Blockchain technology has started to infiltrate everyday life, and 2018 could be the year that it goes mainstream. Some top retailers are exploring how blockchain could be incorporated into their businesses – and how the ‘unbreakable trust’ of cryptocurrencies will affect them.
There are many ways in which blockchain could alter how business is done, for example, food safety, food fraud and supply chain accounting would all become far more transparent, with consumers seeing the true origins of their products.
Blockchain could, essentially, eliminate counterfeit goods with Crypto-anchors, a type of tamper-proof digital fingerprint.
“Crypto-anchors add trust to the last mile by extending the blockchain platform into the realm of physical goods by embedding actual products with tamper-proof digital fingerprints,”
Laurence Haziot, Global Managing Director and General Manager for IBM Consumer Industries.
“They’ll be used in tandem with blockchain’s distributed ledger technology to ensure an object’s authenticity from its point of origin to when it reaches the hands of the customer.
These technologies will create new ways for retailers to work on solutions that tackle food safety, authenticity of manufactured components, genetically modified products, identification of counterfeit objects and provenance of luxury goods.”
With this in mind, we take a look at five retailers who are exploring how blockchain may be of use to them…
Walmart is reportedly ready to use blockchain technology on its live food business, according to Frank Yiannas, the VP of Food Safety and Health. This new system means that produce can be tracked in two seconds rather than six days, and it could reduce food waste, improve contamination management and transparency.
“Since 2016, Walmart has been working with IBM to develop software that uses the blockchain to track products through its supply chain, from the farm to the consumer.
Last year, Yiannas asked his team to trace a package of sliced mangoes back to their source. He says it took them six days, 18 hours, and 26 minutes. After Walmart used the software developed with IBM to track mangoes from a farm in Mexico to U.S. stores over a 30-day period, the same exercise took a mere 2.2 seconds.”
Starbucks is preparing to launch a pilot program with its farmers in Colombia, Costa Rica and Rwanda to track its coffee from ‘bean to cup’, whilst sharing this information in real-time with consumers.
Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson, explains that,
“Over the next two years, we will look to demonstrate how technology and innovative data platforms can give coffee farmers even more financial empowerment […] We’ll leverage an open-source approach to share what we learn with the rest of the world.”
Launching ‘Europe’s first food blockchain’, Carrefour is using blockchain to track its free-range Carrefour Quality Line Auvergne chickens (a product that they sell over a million per year).
This will make information such as the location and environment that the chicken was raised in, the farmer’s name, what feed was used, if antibiotics were administered and where they were slaughtered more transparent and available to the consumer.
Their traceablilty technology will be expanded to include eight other commonplace items, such as eggs, cheese, milk, oranges, tomatoes, salmon and ground beef steak.
The consumer will see a QR code on these items, which, when scanned with a smartphone, will reveal the origins of the item and information about the journey that it took in order to reach the store.
In a similar move, the Chinese eCommerce site JD.com has created a blockchain system to guarantee the quality of the Australian Pure Black Angus Beef products that it is now importing.
Amazon recently announced that it will launch ‘BlockChain Templates’ which provides retailers with an easy and accessible way to include blockchain technology into their business using popular open source frameworks.
“Amazon’s Blockchain Templates will allow retailers to keep a recorded ledger securely and accurately throughout the supply chain,”
Arran Stewart, co-owner of blockchain recruitment platform Job.com, explains to RIS News.
“This information will make it easier for companies to reduce shortages/pilfering of goods, trace the source of all items all the way to the customer, reduce logistical costs and time, whilst have an accurate open ledger. This sort of technology is especially interesting for FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) where consumers want full traceability of where the food comes from.”