, fresh meat, cooking oil to mushrooms, and more.

The blockchain is eyeing the tracking of fresh meat products in 2020, which makes up for 50 percent of the sales in the meat category at Walmart China. At least 40 percent of all vegetable sales and 12.5 percent of all seafood sales in the Chinese retail arm of Walmart will constitute of blockchain tracked items.

Tracked products on its blockchain can
be scanned via a smartphone for detailed origin information. Backing the
supermarket blockchain project is PwC. The strategy and innovation lead at PwC
Elton Yeung said:

“We believe that Walmart’s Blockchain Traceability System will be an excellent example of blockchain technology applied in the retail industry, helping to improve food safety and quality management, and providing a strong guarantee for building consumer trust.”

This, however, is not Walmart’s first foray into the world of blockchain. The retail giant is one of the founding members of the IBM of Food Trust.  The Trust runs on HyperLedger technology and has participated in two FDA approved pharmaceutical tracking pilots.

Faster and More Scalable Than Ethereum

VeChain set out to avail the first “real business” use case for public blockchain on its inception, a year ago. It utilizes a proof-of-authority consensus algorithm whose speeds of transactions has caught the eye of none other than  Deloitte.  After its three year stint with Ethereum, the big four Audit firm is moving to VeChain’s blockchain.

Ethereum’s blockchain has scalability issues. Deloitte’s Cillian Leonowicz has at one time made a boast of VeChain’s transactions speeds saying that using its Proof of Authority concept they were clocking in more smart contract transactions per second.

On May 4, Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), acquired some stakes in Vechain as per a press release. The multinational audit and consultancy firm intend to ingrate the Chinese startup’s platform into its infrastructure.

This implies that PwC will utilize the VeChain tokens for transactions and access. The blockchain startup is also one of the first 197 blockchain service providers with authority from the China cyberspace administration.

The post VeChain Is Worth Watching, Deloitte, PwC, Walmart China Are Partners appeared first on Ethereum World News.

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Walmart China Will Track Food in Supply Chain with Vechain’s Thor Blockchain

Walmart China will track food move in its supply chain with Vechain’s Thor blockchain.

Walmart China plans to track food through its supply chain with VeChain’s Thor blockchain, reveals a VeChain press release published on June 25.

Per the release, the Walmart China Blockchain Traceability Platform (WCBTP) will be a joint venture by Walmart China, VeChain, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), cattle company Inner Mongolia Kerchin, and the China Chain-Store & Franchise Association. WCBTP has been reportedly announced at the 2019 China Products Safety Publicity Week Traceability System Construction Seminar jointly organized by Walmart China and the CCFA in Beijing.

Walmart China already revealed 23 product lines that the system will track and plans to release another 100 products for further inclusion, covering more than 10 product categories. The press release claims that the company expects that tracked sales will be significant in volume:

“It is expected that the Walmart China’s traceability system will see traceable fresh meat account for 50% of the total sales of packaged fresh meat, traceable vegetables will account for 40% of the total sales of packaged vegetables, traceable seafood will account for 12.5% of the total sales of seafood by the end of 2020.”

VeChain is among the companies on the list of the first 197 companies that China’s cyberspace administration authorized as registered blockchain service providers, released in April.

As Cointelegraph recently reported, Walmart is no stranger to distributed ledger technology (DLT). Back in October 2016, the company began collaborating with IBM on a blockchain-based system that could identify and flag recalled foods.

Since then, Walmart has engaged in several DLT-related patents and trials — e.g., tracking meat in China, delivery drones, live food and patenting smart deliveries in the United States.

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Tracking Drugs on Blockchain: How Significant Is Walmart and IBM’s New Collaboration?

The FDA needs to track drugs by 2023, but will it go with blockchain?

Walmart is no stranger to distributed ledger technology (DLT). Back in October 2016, the multinational food retailer began collaborating with IBM on a blockchain-based system that could identify and flag recalled foods. Since then, it has dived into a number of patents and trials — e.g., tracking meat in Chinatracking delivery drones, patenting smart deliveries and tracking live food in the United States.

And in addition to several other U.S. patents and global initiatives, Walmart has recently announced its latest foray into applying blockchain technology. This is its collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration, which — in conjunction with IBM, Merck and KPMG — will see it working on the development of a proof-of-concept blockchain for identifying and tracking prescription drugs.

As with Walmart’s other blockchain-focused experiments, there’s a chance that this latest endeavor won’t progress beyond the trial stage and that the parties involved could move onto other things once the pilot has been completed.

However, given that the pilot has been initiated under the terms of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) and that it calls for the creation of “an electronic, interoperable system to identify and trace certain prescription drugs” by 2023, there’s every chance that blockchain technology will be involved to some degree in the final system that’s eventually established.

What is it and how will it work?

In February, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the DSCSA Pilot Project Program and also invited interested companies to submit applications to participate. As the accompanying press release makes clear, the aim of the program is to improve the tracing and authentication of prescription drugs, and to ensure that counterfeit or illegal drugs don’t enter the supply chain. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in February:

“Using new innovations, we believe we can improve the overall security of our closed system and improve our ability to prevent the introduction of illegitimate products, better detect the introduction of illegitimate products, and enable stakeholders and the FDA to respond more rapidly when such products are found.”

At the time of the initial announcement, the FDA was open to a variety of proposals involving several new technologies. But it would appear that proposals focusing on blockchain-based technology must have been particularly convincing — because in June, the likes of Merck, Walmart, KPMG and IBM began announcing that they would jointly be working with the FDA on a trial revolving around the use of blockchain.

As pharmaceutical giant Merck stated in a press release, each participant will contribute their respective skills and expertise to the new pilot, which “will create a shared permissioned blockchain network that allows real-time monitoring of products.” Asked why blockchain is likely a better proposition for tracking drug supplies than other new technologies, Merck’s director of global communications, Charles McCurdy, told Cointelegraph:

“A permissioned blockchain network has the potential to create greater transparency, reduce the time needed to track and trace inventory, help determine the integrity of products (such as whether they are kept at the correct temperature), prevent and remove counterfeit drugs, and more.”

KPMG — another participant in the pilot — is equally enthused by the promise shown by blockchain in the context of drug supply chains, and its U.S. blockchain leader, Arun Ghosh, explained to Cointelegraph via the email that DLT will help simplify such chains, which can sometimes operate in a convoluted manner.

“Pharmaceutical supply chains are complex given the numerous entities involved and increased reliance on the use of contracted manufacturers/packagers, re-packagers, and 3rd Party Logistics (3PL) providers. Additionally, joint-collaborations and co-licensing partnerships between Marketing Authorization Holders (MAHs) result in the need to share information and operate from an immutable record. Blockchain is a good fit for tracking the supply of prescription drugs because it provides a private, permissioned network and immutable database. In other words, multiple parties can access the same data in their secured, respective environments (i.e. their ‘node’).”

Moving beyond the actual participants in the DSCSA Pilot Project Program, figures within the blockchain and logistics industry also agree that DLT is an ideal fit for tracking the movement of pharmaceuticals, largely because of its immutability and interoperability. Raja Sharif — the CEO of medical blockchain company FarmaTrust, told Cointelegraph that:

“Blockchain provides the characteristics of immutability and incorruptibility which acts as an important safeguard against tampering with the chain. Which is all important to prevent counterfeits and substandard drugs entering the pharmaceutical supply chain. Another characteristic of blockchain is the ability for it to aggregate data from different systems efficiently.”

Of course, the word “blockchain” is being used in an increasingly wide variety of contexts, often when DLT doesn’t play a central or even a significant role in a system or a platform with which it’s being associated (e.g., in the case of Visa’s new ”blockchain-based” system).

Related: Visa Set to Join the Expanding Field of Blockchain-Based International Payment Providers

However, in the case of the FDA’s latest pilot, the platform being built will indeed be a (private) blockchain, rather than some other system that tangentially uses only one or two features of blockchain technology. In this case, however, the project does focus on using DLT, as confirmed by McCurdy, who added that the ledger being developed would record such information as “the time and dates a product or products pass through certain checkpoints, temperatures at which they are stored during transport, etc.”

Not only would the new ledger record important info for confirming authenticity and quality, but McCurdy explained that it would do so in accordance with distributed, cryptographically secure principles:

“It would store information such as the above in an immutable format (a permissioned, distributed, networked ‘ledger’) that would guarantee to those who have permission to use the system that the information is connected to the specified product. Specific uses are to track medicines and vaccines through the supply chain from manufacturer to customer.”

Also, according to KPMG’s Ghosh, the pilot will focus specifically on using blockchain tech to make the whole process of tracking pharmaceuticals more efficient and more reliable:

“The pilot is intended to explore how blockchain technology can help reduce the amount of time needed to track a product, make it faster to retrieve more accurate drug distribution information, increase accuracy of information shared among network members and prevent illegitimate products from entering the supply chain.  Location information, in the form of a Global Location Number (GLN), the serialized product identifier, and the event (for example, shipping, receiving, dispensing, destroying) would be stored on the blockchain and viewable based on permission.”

As a concrete example, the pilot would involve newly manufactured drugs being given registration numbers and recorded on the blockchain. From there, they would be shipped to distributors and retailers, and at each point in the supply chain, all movement would be registered on the ledger, while receivers of the drugs would be able to check the incoming drugs against records kept on the distributed database.

As Sharif explained, such a system would make it very hard to surreptitiously pass off counterfeit drugs as the real thing:

“Since in the US all new labels need to be registered and in Europe they are issued by the central authorities, it’s going to be difficult for criminals to infiltrate the pharmaceutical supply chain. Not only that, but if two unique labels are found in the system then automatic alerts will go to the designated authorities or personnel. A further protection is that if a particular batch or label should be in Sweden but appears in Canada, for instance, then this will also be suspicious.”

In fact, things don’t stop there, because not only would counterfeiters have to duplicate the packaging and registered info of legitimate drugs, but they would need to gain access to the permissioned ledger in order to do this. On top of that, they would also have to take the legitimate drugs out of the supply chain, because, as Sharif warned, the existence of drugs with duplicate info would likely be noticed by those with access to the ledger.

Good, but…

In the context of drug supply chains, the potential shown by blockchain technology is evidently large. That said, there’s no guarantee that anything permanent will come out of the FDA-led pilot. because, as McCurdy informed Cointelegraph, the blockchain-focused project is only one of 20 that the FDA has greenlighted as part of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act program. There is, then, a chance that the FDA ends up favoring a pilot that doesn’t harness blockchain technology in any appreciable way.

Indeed, as the FDA explained to Cointelegraph, it has been — and continues to be — resolutely open to other technological means of tracking the supply of prescription medicines, including those that don’t make any use of blockchain. FDA spokesperson clarified that:

“The FDA is actively exploring all potential technologies that will help supply chain trading partners trace drugs as they move through the supply chain, enhancing the agency’s ability to help protect consumers from exposure to drugs that may be counterfeit, stolen, contaminated or otherwise harmful. Blockchain is one of many technologies that is being researched for product tracing and verification. FDA is open to considering all viable technologies and methods through the DSCSA Pilot Project Program.”

Nonetheless, it’s worth pointing out that the Drug Supply Chain Security Act necessitates that the FDA implements an interoperable system for tracing drugs by 2023. Because of this need for interoperability, the final system has to be open to all parties working within the drug supply chain, a requirement that a blockchain-based platform would fulfill very well. This, at least, is what Mersk and KPMG believe:

“The main objective of the project is to explore how blockchain technology can be used to identify, track, and trace prescription medicines and vaccines as they enter and move throughout the U.S. supply chain.”

Ghosh is also hopeful that the new pilot will demonstrate the power of blockchain, because while he accepts that the trial will be relatively small in scale, he also affirms that DLT is just the thing the pharmaceutical industry has been waiting for:

“In this case, creating interoperability within the pharmaceutical supply chain is a challenge where blockchain is extremely well-suited. However, like any emerging technology, we must start with what I call ‘controlled explosions,’ or small projects with a limited blast radius that allow us to measure and test the real business impact before scaling.”

In other words, even if there’s no guarantee that the FDA won’t end up going with a nonblockchain-based system, the early signs indicate that the platform being developed by IBM, Walmart, KPMG and Merck has a good chance of satisfying the criteria the FDA is likely to employ in choosing its winning candidate. And the fact that such names have signed on to the new pilot would suggest that they really believe in its potential.

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US FDA Partners With IBM and Walmart to Improve Drug Supply Chain Using Blockchain

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration teamed up with four major global companies to boost drug supply chains with blockchain.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has partnered with four global high-profile firms to apply blockchain in the drug supply chain, tech media outlet ZDNet reports on June 13.

The FDA has reportedly teamed up with companies including IBM, Walmart, Big Four auditor KPMG, and the world’s oldest pharma firm Merck in order to build a proof-of-concept (PoC) blockchain network to share and track data on distribution of prescription drugs.

According to the report, the initiative is connected with the United States Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) and intends to assist the FDA — as well as other pharmaceutical organizations — in optimizing the supply chain of pharma products.

Specifically, the project’s participants aim to speed up the process of tracking inventory, as well as providing accuracy of data shared between members of the supply chain and the integrity of products.

Mark Treshock, IBM’s global solutions leader for Blockchain in Healthcare & Life Science, emphasized that blockchain technology not only enables an efficient basis for tracing pharma products on supply chain, but also allows for the tracking of connections between network participants without revealing the data itself.

The FDA first revealed its plans to apply blockchain technology to enable a digital drug supply chain platform in February 2019, expecting to launch the technology-enabled platform by 2023.

Recently, Cointelegraph reported that as much as 44% of healthcare organizations in Europe have never heard of blockchain applications’ benefits. Meanwhile, EMD Serono, the North American biopharmaceutical business of Merck KGaA, has recently teamed up with blockchain firm Nebula Genomics to create a blockchain platform for generating and sharing genomic data.

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Life of Luxury: Fashion Turns to Blockchain

Luxury goods manufacturers turn to blockchain.

Although once confined largely to agriculture, blockchain technology is now making major inroads into the luxury goods supply chain market.

Thus, Consensys recently announced a new platform with French multinational luxury goods conglomerate LMVH and the technology behemoth Microsoft to verify the authenticity of luxury goods.

Luxury brands trial blockchain

Although many products in the luxury goods market are renowned status symbols found in expensive city center stores the world over, the components of their products can originate in the most far-flung corners of the globe. The nature of globalized trade means that raw materials can be sourced in one continent, collected and assembled in another, and then shipped on to be sold in any of the world’s major cities. Global shipping networks and rapidly advancing technology present ample opportunities for business and profit. However, the nature of globalized trade can often result in a creaking supply chain and dubious ethical practice when it comes to sourcing and producing the materials needed for luxury goods. As customers become more and more concerned with the ethical origins of their products and companies seek to create sustainable and profitable business models, blockchain technology is increasingly being seen as a solution to suit all parties involved.

The new platform developed by LMVH and Microsoft, named Aura, is based on the Ethereum blockchain and will use Microsoft Azure. Consensys worked on the design and development of the Traceability Smart Contracts on the project as well as the blockchain infrastructure. As per the press release, Aura is a “permissioned consortium network with privacy, based on Quorum.”

The press release states that several companies under the LMVH Group umbrella, such as Louis Vuitton and Parfums Christian Dior, are already involved in the project. Customers will be able to access a wealth of information about the origins and components of the product, taking into account ethical and environmental data, details about how to care of the product, along with general information regarding after-sale warranty services. The press release added:

“AURA makes it possible for consumers to access the product history and proof of authenticity of luxury goods — from raw materials to the point of sale, all the way to second-hand markets.”

Although the world of luxury fashion is as competitive as any other market, the team behind Aura hopes that it will bring about more cooperation within the industry. Ken Timsit, the managing director of Consensys Solutions, outlined his hope that the project would bring benefits to the luxury industry as a whole:

“AURA is a groundbreaking innovation for the luxury industry. ConsenSys is proud to contribute and to work with LVMH on an initiative that will serve the entire luxury industry, protecting the interests, integrity, and privacy of each brand, leveraging Ethereum blockchain technology in a truly decentralized way.”

Although Louis Vuitton’s relationship with blockchain reportedly spans three years to date, other luxury brands are already experimenting with the technology to help streamline their supply chains. Alyx, a luxury brand created by New York-based creative director Matthew Williams, is pairing up with the German blockchain foundation Iota in order to create a more ethically transparent supply chain.

In partnership with Iota and global manufacturing company Avery Dennison, Alyx plans to offer customers a comprehensive insight into the full extent of its supply chain. Customers seeking to find out more about their purchases will be able to scan a QR code, giving them access to data covering the product’s first stitch to point of sale.

As brands the world over are feeling the pressure to be more transparent about the way in which their materials are sourced and their products produced, Alyx is clearly seeking to assuage any doubts customers could have regarding its products. Debbie Shakespeare, senior director of sustainability and compliance at Avery Dennison, reportedly said:

“Brands and consumers can know that the information they are being shown about the garment’s creation process is 100% accurate and can be trusted implicitly.”

The decision to host supply information via the use of blockchain technology is the latest in the company’s short yet committed history of sustainability. Creative Director Matthew Williams told fashion news outlet GQ that the company’s other efforts to increase sustainability include using recycled materials and a leather-dying process, which had a smaller carbon footprint. Williams gave an outline for when consumers can expect the initiative to be launched:

“We’re taking it a step further: we’re going to be the first brand to introduce blockchain technology this month in Copenhagen. We’re doing a blockchain prototype that shows the raw material to the finished garment. Our brand is about evolution not revolution, so we work on making the things we do better”

Why blockchain?

From agriculture to high-end fashion, it seems that companies are finding solutions in blockchain. Cointelegraph spoke to two experts from the World Economic Forum, a nonprofit international organization that seeks to increase public-private cooperation, to learn how blockchain is being implemented in supply chains across the world. Nadia Hewett, lead for blockchain and distributed ledger technology (DLT) at the World Economic Forum, explained that traceability and streamlining present real benefits for companies with complex supply chain structures:

“Currently, the supply chain industry is fragmented, with parties adopting a siloed approach. Blockchain and distributed ledger technology could bring standardization and transparency. Due to an increasing demand from customers for the proof of legitimacy and authenticity of the products they purchase, there is a strong interest in the deployment of blockchain for product provenance, often referred to as pedigree. In general, blockchain has features that can help trace a product’s digital footprint. The fact that the data is timestamped (tamper-proof) provides a single source of data integrity and allows users to retrieve a full history of activities.”

Hewett added that blockchain technology presents unique advantages for large, multinational companies seeking to both streamline and tighten security over their supply chains:

“A blockchain-based platform can support the digitization of paper-based documentation, and establish an immutable, shared record of all transactions among network participants in near real time. In this sense, blockchains are ideally suited to large networks of disparate parties and are a solution to making the complexity of global supply chains much more manageable. Secure data-sharing and, specifically, smart contracts are another aspect of blockchain technology that allows for increased automation and efficiency through avoidance or redundant data entry, acceleration of transaction execution and reduction of errors and misunderstandings.”

Although international business is fiercely competitive, the blockchain industry represents a rare environment in which companies realize that collaboration can be in their interest. In 2018, international food giants Nestle, Unilever, Walmart and Dole partnered with IBM to create the Food Trust, a blockchain system based on the idea that partners and competitors should collaborate and keep a single-record system.

The most recent addition to the Food Trust is the Ecuador-based Sustainable Shrimp Partnership (SSP), according to a press release on May 6. The rationale behind the Food Trust is that failure to cooperate could create huge quantities of unmanageable data, due to the multitude of parties involved in the extent of the companies’ supply chains and could improve the overall quality and safety of the products the companies provide.

Sumedha Deshmukh, a project specialist for blockchain and DLT at the World Economic Forum, said that their current blockchain projects witness collaboration efforts from a diverse range of industries and sectors:

“We have assembled organizations from across all supply chain functions, cutting edge blockchain companies and key members of civil society in our project community. They are collaborating to shape the deployment of blockchain for supply chains towards interoperability, inclusivity, and integrity.

“They know blockchain and distributed ledger technology is coming, whether the industry likes it or not. An inclusive and multi-stakeholder approach that takes the entire system into consideration is good for all players. Given the nature of the technology, organizations are understanding that blockchain is a team sport — its benefits are maximized through collaboration. Moreover, there seems to be an understanding that collaboration is critical in thinking through any potential unintended consequences and minimizing the risks associated with its deployment.”

Whiskey whets its whistle with blockchain

Blockchain’s more recent supply chain activity has expanded from high-end fashion to another of life’s luxuries: whisky. On March 26, premium Scotch whisky Ailsa Bay became the latest brand to be tracked with a blockchain-based system, according to the liquor-related news website the Drinks Business.

Ailsa Bay’s introduction of blockchain tracking is a move intended to tackle liquor counterfeiting in the United Kingdom, something a separate report by the Drinks Business claims loses the U.K. around 218 million British pounds (over $288 million) a year. The partnership is formed by William Grant & Sons, the owner of Ailsa Bay, and blockchain company Arc-Net, which will develop the system to track the products’ journey from distillery to store. The information will also be used to collate data from customers, using mobile services to establish where the whisky is being purchased.

Another company to integrate blockchain into its supply chain is the highland Scotch whisky distillery Ardnamurchan. In 2017, the company also announced a partnership with Arc-Net to introduce a scannable QR code for its products, in an effort to increase transparency about how the whisky is produced.

Alex Bruce, the managing director of Adelphi — the owner and operator of Ardnamurchan Distillery — expressed his hope that this latest measure would bring the Scotch whisky industry into the 21st century:

“We have a vision for the future and using the platform is an integral component in our ability to capture and share production, process and product data with our customers, simply by scanning a QR code on the bottle. In addition to a growing number of countries, globally, recognising Scotch whisky’s Geographical Indication, we also believe it to be essential that the consumer is able to understand the craftsmanship of making it, and for the producer to ensure the security of their route to market. In addition, the Arc-Net platform will give us the opportunity, as a nascent distiller, to share and communicate our love for the brand and ensure our customers have the ability to visualise and validate our products as they move across the globe.”

Kieran Kelly, CEO of Arc-Net, expressed his excitement about working with Adelphi and the prospect of modernizing the Scotch whisky market:

“Blockchain enables a new era of transparency and product authentication. It’s a fantastic opportunity to work with such a forward-thinking company like Adelphi. Alex and his team are pushing the envelope of spirit and whisky production in terms of quality and traceability, and also demonstrating a realistic and pioneering approach to renewable energy and sustainability, and Arc-Net is delighted to be a part of their brand story.”

Gartner survey finds damning results for blockchain solutions

Despite the latest wave of companies turning to blockchain, a technology survey of user wants and needs conducted by Gartner reported that only 19% of businesses rated the technology as important for their businesses, according to a press release published on the company website on May 7.

Gartner, which refers to itself as the world’s leading research and advisory company on its website, states that, in addition to the 19% that see blockchain as important for their business, only 9% have actually invested in the technology. The survey found that, although blockchain enjoys popular support, it sees 90% of blockchain initiatives within the sector suffering from “blockchain fatigue” by 2023. The company said that blockchain projects are currently very limited and “do not match the initial enthusiasm for the technology’s application in supply chain management.”

Alex Pradhan, a senior principal research analyst at Gartner, mentioned that blockchain projects have mostly focused on traceability, authenticity and trust, and outlined her view that more emphasis should be place on technological capacity and standards:

“Most have remained pilot projects due to a combination of technology immaturity, lack of standards, overly ambitious scope and a misunderstanding of how blockchain could, or should, actually help the supply chain. Inevitably, this is causing the market to experience blockchain fatigue.”

The findings of the report indicated that the fledgling nature of the blockchain industry means that it is hard for projects to focus on high-value use cases and that the vendor ecosystem “is not fully formed and is struggling to establish market dominance.”

Pradhan said that the cumulative effect of the current developmental stage of blockchain projects and less-than-enthusiastic market prospects means that the solutions offered are not suitable for scale of the issues they are supposed to solve:

“Without a vibrant market for commercial blockchain applications, the majority of companies do not know how to evaluate, assess and benchmark solutions, especially as the market landscape rapidly evolves. Furthermore, current creations offered by solution providers are complicated hybrids of conventional blockchain technologies. This adds more complexity and confusion, making it that much harder for companies to identify appropriate supply chain use cases.”

Pradhan added that organizations should not rush into adopting blockchain solutions:

“The emphasis should be on proof of concept, experimentation and limited-scope initiatives that deliver lessons, rather than high-cost, high-risk, strategic business value.”

Despite the gloomy findings of Gartner’s report, both Hewett and Deshmukh are confident about the potential for blockchain to bring solutions to the supply chain industry. When asked whether blockchain simply represents another solution looking for a problem, Hewett responded:

“The past two years saw a lot of enthusiasm around blockchain in the supply-chain space. It is these high expectations that brought the blockchain topic to the board agenda — and, in many ways, this has opened the door to discussing various supply-chain system standardization issues that have long been lacking in the industry. There is also much misunderstanding and confusion about the technology in the trade and logistic spaces.”

Deshmukh said that, although there are obvious benefits for supply chains, organizations need to focus on specific issues:

“Organizations have to cut through the hype to find how it can solve a specific problem. What the Blockchain for Supply Chains project is trying to do is help decision makers cut through the hype with a framework to guide them towards interoperability and integrity in blockchain deployment. Blockchain technology can help solve some major issues in the industry. But, it is not one size fits all.”

Despite the many hurdles faced by blockchain projects that aim to make an impact on the supply chain industry, Deshmukh added that the willingness of companies to experiment with them validates their purpose:

“Supply chains have been an area ripe for blockchain experimentation because it addresses many of the pain points within the global supply chain — the volume of experimentation and interest seems to validate this. Supply chain actors are looking into a wide array of use cases ranging from product provenance and traceability to streamlining global operations.”

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Blockchain for Retail: Use Cases and Potential Applications

From fixing ads and loyalty programs to ensuring ethical sourcing of products, here’s how blockchain can make retail more efficient.

Cryptocurrencies have gone a long way since the day when, nine years ago, Laszlo Hanyecz had paid 10,000 bitcoins for two large Papa John’s pizzas, marking the first purchase of tangible goods for digital money. Although bitcoin is still far from being universally accepted by retailers, thousands of merchants around the world are taking crypto in exchange for goods — and their ranks grow daily. The latest of the big developments in this vein came up at this year’s Consensus conference, as blockchain startup Flexa made public its partnership with a number of major U.S. retailers. Flexa’s payments app, Spedn, will allow users to pay for their purchases in more than a dozen stores of the caliber of Barnes & Noble, Office Depot and Whole Foods with cryptocurrencies.

Payments, as we know, are just a tip of the blockchain iceberg, though. While expanding the number of stores and chains that accept digital money remains an important avenue leading toward mass adoption, there are several other domains where distributed ledger technology (DLT) can be of help to the retail industry. Some of these solutions are already up and running, and some hold the promise to bring about massive changes within the next few years.

Crypto payments

There is evidence that cryptocurrency payments are gradually moving away from the fringe. The Kaspersky Lab Global IT Security Risks Survey, published in February, reported that a respectable 13% of more than 12,000 consumers across 22 countries have used cryptocurrency to pay for their online purchases.

The most popular payment methods

Companies that step on the path of accepting crypto might be driven by various motivations. Some might want to appeal to younger, technologically advanced customers by appearing savvy with the cutting-edge tech, while others embrace the promise of the technology and are bullish on crypto themselves. Digital money’s volatility remains the main deterrent for large corporate retailers. Intermediaries like Flexa, which are ready to stand in between corporate businesses and the dicey crypto market to absorb part of the uncertainty, come in handy as the big players find themselves willing to experiment with the new payment method yet are wary of potential risks.

It appears that this indirect model could become a dominant means of easing major retail chains into digital money payments in the next few years. For instance, this is how the recently announced crypto-payment partnership between Starbucks and fintech firm Bakkt is expected to work.

This running list tracks major stores and services that accept cryptocurrencies. You can already spend your digital money on travel, gift cards, jewelry, games and movies, moving services, gadgets, goods for your home and more. The list will surely keep growing.

Blockchain’s capacity to facilitate transmission of both value and information can give rise to more sophisticated, multifunctional forms of payments in the near future. A recently unveiled Civic Pay app is a vivid example: The solution will enable vending machine operators to simplify access to age-gated goods by combining payment, identity verification and earning reward points in one transaction.

Loyalty programs

Another important domain of the retail business that could use some optimization and enhanced fraud protection is loyalty programs. A primary tool for building a lasting relationship with a customer, these transaction-based programs oftentimes rely on infrastructure that is less secure than that of “real” payments, leading to a substantial increase in loyalty-fraud crime in recent years. Both value and personal data are subject to theft. In addition, many reward programs fall short of providing enough value to customers, as the ways of spending the hard-earned points are limited.

Introducing blockchain into the equation could help retailers address both issues. On the security side, hackers and fraudsters will have a much harder time penetrating a system that relies on a distributed ledger than one that stores all the data in a centralized database. In terms of consumer value, creating a token-based rewards ecosystem open to third-party businesses is a means of giving customers a wealth of diverse ways to spend their points.

This is exactly what American Express is looking to achieve with its Hyperledger-based rewards platform, which is geared toward enabling partner merchants to create customized rewards offers for the financial corporation’s clients. A prominent player in the space is Swiss firm Qiibee, which specializes in helping businesses tokenize their loyalty programs.

Supply chain tracking

Another well-established and profusely covered family of blockchain use cases in retail has to do with the technology’s capacity to make the goods’ origins transparent and verifiable. The demand for such transparency may stem from different considerations, depending on a particular industry, with three key concerns being safety, authenticity and ethical sourcing.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the arm of the federal government responsible for promoting and protecting public health and safety, estimates that each year, 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne illness. Outbreaks of diseases like E. coli and salmonella caused by bad groceries are still nothing irregular, and once the contaminated produce makes it to a large retailer’s enormous supply chain, it becomes difficult to track its origin in order to quickly extinguish the threat. It may take days until the source is identified, potentially causing the chain heavy losses and putting customers at risk.

Industry leaders have come to realize that recording every actionable event along the produce’s journey — from farm to table — on a blockchain is an efficient solution to this problem. It could also enhance stores’ ability to quickly identify and remove recalled foods, among other logistical benefits. The IBM Food Trust initiative, which offers its members a blockchain-based platform to track produce on every step of the supply chain, launched in the fall of 2016, when the U.S. retail giant Walmart began testing the system. Since then, Walmart has started requiring suppliers of certain types of produce to implement the DLT-powered solution. Other U.S. and global players in the field — such as Albertsons, Unilever, Nestlé and Carrefour — have joined the club as well, and many more are poised to follow suit.

Closely related to food safety but a conceptually different consumer demand is the need to verify that the product in question has been ethically sourced. As millennials and gen Z-ers are becoming the driving force of global capitalism, concerns over businesses’ environmental and social responsibility are becoming an increasingly conspicuous factor in purchasing behavior. Again, recording the product’s journey on an immutable ledger and creating a consumer-friendly interface enabling customers to obtain a clear picture of its origins can become a powerful tool for companies to build trust and get rewarded for transparency and responsible sourcing practices.

Some examples include the World Wildlife Fund-Australia championing the use of OpenSC, a supply chain tracking tool built on blockchain, to enable consumers make ethical choices when purchasing food. Customers will be able to obtain information regarding the products’ origins and life cycle by scanning a QR code on the package.

On another note, the Ford Motor Company is testing an IBM-built system running on Hyperledger Fabric that will trace supplies of cobalt — a material used in lithium-ion batteries that is seeing increased demand as the electric vehicles market expands. A large share of the world’s cobalt is mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where child labor and slave-like working conditions are widespread. The blockchain initiative would address these issues by providing Western corporations with a means of ensuring that the cobalt they purchase comes from the mines where a certain level of labor protection is enforced.

Finally, when it comes to luxury consumer goods, being able to establish the provenance of an item is of utmost importance. The diamond industry’s largest players, such as Alrosa and De Beers, have adopted blockchain-based solutions to track gems from mine to store and verify that their origins are clean — in both literal sense and with respect to previous ownership. Luxury apparel brand Alyx will implement Iota’s blockchain solution to showcase sustainable practices used on every step of its supply chain.

Customer data management, security and sharing

Retailers routinely record, store and utilize vast amounts of customer data. Blockchain applications related to streamlining processes in this line of their work present a less explored yet immensely promising area. Harnessing the benefits of distributed ledger technology could improve security, give customers more control over their data, and create new forms of marketing to help retailers meet consumer needs with higher precision and capture the value otherwise missed.

With the help of an artificial intelligence-powered recommendation system, retailers would be able to identify customers’ needs and advertise highly tailored offers to them. With advertising expenditures thus optimized, merchants will be able to reward those who opted into opening their data with tokens spendable at the store.

With a blockchain data-sharing system in place, customers could also proactively let retailers know about their needs and preferences, sending them shopping lists in the form of smart contracts. Coupled with the potential affordances of the Internet of Things to outsource the execution and delivery of such orders to machines, blockchain could become a fundamental infrastructure for the new era of fully automated shopping.

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Walmart Follows Pfizer in Joining Blockchain Pharmaceutical Project MediLedger: Report

Walmart is planning to pilot a blockchain project allowing to track pharma products using MediLedger tech U.S. FDA in early June.

Global retail giant Walmart is expanding its blockchain expertise by joining blockchain-powered pharmaceutical consortium MediLedger, industry media outlet CoinDesk reports on June 3.

Walmart is reportedly planning to roll out a pilot project to track pharmaceutical products using MediLedger technology with the United States Food and Drug Administration in early June.

By joining the consortium, Walmart has followed four major American pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer Inc., which joined MediLedger in early May, to collaborate on the development of a blockchain network for the health and pharmaceutical industry.

Pfizer, along with McKesson Corporation, AmerisourceBergen Corporation and Premier Inc. officially announced that they joined the MediLedger Project Contracting and Chargebacks working group on May 2.

The MediLedger project was initiated by San Francisco-based blockchain tech firm Chronicled to develop a system for trusted data sharing within pharmaceutical product supply chains. The blockchain-based project purportedly strives to automate processes like contract reconciliation, eliminating the associated costs.

Walmart, a $220 billion retail giant, is one of the early adopters of blockchain technology in the industry, having implemented the tech along with IBM in 2016 to identify and eliminate recalled foods from its product lists.

Since then, the U.S.-based retail company has conducted a number of blockchain-related initiatives, including patenting blockchain applications.

The global retail giant applied to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to acquire a patent of blockchain-powered product delivery system implementing autonomous electronic devices including drones and autonomous robots in 2018.

Recently, a senior executive at Pfizer argued that the major obstacle for global adoption of blockchain applications is not caused by technology issues such as blockchain’s much-discussed scalability problem. Instead, the main hurdle is that business competitors have to solve the issue of sharing infrastructure and governance, the executive stressed.