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How to Save Time and Money with Blockchain Smart Contracts

smart contracts

How to Save Time and Money with Blockchain Smart Contracts

Manufacturing processes are growing increasingly complex — especially as the coronavirus pandemic spreads — in today’s global marketplace. With so many moving parts, it’s becoming more difficult to reliably and efficiently track actions and data along the supply chain. Blockchain-enabled smart contracts are emerging as a solution — one that provides transparency and ensures everyone along the supply chain is following the same set of agreed-upon rules.

With everyone on the supply chain sharing the same logic and data, manufacturers can automate time-sensitive processes and avoid costly dispute resolutions. Blockchain is on the rise, and Gartner predicts that 30% of manufacturing companies making more than $5 billion in revenue will have invested in blockchain-powered projects by 2023.

Implementing the technology and data infrastructure to convert processes into smart contracts can seem daunting, and companies that don’t hit the $5 billion mark will be slower to catch up.

The fear of failing after the investment can be a serious deterrent. But smart contracts save enough time and money for manufacturers that the costs of waiting might be greater than the upfront investment needed to get started.

The Value of Smart Contracts

The core values of blockchain are transparency and trust, and smart contracts play a pivotal role in providing these benefits. Taken together in a business context, blockchain-based smart contracts make it possible to avoid disputes. A smart contract is software that automates a single trusted version of an agreement between parties. They might rely on one version of data about what’s happening (or has happened) and record the results of the contract, such as funds being transferred in exchange for using a piece of equipment.

Without smart contracts, businesses working together in manufacturing have to maintain separate systems that encode business rules with slight differences. The data they use might also vary from the data other companies use, making it difficult to reconcile any issues. These differences lead to disputes that require significant time and effort to resolve.

The automation and data standards that smart contracts provide allow manufacturers to consider different ways to work with partners along their supply chain. Their partnerships can be based on performance or quality in ways that would have been impossible to implement — much less trust — without the use of blockchain and smart contracts.

How Do Smart Contracts Work?

In a blockchain system, the word “contracts” doesn’t carry the same meaning as legal contracts. Instead, smart contracts are more broadly used to encode logic that often isn’t written explicitly in a contract. Unlike traditional software, they’re used to create business logic that multiple parties can rely on and trust.

Many of us are familiar with the concept of business rules in software systems. In the blockchain world, smart contracts are the business rules shared by the users of the blockchain. Think of blockchain like a shared database: Smart contracts are the rules that define how data can be entered or changed in the shared database. Within the supply chain, smart contracts are typically the rules shared by multiple businesses in the supply chain that are also users of the blockchain system.

For most applications, smart contracts can be executable versions of traditional business contracts, or they might be new logic that coordinates long-running processes and activities across different businesses. They’re trusted because they’re created and housed on a blockchain, which means the code is typically visible to system developers, business analysts, and auditors.

Although smart contracts are triggered by some external event, such as a user’s action or a change in external data (a commodity’s price, for example), the code they run is normally approved in advance by all businesses involved. Currently, businesses are already utilizing blockchain-secured smart contracts for a range of supply chain processes.

For example, some companies combine smart contracts with Internet of Things sensors to record the movement of supplies into a manufacturing facility. Then, they automate payment for those supplies. Others record the operating conditions of a machine to determine if maintenance is required or gauge the condition of manufactured products to ensure standards are met.

Such contracts produce equipment usage records and quality control checks in real-time, and parties on all sides of the contract can trust the data. How we handle everything — from securing supplies to monitoring equipment and manufacturing products — can be improved with the strategic use of blockchain-powered smart contracts.

Being Smart About Which Contracts to Convert

As companies convert more intrabusiness processes into smart contracts, the benefits of doing so grow easier to recognize. Shipments and payment approvals can be verified in real-time, and disputes are eliminated or resolved immediately with no intermediaries. The time and cost savings are substantial.

By using these strategies to determine where to use smart contracts, companies of all sizes have a better chance at reaping the benefits much sooner:

1. Break down costs before the converting starts. The first time a company implements a smart contract, the costs of establishing the blockchain system will be relatively high. These initial costs can often be the biggest deterrent, especially for smaller, less tech-driven companies. Over time, though, the incremental costs of automating smart contracts will go down. Account for this initial cost by taking time to identify the contracts that are currently the most costly to execute.

2. Prioritize external contracts over internal ones. Not every contract needs to be a smart one. In fact, the costs of executing some processes might not justify the investment in automating them. Focus on agreements, contracts, and other expectations that are between the company and another business (or better yet, where more than two businesses are involved), and rule out internal agreements between departments. Because trust is less of an issue, internal disputes can be reconciled relatively easily. Putting them on a blockchain would just be overkill.

3. Focus on contract difficulty — not frequency. Because the goal of automation is to create less work, it’s tempting to go straight for the contracts that are executed most often. Instead, focus on the amount of effort it takes to use each contract rather than how often it’s used. High-frequency contracts might be executed with few or no disputes, whereas low-frequency ones might be costly to manage due to complex and/or unclear terms. These are much better candidates.

4. Start with material sourcing for maximum impact. To know for sure which processes can benefit most from conversion into smart contracts, look for people throughout the organization who deal with reconciliation, quality control, and/or audit support. Also, consider the data used in each transaction. Between both parties, how important is trusting that data? Material sourcing is often ripe for improvement, and trust in data is critical to the relationship between manufacturer and supplier.

The ability to create smart contracts is becoming one of the best-known benefits of using blockchain technology in the manufacturing realm. Investing in the technology might be costly at first, but getting in on the ground floor will be easier if you use it to turn the right processes into irrefutable smart contracts.

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Alex Rosen is the vice president of business development at Chainyard, a blockchain consulting company focused on delivering production solutions that address financial services, supply chain, transportation, government, and healthcare pain points.

blockchain

Blockchain and its Impact on Business Operations

When one thinks of blockchain, one thinks of cryptocurrency, but even though much of this article is dedicated to the use of cryptocurrency, the truth is that more can be done with blockchain technology. This is because blockchain technology allows people from all over the world to create a transaction on a computer system. This transaction is secure (cannot be tampered with), it is dated, and it can be signed in many secure ways.

In short, if you wished, you could conduct a large digital Mexican wave around the world, and not only would the entire process be secure and efficient, it would also be traceable and wouldn’t rely on a central authority or third party to action.

The Omise Story

Omise is a company the operates a payment gateway for Thailand, Japan and Singapore. Rather than moving money from one country to another, convert it and so forth, they created their own coin OMISEGO, which they can quickly transfer anywhere. It can be deposited with an Omise office in another country. To help keep the price of their coin from fluctuating too much, they only conduct inter-office transfers as a way of getting money from one country to another. This is far faster and cheaper than using an Automated Clearing House, and far cheaper than using wire transfers.

But, what about the problem that each transaction creates a little more OMISGO coin? The answer for them was simple. They released the coin onto the general market, which gave it a market price, which therefore solved the “bit-extra” problem and introduced the problem that transactions now had to happen quickly for fear of sharp rises and falls in the coin’s price, which pushed up the potential transaction fee. However, the increase was marginal, and it was still cheaper than wire transfer and is still almost as fast.

Can the Omise Story Transfer Over?

Well, it certainly transfers to other payment gateways, and even modern US banks have stated their intentions to create their own cryptocurrency so they may move money within their own branches more easily. They would maintain full control of the currency, including its mining, which means that theft is more difficult and price fluctuations are not a problem.

Still, if it is to be applied to business operations, it needs to somehow improve efficiency, otherwise it is just another path to the same objective. If your business has an international element, then there is a chance that blockchain technology, specifically cryptocurrency, will help you. Otherwise, cryptocurrency needs to evolve and be retooled before it can do things like pay separate departments on demand more efficiently than the methods you are using right now.

What About Automated Clearing Houses?

ACH is hardly in its death throes since despite online transfers being as common as salt in the ocean, companies are still wrapping themselves in the warm blanket that is ACH, so what are their arguments against blockchain?

Argument – Costs pretty-much the same for each transaction.

Counter – Yes, on a per-transaction basis, but you receive your money up to 24 hours quicker with cryptocurrency.

Argument – We conduct thousands of transactions per day that only a clearing house could handle.

Counter – Dealing with fiat money yes, but transacting thousands of blockchain transactions per day can be done in house with almost no security risks.

The truth is that there are many ways that blockchain technology can replace Automated Clearing Houses, especially in terms of speed, security and traceability. But, ACH is trusted, tried and proven, whereas blockchain is still too new for most companies to trust.

The Demand for More Transparency

Let’s say there is a new law where every company had to track every supplier from its source. Every screw and every wire from every phone ever made, and so forth. A similar thing already happens with products labeled “Organic” in stores. Such a law would cost most primary and secondary industries a fortune, but the costs could be reduced in such an event with blockchain.

They could use blockchain to track transactions from start to finish. That way, every product being sold could have its own history that is stored in digital form. If required, an authority figure could back track every single element within a product, from where the coffee beans were bought to where the glue was manufactured for the label. Plus, the system could be set up so that each supplier need not consult a central authority to execute transactions, and each transaction would be protected with encrypted data. It would be difficult for a single entity to disrupt the history of transactions, which on its own will make the transactions a lot more secure.

Supply Chain Tracking

Using the same method as above, a company could track its supply chain, which is more important in the food industry than anywhere else. Walmart is unable to trust the record-keeping of companies in China, so it is using blockchain to track the supply of pork. Record-keeping transactions are marked at intervals so that Wal-Mart can see if a piece of pork sat in a warehouse for six months before being processed. The record-keeping process happens with regards to where the meat comes from, is slaughtered, processed, and stored, and this information is then used by the company in the US to create its sell-by-date.

Conclusion – A Tool is Only as Good as Its Use

A paintbrush in the hands of a novice is no more useful than a shotgun in the hands of a kangaroo. The intrinsic benefit of blockchain, as described in the introduction, is very powerful, but businesses are having a hard time integrating it into their companies. There are plenty who claim they have tried, such as Tyson, Nestle, Unilever and Dole, but they are more like nervous children dipping their toes in the shallow end of the pool.

Blockchain will benefit those who wish to transact payments domestically and overseas, and those who wish to track a process, a supply chain, and/or who just wish to be more transparent about their business operations. However, it is only the really competitive industries like the financial and food industries that are worth the added benefits of blockchain for the slight edge that blockchain technology gives them over their competitors.

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Ava Williams is a Resumeble editor and a career expert from Vancouver. She finds her inspiration in blogging and career courses. Meet her on Twitter and LinkedIn

music

How Blockchain Could Save the Music Industry from the Threat of Technology

Did you know that there was a time, not so long ago, when the only way to listen to music was live and in-person? No, I’m not talking about a live stream from your favorite band on Facebook or YouTube, but listening to the music at a venue congregated alongside a small or large group of similarly-minded folks who liked the same kind of music you did. In pre-historic times like the year 1984, the concert was the only way we consumed our favorite tunes and supported the musical artists of our choice.

With the advent of recording technology, we have gone from the live concert experience to the phonograph and jukebox, the eight-track, cassette-tape, and CDs, to recent years with the onslaught of the mp3 and all digital streaming abilities. In the wake of these massive technological strides forward, the music industry has consistently been in catch-up mode; always having difficulty keeping pace. In the same way that technological changes have shaped the way we consume our favorite music, it has also played a huge part in other aspects of the industry, transforming the first and original way in which we consumed our music: LIVE.

Through technological advancement, the concert-going experience and the revenue created from these live performances have also seen a massive control shift out of the hands of the artists and the investors who deserve it.

Finding fair and legal means to regulate the consumption of music by the masses to taking back control of a rising secondary ticketing market and governing the concert experience are major issues that have united the music industry.  Together, record labels, venues, streaming services and artists fight to get ahead of the technological curve and retain earnings for people that make the music possible in the first place. Technology changes and it changes fast. It has been the central force that has thrown the music industry into decades of chaos, and it’s the very thing to set it back on its feet again.

ALL ABOARD THE DIGITAL TRAIN

In the annual Global Piracy Report, 2017 saw music theft grow 14.7%. It was the most prevalent in the United States. Technology and its maturity have played a major role in people’s ability to steal and download tunes that don’t belong to them, but this technology did not appear yesterday.

Think back to 1997. This was the year that two guys created a system by which you could swap songs with your friends at no cost. They called their technology, Napster. This was the beginning of illegal music downloading. Technology spread like wildfire through college campuses and within months had over 20 million users on the platform uploading and downloading songs from across the decades to the biggest radio hits that came out yesterday.  Major artists came together to speak out against the platform and the Digital Media Copyright Act  (DMCA) was signed into law by President Clinton in 1998 but did little good as Napster gave way to a swell of music piracy sites including Limewire and BitTorrent among many others.

While the music industry fought to control these illegal downloading sites, it was blindsided by a number of game-changing technological advancements over the next decade, including the introduction of streaming services (Spotify launched in 2001) and the introduction of digital music library through Apple’s iTunes. With Spotify and Apple Music leading the charge and giving the listener the ability to instantly devour an array of music genres and artists through a single subscription service, music streaming services (accounting for 50% of total recorded music revenues in 2017) has become the preference of most consumers looking to broaden their musical horizons or just get the song that their favorite artist released last week.

THE EVOLUTION OF MUSIC CONSUMPTION – THE TIMELINE

1877

Thomas Edison invents a device to record and play music on. The Phonograph.

1887

Emile Berliner invented the Gramophone, the invention to record on flat discs (The Record)

1948

The first LP is invented and was also known as the album.

1963

Cassette Tapes become the most popular form of music media and it’s the mobility factor made music portable.

1982

The first CD (Compact Disc) ever made was ABBA’s ‘The Visitors’ album.

1997

The first Mp3 player is released.

June 9th, 1999

NAPSTER is invented, developing the idea of free online music sharing and leading to a huge drop in music recording sales.

2001

NAPSTER is shutdown through a court order.

APPLE introduces the iPod

Streaming services like SPOTIFY begin to pop up giving way to the modern-day streaming music service

2003

iTunes and the advent of the digital music library managed from your computer come to market.

ACCESS BEFORE OWNERSHIP

With the introduction of streaming technology and services by Pandora, Rhapsody, Spotify and Apple Music, music consumers now had the ability to gain access to multiple artists all at once and for one low price per month.  Though some consumers still preferred the music quality of the CD, it was only a matter of time before streaming music became the popular choice.  Physical formats of music consumption like the CD were officially out and digital music was the dominant form.

Record companies could no longer work outside the system and fight the digital age as it cost the industry millions of dollars yearly, so over the next decade, they began to work alongside these digital streaming services building the systems and infrastructure that facilitate the authorizing of over 380 digital music services and more than 40 million tracks.  In 2016, the music industry saw its first increase in revenue by 5.9% after 15 straight years of loss or about 40% of the industry’s revenue.

So the industry as a whole is on the up and up, but It is important to note here that very little of the money that record companies receive for the digital downloads make it to the actual artists themselves. In the current business model, the label takes about 70 percent of the purchase price and this leaves the artist with only pennies from each download.

RECORDING ARTISTS COMPENSATION ISSUES EXTEND BEYOND THE RECORD

‘Access’ is also the prevailing issue when it comes to the live performance sector of the music industry’s business model but in a very different way. Still, from both the sales of their recorded music and the ticket sales to their live performances, artists are not receiving the compensation due to the creative force behind what are now big-name brands created by and profited off of by the record companies alone.

But if it is the streaming service technology and the easy access to the music keeping artists from their due on the recorded music side of the industry, what are the major industry issues and technologies that are keeping them from gaining money deserved from their concerts and tours and other live performances?

SPOTLIGHT ON THE LIVE MUSIC TICKETING INDUSTRY

The secondary market is the issue that is plaguing the current live ticketing industry. More specifically, the bot technology that is created to buy up what is usually 60% of the tickets to any given live performance. These tickets, which are usually priced on the low side by the primary markets for organizers and artists to maximize attendance of their target audience are quickly bought by secondary market resellers (with this bot technology) and then sold for sometimes triple or quadruple the original ticket price to the fans based on the demand of the artist.  So when tickets are bought and then resold at astronomical prices, only the companies and individuals (you call them scalpers) that comprise that secondary market sees the profit. Once again, the artist (and now the fans of the artists) are the ones that lose.

Both technology and legislation have been created to try to correct the fundamental issues at the heart of this industry, but both methods have fallen short of truly getting at the root of the problem.

BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY CAN SAVE THE TICKETING INDUSTRY

There is a bright spot on the horizon for artists (and fans) in regard to the issues plaguing the live concert ticketing industry and that bright spot is a new technology that has seen a recent rise in popularity across multiple business sectors called a blockchain.

By allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology is the backbone of a new type of internet. Originally devised for the digital currency, Bitcoin, the creators quickly found potential uses for the technology across many sectors.

Yellowheart is a start-up company out of New York City that is building a brand new ticket-selling protocol, harnessed by blockchain technology and specifically geared to control end-to-end ticketing, solving an issue that artists and ticketing providers have battled for years while enabling fans to buy the best tickets at face value.

In a recent interview with Billboard magazine, Yellowheart CEO Josh Katz explained how this technology is the key to YellowHeart’s success.

“The plague of the scalping industry is something I’ve talked to artists and friends about for years, and with the unprecedented growth of this underground system, we knew it was time to find a real solution,” he explains. “While technology and secondary ticketing sites are to blame for the growth of scalpers, we believe that technology is also our solution. Blockchain offers us the unique ability to track the entire ticketing lifecycle, which means the tickets end up in the hands of the fans, and no one else.”

Billboard went on to report that YellowHeart is just the latest startup to target the secondary market. London-based live ticketing company Dice, which recently partnered with Primavera Sound, and San Francisco-based online ticket exchange Lyte are also working on technology to take on the secondary markets and get the creative artists behind these live events the revenue percentages that they deserve.

CONCLUSION

Whether it be the revenues allocated from the digital sales of their music or the cash streams created by the sales of their most recent tour, artists and creatives are getting the short end of the stick with the current systems and technology created by the live streaming industry and the record labels to correctly and fairly compensate each for the value that they add to their label or service.

The artist and the music deserve their due and, though it is with the use and through the creation of technology that the music industry’s inequalities for artists were created, it seems that it is technology-driven platforms like YellowHeart and its use of the blockchain open ledger that give artists and investors the most hope of seeing the systems change and their true value upheld.

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Josh Katz is the Founder and CEO of YellowHeart. Founded in 2018, YellowHeart is the first socially responsible live event ticketing platform. The YellowHeart platform is autonomous, fully decentralized and runs on public a Blockchain – which enables artists and teams to identify, market and sell directly to their fans. Josh is also the Founder of El Media Group (EMG). Established in 2005, EMG is the premier subscription music provider for business, servicing over 5000 of the premier luxury brands in hospitality, food and beverage, airports, casinos, and retail. From 1996 – 2004 Josh worked within the music industry spending time at Arista Records, Jive Records and BMG Entertainment. Josh was responsible and assisted in the launch, development and marketing for many of the biggest stars in music today. Artists include Britney Spears, Buddy Guy, Gwen Stefani/ No Doubt and many more.

logistics

Global Trade’s Annual Logistics Planning Guide Reveals the Year’s Top Trends

Sometimes buying your business into the latest trends isn’t the best idea. Saddled with high costs and incompatible programs, trendy new technology can often make business processes more difficult for your business, not less. But there are some industries where the latest really can be the greatest, and one of those industries is the logistics industry.

Let’s face it: Logistics make the world go round. Whether it’s shipping perishables to community markets or lifesaving machinery to medical clinics, there’s a lot riding on the shoulders of logistics providers. That’s why it often pays to rely on cutting-edge technology. From tracking and tracing to locating items in your warehouse, new technology can often get the job done faster and more accurately. Plus, with the growing e-commerce market, logistics is more important than ever before as businesses push to get their products into customers’ hands at the speed of retailers such as Amazon.

So, what’s on the horizon for the logistics industry this coming year? Here’s what’s on our radar—and should be on yours—for the best (and one troublesome) new innovations and trends in logistics in 2020.

LOGISTICS IT

When it comes to logistics, information technology (IT) may arguably be the most important innovation of 2020. That’s because without a solid tracking system in place you’re not only causing potential backlogs for your workers, but you could be causing frustration for your clients, too. After all, if your customer can’t see where their merchandise is in the supply chain, they may bring their business to someone else who can. This is where an excellent Warehouse Management System (WMS) comes in. Using RFID and GPS, warehouse management systems can now monitor and trace every piece of inventory in your warehouse, providing real-time data to both you and your customer.

Other systems expected to be used with increased frequency in the new year include order entry systems and transportation management systems (TMS).

But logistics IT isn’t just what the customer sees, or even what your employees interact with. It goes well beyond that. Logistics IT also encompasses the back end of your IT solutions—not just the IT product itself but also the customer support that goes along with it.

We all know the logistics industry doesn’t just run from nine to five. When there’s a problem like a software bug or outage, is your IT provider available to offer technical support when you need it? Does your provider strive to make software updates that are meaningful to your business, and that integrate seamlessly into your other systems? Does your provider notify you when there are new versions of your system that could benefit your business? These are all signs of a good IT provider—a trend you definitely don’t want to miss the boat (or train, plane or truck!) on.

Logistics providers are using the latest technology, such as Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment (CPFR) and Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI), to satisfy ever-changing customer requirements. DHL Express introduced a fresh TC55 technology that works on the Android platform and is simple to use, as well as the navigation skills in the global positioning system (GPS).

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND MACHINE LEARNING

Artificial intelligence, or AI, is another way technology is streamlining the logistics industry. Currently, the biggest benefit of AI is arguably its ability to automate many of the processes logistics providers provide every day, including repetitive tasks that exhaust human capital and don’t challenge workers. Though many workers worry that AI will someday replace human workers, currently the technology is actually assisting them.

Another use for AI in the logistics industry relates to the driving of vehicles. As many are aware, initiatives from companies like Google have in recent years invested time and resources into developing self-driving cars, i.e. autonomous vehicles. These vehicles may be manned by a human driver, but they allow the driver to take breaks from driving while still traveling. This in turn gets deliveries to their destinations quicker, a fact that is projected to save logistics providers a lot of money. In fact, according to Mckinsey, autonomous vehicles could save logistics providers up to 45 percent, a savings providers can then pass along to their clients. These savings could then be passed to the consumer in the form of lower prices or lower shipping rates.

ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS LOGISTICS

With many seaports developing green initiatives and land- and air-based logistics providers initiating a greater push for a reduced carbon footprint, 2020 is set to be a big year for reducing carbon emissions. Some land-based initiatives include more efficient route mapping, video conferencing and net-zero emissions.

Route mapping works by eliminating excess travel on longer routes. The idea is that a more direct route cuts fuel waste as well as carbon emissions. Video conferencing saves both money and the need for travel to meetings. As for net zero emissions, many logistics providers are investing in low or zero-emission vehicles and alternative fuels that emit less carbon into the air.

Logistics companies with warehousing services are also increasing their push toward a lower carbon footprint, using sustainable packaging and ramping up recycling efforts with the packing, shipping and packaging of products.

Maritime initiatives include the restoration and protection of wetlands as well as the planting of trees at some ports. Strategies also include the use of more efficient photosensitive lighting, such as the switch to LED lighting. Some ports have even switched over to the use of electric equipment instead of diesel fuel equipment, the establishment of fuel efficient requirements for ships which frequent the port and much more.

BLOCKCHAIN

If you’re in the logistics world, you’ve likely been hearing about blockchain for several years now. But what is it? Simply put, blockchain is a way of recording data which cannot be altered, using a technology called cryptology. Blockchain data is nearly unchangeable. The “chain” in blockchain refers to the chain of messages that originate from a single entry. To edit the chain, all members who posted to the chain must be willing to alter their own data to support the potentially edited data. This reduces the risk of that data being falsified or otherwise compromised along the way.

Blockchain data can be used to do everything from order tracking to payment issues. Blockchain also streamlines the way we communicate, reducing the need for time-consuming paperwork. Blockchain works in real-time, so shippers can trace every detail of their shipment as it progresses and make necessary adjustments to their route and load temperatures as needed. This can save time and money, preventing delays or rejected shipments.

Blockchain can also aid in financial decisions regarding fleet vehicles. Similar to a Carfax report, blockchain can show whether a pre-owned logistics vehicle has been maintained as well as the previous owner claims, and can help the potential buyer make decisions that could cost them—or save them—significantly down both the literal and figurative roads.

Indeed, blockchain has become so big that an organization has been founded to monitor the industry. The Blockchain in Transport Alliance, or BiTa, was founded to help advance the Bitchain industry, developing rules and regulations and providing education for new and veteran Bitchain users. The organization already boasts an impressive member list, including representatives of UPS and FedEx.

TECHNOMAX

In the maritime sector of the logistics industry, one revolutionary service that is “making waves” is TechnoMax, or TMX. TechnoMax works to streamline maritime operations by working with AI and the Internet of Things (IoT). The system provides risk and compliance data, app development, infrastructure development and data management. Some of TechnoMax’s capabilities include monitoring a ship’s emissions, analyzing cargo information and guiding navigation.

TRADE TARIFFS

Now for some bad news. With trade deals between the United States and China again delayed, there remains a lot of uncertainty among retailers and manufacturers. Though there is no crystal ball to predict the future or what it holds for these industries, the potential for raised prices on goods is of big concern. Price increases would inevitably be passed down to consumers, who could cut out or cut back on goods, causing sales to plummet. This could in turn negatively impact the logistics industry, as fewer products will be warehoused and transported.

For now, the industry seems to be holding its own, with some businesses preparing for the looming tariffs by shipping larger amounts now to avoid elevated costs later. Whether this bulking up will cause a dramatic drop in shipments in the first few months of 2020 remains to be seen.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

All things considered, 2020 seems to be gearing up to be a great year for the logistics industry, with many new technological and environmental advances on the horizon. From AI to blockchain, the industry is poised to become more efficient than ever, saving providers money which they can pass along to their clients, and in turn potentially to the consumer.

Even with the potential for steep tariffs on China (and vice versa) on the horizon, these positive advances should still make an impact on the industry in the coming year and decade.

market

Despite the Name, the Refrigerated Container Market is Red Hot, Spurring Industry Moves

The global shipping containers market is poised to experience significant market valuation and robust growth through 2025, according to industry research published last year. Sorry about the temperature mix you are about to withstand, but the hottest segment of that market in that study was refrigerated containers, a.k.a. reefer.

Be they 20-foot, 40-foot or even higher cubes, “reefer containers are projected to be the fastest-growing segment in the product type category during the forecast period,” which was 2017-2025 for Persistence Market Research. (See https://www.persistencemarketresearch.com/market-research/shipping-containers-market.asp.)

The Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for the period is forecast by PMR to be 10.2 percent for the reefer segment, with the 20- and 40-foot sub segments expected to push the positive growth. It’s interesting to note that this factoid was part of a report that more prominently played up the predicted 8.6 percent CAGR for the dry container segment.

That said (or, more accurately, written), it is telling that PMR expects the overall container market to register a “robust” CAGR of 8.3 percent throughout the eight-year period, even with the forecast of a slowing global economy in 2020.

“The growth of the shipping containers at a global level is pushed by the growth in the economy, rising seaborne trade, increasing demand for highly efficient and superior capacity shipping containers, growth in sales of specialized shipping containers by department of defense and rising trend of increasing use of remote container management (RCM) solutions,” PMR finds.

There have been anecdotal indications of the reefer market’s continued growth. Universal Africa Lines (UAL), a conventional ocean transportation carrier that specializes in handling project cargo, breakbulk and containers, boasts a fleet of more than 4,000 containers including reefers, high cubes, open tops and flat racks with the ability to provide a multitude of shipping options including door-to-door service. Last summer, UAL announced its call at Port of Houston’s City Docks as part of its U.S. Gulf/Mexico to West Africa liner service.

Port of Houston was attractive to UAL due to the available dedicated laydown area for project cargoes and berth availability, both of which provided added flexibility to the carrier’s multipurpose fleet.

Cogoport, a leading digital freight logistics business in India, announced in July 2019 the launch of reefer cargo services to and from destinations around the globe. “We are meeting significant demand for reefer exports to North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and to those importing refrigerated cargoes–enabling SME [small-to-medium enterprise] shippers all over India to deliver better productivity, service and profitability when moving their perishable cargoes,” said Cogoport CEO and founder Purnendu Shekhar at the time.

India has experienced “rapid and sustained growth in refrigerated exports during the past decade with commodities like fish, vegetables, fruit and nuts, meat, pharmaceuticals and chemicals driving demand for reefer import and export services,” explained Shekhar’s company in a press release.

“We have had a great experience working with Cogoport, moving onions to different corners of the world–saving us time and budget,” says Ankit Begwani, CEO and founder of BegwaniGlobal. “Like many other SMEs, we are also seeing huge demand for shipping of perishable cargoes, not least for fruit and vegetable exports to Malaysia and Dubai. This requires high operational output, optimization of shipments and customer satisfaction for delivering goods on time. Every cent matters to every SME business, and Cogoport has demonstrated that it can help deliver that value with better rates, better margins and better visibility.”

The reefer demand is not going one way in India, where the rise of the middle class has created a greater desire for refrigerated imports, particularly from Germany, South Korea and Russia, according to the advisory from Cogoport, which is headquartered in Mumbai and has offices in Hong Kong and the Netherlands.

Perhaps the greatest indication of reefer’s rise comes in the form of technological advances that different industry players seem to announce almost daily.

Miramar, Florida-based Wireless Maritime Services (WMS), the largest wireless network operator at sea, and Globe Tracker, the fastest growing provider of global supply chain IoT visibility for cold-chain, announced their partnership in November to bring real-time reefer monitoring to Seaboard Marine, the largest marine cargo shipping line in Central, South America and the Caribbean.

Under the multi-year, multi-ship agreement, Seaboard Marine becomes the world’s first container ocean line to implement a truly portable, fully 24/7 monitored, 4G LTE based private cellular and integrated satellite communication network for containers on vessels. The innovation and expertise from WMS and Denmark-based Globe Tracker—whose North American headquarters are in Sarasota, Florida—results in “a novel vessel network that is seamless, interoperable, and provides end-to-end enhanced visibility and real-time connectivity, both in the cloud and on the vessel at sea,” according to the companies.

They add that Seaboard Marine also becomes the world’s first ocean line to implement full IoT visibility across their fleet of intermodal assets, including reefers, gensets, chassis and vessels—all on a single integrated easy to use platform.

“By IoT equipping our Controlled Atmosphere (CA) reefer fleet and other critical assets, we are well-positioned to provide more responsive cold chain services for our trade lanes, which facilitates complex processes such as USDA cold treatment,” noted Seaboard Marine Vice President Piero Buitano in the announcement.

“The vessel system also provides real-time alerts to crew technicians, so problems can be quickly detected and corrected, if necessary, thereby increasing temperature compliance,” added Frederick Urbina, Seaboard’s Refrigerated Services manager.

Noted Pramod Arora, WMS president and CEO, of Seaboard Marine: “They have been a valuable partner in pushing us to innovate first-to-market solutions that we are now deploying within their fleet. We look forward to continuing to partner with Seaboard Marine for future innovations.”

Globe Tracker had already started the partnering mojo in September, when it announced having teamed with Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey-based SeaCube Containers, a global leader in refrigerated shipping containers and gensets, to provide IoT-enabled gensets for Ocean Network Express (ONE), the sixth-largest shipping line in the world.

The cutting-edge GT technology provides cellular communication of operational parameters from gensets, including fuel level, battery voltage, events and alarms and even remote shut-off capability for certain genset brands.

“The growing demand for greater tracking, transparency, security, diagnostics and asset fleet management using smart technology will continue to be a key driver for leased solutions,” said Greg Tuthill, chief commercial officer at SeaCube, in the joint announcement. “By partnering with Globe Tracker, we will continue to enhance our leading-edge technology solutions and expand our commitment to the intermodal industry by providing smart asset technology leased products.”

John Harnett, senior director Marine and Intermodal at Globe Tracker, added he was pleased to be working with SeaCube “in providing this best-in-class genset solution to ONE. In genset telematics, we are the only provider integrated into the micro-controller of two out of the three leading brands in North America. This provides ONE with the most robust amount of data and assists in setting maintenance intervals, reducing maintenance costs, extending asset life, monitoring fuel consumption and having full operational visibility of their genset assets.”

Palm Beach Gardens, Florida-based Carrier Transicold, which is under the umbrella of Farmington, Connecticut’s United Technologies Corp., used the Nov. 5-7  Intermodal Europe 2019 in Hamburg, Germany, to unveil its new TripLINK digital tool that is designed to make shipping perishables simple, transparent and reliable worldwide.

The tool digitally connects customers to updates on their assets, including vital cargo health information. TripLINK software securely gathers and analyzes machine and cargo-health data that it wirelessly obtains from telematics hardware in the refrigerated container and the micro controller.

“Our aim in unveiling these new digital solutions is to bring to our customers convenience, visibility and actionable intelligence, ultimately to derive more savings for them,” said Kartik Kumar, vice president & general manager, Carrier Global Container Refrigeration. “At Carrier, the future is now. Through leveraging the latest cutting-edge technology, especially on the digital front, we provide our customers practical solutions they only once dreamed possible.”

Also part of a new suite of digital solutions is the Container eCommerce portal, which began supporting customers in Southeast Asia in mid-November. The portal put on view Carrier Transicold’s full catalog of refrigerated container unit parts and allowed orders to be placed easily.

Also on display in Germany was Carrier’s new Micro-Link 5 controller, which is billed as the industry’s first wireless connectivity enabled refrigerated container unit controller that is also equipped with advanced diagnostics, allowing service technicians to save time and money by reducing container moves and the need to restack units to retrieve critical data or conduct troubleshooting. And a new DataLINE Connect mobile app allows customers to work directly with a refrigerated unit equipped to receive data via a smartphone or tablet.

Staying in Europe, but traveling back the previous month to October 2019, CEVA Logistics opened a new integrated, end-to-end cold chain facility at DP World London Gateway in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, UK.

More than 50 customers, including representatives of French container transportation and shipping company CMA CGM, attended the unveiling of The Chill Hub, which CEVA describes as a state-of-the-art facility with dedicated areas for handling pharmaceuticals, fresh and frozen produce, beverage products and flowers as well as other goods requiring temperature specific handling and storage.

The location is considered strategic because a deep-sea port is on the same site as the logistics park where The Chill Hub rests. London Gateway, which has links to more than 110 ports in 60 different countries, is considered the UK’s No. 1 reefer hub.

“With its excellent road and rail connections, our best in class warehouse management systems and direct port access, the Chill Hub is a powerful demonstration of the synergies between CEVA Logistics and CMA CGM,” said Nicolas Sartini, CEO of Baar, Switzerland-based CEVA Logistics, which has offices worldwide, including all over North America.

“This state-of-the-art facility will enable us to offer a unique value proposition to our shipper customers,” Sartini continued, “providing a faster delivery of goods through an energy-efficient building. We can also give full visibility and control of the entire inbound operation through The Chill Hub.”

CargoSmart Limited—which leverages technologies including artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain, as well as a deep understanding of ocean shipping for its transportation and logistics clients—announced in November its new Connected Reefer Solution. The one-stop, AI and IoT-enabled reefer cargo management system for ocean carriers and shippers features end-to-end information transparency, including enhanced reefer container Pre-Trip Inspection (PTI) support, real-time container status monitoring updates, and predictive cargo arrival status.

“CargoSmart Connected Reefer Solution provides users with a one-stop, hassle-free solution that seamlessly integrates IoT-enabled containers with cloud-based monitoring software and APIs [application programming interfaces],” said Lionel Louie, CargoSmart’s chief commercial officer, in the announcement. “With the cutting-edge technologies and the vast volume of data collected, CargoSmart Connected Reefer Solution brings an unprecedented level of real-time cargo status visibility, empowers more accurate and responsive planning, and significantly drives down operation costs for carriers and shippers.”

Louie was not blowing smoke. CargoSmart reefer management was the winner of the Lloyd’s List 2019 “Excellence in Supply Chain Management” Asia Pacific and the 2019 TIBCO Trailblazer Visionary awards. And the solution received this praise from Li Dong, general manager of COSCO Shipping’s Equipment Management Center: “In addition to heightened visibility to reefer cargo status, COSCO Shipping replaced manual PTI with AI-enabled PTI, bringing significant enhancements in cost-efficiency savings as well as reefer management capabilities.”

blockchain

German-Austrian Trade Transaction Successful on Marco Polo’s Blockchain Platform

The S-Servicepartner, Sparkasse Bielefeld and the Austrian Raiffeisen Bank International, together with Dr. August Wolff GmbH & Co. KG Arzneimittel and its business partner, the pharmaceutical company s.a.m. Pharma Handel GmbH successfully completed a digital trade transaction with a receivables-based financing component on the Marco Polo platform. A special feature: the S-Servicepartner, currently the only back-office service provider worldwide within the Marco Polo consortium, the largest and fastest-growing trade finance network, was able to process a blockchain-based trade transaction for the first time together with a savings bank and its customer. Another highlight: Raiffeisen Bank International was the first Austrian bank to carry out a pilot transaction on the Marco Polo platform.

The Marco Polo network connects banks, corporates and technology-partners to streamline their working capital and trade finance activities through direct data exchange. It provides digital solutions for international trade and supply chain as well as receivables-based financing using R3 Corda Blockchain technology. Companies will be able to access the platform’s offerings via web portals, local and cloud-based platforms, and ERP-integrated applications.

The settlement and financing of trade transactions via a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT)-based platform is of equal interest to companies of all sizes active in foreign trade. The S-Servicepartner participates in the development of the Marco Polo platform, representing all savings banks in Germany, and pursues the goal of providing the savings banks with access to the Marco Polo product offering. The service provider is, therefore, testing the functionality and experience of the products on the Marco Polo platform together with selected savings banks and their medium-sized corporate customers. “This is the first transaction in a pilot series with savings banks with which we want to make an important contribution towards production maturity,” says Jürgen Nagel, a member of the Management Board of S-Servicepartner Berlin. “The insights gained by all participants will be directly incorporated into the further development of the modules”.

Ralf Hüpel, Head of International Business at Sparkasse Bielefeld, states: “We are very happy and satisfied to be able to contribute the view of a savings bank at such an early stage in the development of this platform. As the first savings bank in Germany, we were able, together with our customer, to give important impulses for the further development of this international project”.

“The Wolff Group, which is always interested in cutting edge innovations, sees an opportunity for the future to raise considerable efficiency potentials and significantly improve transparency in the entire process, from ordering to payment”, confirms Tanja Niedenführ, Head of Finance and Accounting Department at the pharmaceutical manufacturer.

Raiffeisen Bank International (RBI) began looking at the existing blockchain-based trade finance solutions in 2017. Of all the available platforms, RBI ultimately opted for Marco Polo. “Marco Polo best suited our strategy as the platform combines traditional trade finance products with new blockchain-based solutions such as Payment Commitment,” says Stefan Andjelic, RBI Blockchain Hub Lead. The cooperation with S-Servicepartner and the two companies gave a good impression of the marketability of the Marco Polo platform. “The transaction showed how Marco Polo can make trade finance more transparent and efficient through automation,” says Andreas Zietz, RBI Teamlead Trade Finance.

Also for Michael Stanzig, Managing Director of s.a.m. Pharma Handel GmbH, the pilot has shown that the Marco Polo platform provides transparency and security to all sides. “The usability of the platform is relatively easy for our part and operated without any problems,” Michael Stanzig continues.

“This pilot demonstrates the benefits of leveraging blockchain technology for open account trade finance transactions. By using the Marco Polo Platform, we create a safe and digital environment, which provides the foundation for a global trade finance marketplace,” said Rob Barnes, CEO of TradeIX.

The parties to the transaction agree that the cooperative partnership not only provided a deeper insight into the innovative technology but also brought the conviction that the underlying visions can be put into practice in the near future.

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The S-Servicepartner is the largest back office service provider for the savings banks in Germany. As a process industrialiser, the S-Servicepartner supports the savings banks with standardization and automation solutions using modern technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Business Intelligence (BI). Today, the corporate group employs more than 2,350 people at 11 locations throughout Germany and generates annual sales of around 200 million euros.

Sparkasse Bielefeld is the market leader in its area of business for medium-sized corporate customers and the most important financing partner for medium-sized companies in Bielefeld. The bank handles more than 20,000 commercial customer relationships in Bielefeld and has provided around 550 million Euros in new commercial loans in 2018.

The Dr. Wolff Group, with brands such as Alpecin, Plantur and Alcina, as well as Linola, Vagisan, Biorepair and Karex, is a family business from Bielefeld, now in its fourth generation, with 675 employees and expanding worldwide. Since its foundation in 1905, the company has focused on research and the scientifically proven benefits of its products in order to find a solution for hair and skin problems. With its own developments, the company achieved a turnover of 309 million Euros (2018). Dr. Wolff is operating in more than 60 countries.

RBI regards Austria, where it is a leading corporate and investment bank, as well as Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) as its home market. 13 markets of the region are covered by subsidiary banks. Additionally, the RBI Group comprises numerous other financial service providers, for instance in leasing, asset management or M&A. 

Around 47,000 employees service 16.5 million customers through approx. 2,100 business outlets, the by far largest part thereof in CEE. RBI’s shares are listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange. The Austrian Regional Raiffeisen Banks own around 58.8 percent of the shares, the remainder is in free float. Within the Austrian Raiffeisen Banking Group, RBI is the central institute of the Regional Raiffeisen Banks and other affiliated credit institutions.

s.a.m. Pharma Handel is a small successful company founded in 2003 in the OTC pharmaceutical sector with the aim of marketing European pharmaceutical companies that are not independently represented in Austria.

marco polo

Marco Polo Network Welcomes BNY Mellon

The Marco Polo Network, a trade and working capital finance network powered by blockchain technology, welcomed The Bank of New York Mellon (“BNY Mellon”) onboard to conduct an evaluation program. BNY Mellon’s collaboration is aimed at developing a more open and connected trade finance environment that powers global trade and economic growth.

Marco Polo is a consortium working to make international trade more efficient. The network includes financial institutions, their corporate clients, service providers and the blockchain technology firms TradeIX and R3, leveraging R3’s Corda blockchain.

By engaging with Marco Polo, BNY Mellon is positioning itself to explore trade financing powered by blockchain, in an industry where many participants still rely on costly and inefficient paper-based systems to conduct trade. 

“We recognize tremendous potential to harness digital, data and advanced technology capabilities to transform essential trade finance processes to make them more efficient and secure. Collaborating with Marco Polo members is one more measure of our commitment to provide innovative opportunities to improve the client experience throughout the transaction lifecycle,” said Joon Kim, Global Head of Trade Finance at BNY Mellon. “To achieve our goals, we seek to work with forward-looking organizations, like the Marco Polo Network, that are harnessing digital to truly transform industries,” he added.

The move reflects BNY Mellon’s focus on fully digitizing the business to deliver new capabilities faster, unlock the power of data and put clients at the center of their ecosystem. BNY Mellon remains dedicated to broadening the scope of its digital ecosystem both by actively advancing its own products and services as well as seeking opportunities to collaborate with best-in-class external companies. 

Already strong in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, the Marco Polo Network now bolsters its U.S. presence with the addition of BNY Mellon. “We are accelerating the network’s growth and reach while our members are preparing and running programs with their corporate clients,” said Daniel Cotti, Managing Director, Centre of Excellence, Banking & Trade at TradeIX. 

 BNY Mellon joins Bank of America, BNP Paribas, Commerzbank, ING, LBBW, Anglo-Gulf Trade Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Credit Agricole, Natixis, Bangkok Bank, SMBC, Danske Bank, NatWest, DNB, OP Financial Group, Alfa Bank, Bayern LB, Helaba, S-Servicepartner, Raiffeisen Bank International, Standard Bank, Intesa Sanpaolo, MUFG, National Bank of Fujairah PJSC, National Australia Bank, and Bradesco as a member of the largest network of financial institutions leveraging blockchain for trade finance.

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About BNY Mellon

BNY Mellon is a global investments company dedicated to helping its clients manage and service their financial assets throughout the investment lifecycle. Whether providing financial services for institutions, corporations or individual investors, BNY Mellon delivers informed investment management and investment services in 35 countries. As of Sept. 30, 2019, BNY Mellon had $35.8 trillion in assets under custody and/or administration, and $1.9 trillion in assets under management. BNY Mellon can act as a single point of contact for clients looking to create, trade, hold, manage, service, distribute or restructure investments. BNY Mellon is the corporate brand of The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation (NYSE: BK). Additional information is available on www.bnymellon.com. Follow us on Twitter @BNYMellon or visit our newsroom at www.bnymellon.com/newsroom for the latest company news.

About TradeIX 

TradeIX, is an award-winning technology platform provider driving innovation and driving change in facilitating the flow of goods, money, and credit in the $8 trillion trade finance market. Its TradeIX Platform is delivered to banks and their corporate clients via ERP-embedded applications. The TradeIX Platform is integrated with the Marco Polo Network, the world’s fastest growing trade finance network.

Some of the smartest financial institutions and companies in the world work with TradeIX, including ING, BNP Paribas, DHL, AIG, Oracle, and many other Fortune 500 companies from various industries. TradeIX is headquartered in Dublin with offices in London, Kettering and Singapore. For more information visit: www.tradeix.com

About R3

R3 is an enterprise blockchain software firm working with a broad ecosystem of more than 300 members and partners across multiple industries from both the private and public sectors to develop on Corda, its open-source blockchain platform, and Corda Enterprise, a commercial version of Corda for enterprise usage.

 R3’s global team of over 180 professionals in 13 countries is supported by over 2,000 technology, financial, and legal experts drawn from its global member base. 

Learn more at r3.com.

technology

Competitors Link Arms and Embrace Technology’s Promise

Overcapacity. Low freight rates. Security problems. Data inadequacies. Stringent environmental regulations. When it comes to moving containerized freight around the globe, third-party logistics companies (3PLs) have a lot to deal with.

However, like a guardian angel, blockchain has arrived to solve all these issues and more for the 3PL industry, which stands to save billions of dollars annually through increased efficiency, improved processes and a digital transformation.

Blockchain technology, while still in its innovative infancy, has “a lot of potential” to facilitate trade, according to a report by Christine McDaniel, a senior research fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, Hanna C. Norberg, the founder of Trade Economista and the university that was released in May.

In “Can Blockchain Technology Facilitate International Trade?” McDaniel and Norberg explored blockchain technology’s usefulness in easing trade finance, improving customs procedures and tracking the provenance of goods. Their conclusion: “Adaptability, interoperability, and a policy environment that welcomes experimentation will be essential if the U.S. economy is to realize the potential benefits of blockchain technology across the international trade landscape.”

They also point out that numerous private- and public-sector efforts are underway to explore the benefits of blockchain technology. Financial institutions are experimenting with blockchain to increase access and decrease trade-finance costs.

The shipping industry is working with those along the supply chain and with customs officials to see how a distributed digital ledger can facilitate the transparent movement of goods across borders and seas. Companies and retailers are exploring ways to track their own supply chains so they can communicate tracking and origin information to consumers who increasingly demand such information.

Among those that are all-in with blockchain is Blockshipping, a Danish concern that was launched in May 2018 with a goal of developing the world’s first freight container registry. The startup claims its blockchain-based Global Shared Container Platform, which provides a real-time registry of 27 million containers, could save the industry $5.7 billion annually. For that to work, parties across the industry must apply sensors to all containers.

The same month that Blockshipping announced its arrival, global shipping giants CMA CGM and the Mediterranean Shipping Co. joined TradeLens, the blockchain-based digital shipping platform developed three years ago by A.P. Moller-Maersk and IBM. TradeLens is an open and neutral blockchain platform that promotes an efficient, transparent and secure exchange of information to improve collaboration between different stakeholders within the supply chain.

Ironically, CMA CGM and Hapag-Lloyd had criticized the workings of TradeLens in 2018, stating that for a blockchain-based platform to succeed within the industry, it would need to have a common standard. With CMA CGM and MSC now having joined TradeLens, the platform accounts for shipping data of over half the number of container lines that sail across international waters.

Surgere is a North Canton, Ohio-based digital supply chain and packaging specialist whose clients include Nissan and CEVA Logistics. In June, Surgere announced it had joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (Bita), a Chattanooga, Tennessee-based organization with nearly 500 members in more than 25 countries that collectively generate more than $1 trillion annually. The alliance helps develop industry standards, encourage the use of new solutions and educate its members who are mostly drawn from the freight, transportation and logistics sectors.

“Blockchain enables instant visibility of inventory transactions, captured by Surgere’s extremely accurate RFID solutions, which can be immediately and collectively processed throughout the supply chain,” said Rusty Coleman, Surgere’s vice-president of Digital Transformation, in the Bita announcement. “That visibility can remove artificially created demand patterns and make visible smooth and continuous demand for tier [suppliers] near real-time.”

Representatives from NBSF Railway, Daimler, Delta, J.B. Hunt, FedEx, Transplace and UPS are on the Bita board of directors, whose Standards Council chairman is Dale Chrystie, FedEx’s business strategist and blockchain fellow. “This is not a process improvement initiative; this is a breakthrough discussion,” Chrystie said from the stage of the Blockchain Revolution Global conference in Toronto on April 25. “This is a different way to think about how global clearance looks in the future.”

The notion that competitors are joining hands when it comes to the promise of blockchain was demonstrated by the fact that the FedEx executive was joined by Eugene Laney, head of international government affairs for DHL USA and Mahesh Sahasranaman, principal architect at UPS Supply Chain Solutions, in a discussion with Don Tapscott, executive chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute. Each agreed there is a common interest in embracing uniform standards for blockchain and getting governments on board with the technology.

“This is an issue that must be looked at with a global viewpoint,” Chrystie said. “These dots are going to connect. The question is how are you going to accelerate that process.”

Here is a deeper dive into ways blockchain can revolutionize the industry, according to the “Can Blockchain Technology Facilitate International Trade?” report from George Mason University’s Mercatus Center.

Trade and Finance

Blockchain could reduce the expense and time required to facilitate trade that depends on third-party lending or insurance. Such trade accounts for about 80 percent of global trade. This reduction of expense and time will be especially important for small and medium-sized enterprises that may face restrictions to accessing credit or for firms in countries with less developed finance markets.

Customs Procedures

The technology could reduce costs associated with obtaining import and export licenses, creating and verifying the accuracy of cargo and shipping documents, and making customs declarations. Blockchain could make a positive contribution to expediting customs procedures. The total impact of those procedures on global trade volumes and economic output is estimated to be greater than that of tariffs.

Tracking the Origin of Goods

Blockchain could improve how producers and retailers manage their supply chains by providing real-time information on the movement and origin of goods. Blockchain designed for trade should disallow anonymity. If such a design were to be widely adopted, it might improve detection of illicit trade flows and help deter illegitimate efforts to circumvent trade rules. A design without anonymity could aid customs and law enforcement while easing the flow of legitimate trade.

4 Challenges Blockchain Must Overcome To Achieve Mass Appeal

When most people think about blockchain, they likely associate it with Bitcoin or other types of cryptocurrency.

But the blockchain technology introduced a decade ago to serve as a secure database for transactions in the cryptocurrency world has plenty of uses beyond that – and potential for even more. Around the world, blockchain can be or already has been used in such areas as energy, tourism and financial services.

Yet, plenty of people still have little knowledge of this technological breakthrough that could transform how they do business and live their lives. That raises a couple of questions: Is blockchain ready for the masses? And are the masses ready for blockchain?

“Despite renewed investor interest, blockchain technology still needs to evolve to overcome some challenges before adoption reaches people who are not early adopters or who are not very tech savvy,” says Kirill Bensonoff (www.kirillbensonoff.com), a serial entrepreneur and an expert in blockchain.

Those challenges include:

Interaction with other systems. Blockchain’s growth depends on the technology’s ability to scale and interact with other systems and networks, Bensonoff says. “Right now, blockchain as a service is limited in performance because of slowed transaction processing times and the inability to have various blockchain platforms interact with each other,” he says. Just one way this challenge is being addressed is by developers creating consensus mechanisms, Bensonoff says. Consensus mechanisms refer to how participants in a blockchain network agree that the transactions recorded in the digital ledger are valid. “This mechanism creates a trust and validity in the transaction between participants who aren’t familiar with each other,” he says.

Cost and usability.  The cost of creating and implementing blockchain networks remains a significant barrier, Bensonoff says. One possible solution could be the introduction of cloud-based blockchain technology from tech giants such as IBM, Microsoft and others. “These companies have made cost reduction and scaling the crux of their business offerings,” he says. For blockchain to evolve, the average user experience also needs improvement, Bensonoff says. “The good news is that developers and blockchain companies are catching on, and working to create a more welcoming look and feel for consumers,” he says.

Regulation. If there’s a grey area in the blockchain world, regulation is it, although some states, such as Wyoming, and countries such as Malta, Estonia and Switzerland, are attempting to change that. “In the meantime, this regulatory limbo is affecting adoption, with many waiting for some finality in legislation before they implement their own blockchain solution,” Bensonoff says. As some states pass blockchain bills, hopes are high that others will follow suit, he says.

Privacy. Blockchain’s transparency is one of its strengths – and a weakness. Bensonoff points out that blockchain acts as a public ledger, which is necessary for the technology to provide trust and to verify transactions. But that can make use of blockchain troublesome for some industries, such as healthcare, which needs to protect the privacy of much of its data. Some solutions on the horizon, Bensonoff says, include making use of new developments like stealth addresses, ring-confidential transactions and state channels.

“Blockchain is definitely going to become more useful and more popular,” Kirill says. “But it must overcome these hurdles to get where it needs to be.”

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Kirill Bensonoff (www.kirillbensonoff.com) has over 20 years experience in entrepreneurship, technology and innovation as an advisor and investor in over 20 companies. In the information technology and cloud services space, Kirill founded US Web Hosting while still in college, was co-founder of ComputerSupport.com in 2006, and launched Unigma in 2015. As an innovator in the distributed ledger technology (DLT) space, Kirill launched the crypto startup Caviar in 2017 and has worked to build the blockchain community in Boston by hosting the Boston Crypto Meetup. He also is the founder of the Boston Blockchain Angels, producer and host of The Exchange with KB podcast and leads the Blockchain + AI Rising Angel.co syndicate. Kirill earned a B.S. degree from Connecticut State University, is a graduate of the EO Entrepreneurial Masters at MIT, and holds a number of technical certifications. He has been published or quoted in such national business, blockchain and technology media as Inc., Hacker Noon, Huffington Post, Bitcoin Magazine and CoinTelegraph.

 

Will Facebook’s Libra Help Bring Cryptocurrency To The Masses?

When Facebook announced plans for a stablecoin called Libra, the reaction from the cryptocurrency world ranged somewhere between skeptical and cautiously optimistic.

But, regardless of any specific merits of Facebook’s version of a digital coin, the social-media giant’s move could help speed the adoption of cryptocurrency to a larger audience, says Kirill Bensonoff (www.kirillbensonoff.com), a serial entrepreneur and an expert in blockchain.

The biggest issue now is that most people are not familiar with crypto; they think it’s difficult to use, and they may not trust it,” Bensonoff says. “Facebook will put a digital wallet on many phones and computers, and sending payments with crypto will become commonplace.”

Facebook’s Libra is proposed as a stablecoin, which is a form of cryptocurrency. Using Libra, people would be able to buy things or send money to others while paying, at most, minor fees. Unlike other cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, the value of stablecoins is tied to an asset such as gold, the U.S. dollar, the Euro or other currencies.

Facebook won’t have complete control of Libra. It’s just part of a bigger group of partners that’s creating the stablecoin.

What might all this mean for the future of cryptocurrencies – and for the average person who still knows little about them? Bensonoff says a few things worth knowing about Libra in particular and stablecoins in general include:

-Bringing stability to cryptocurrency. As the name implies, the idea of stablecoins is to bring more stability – and more peace of mind for wary investors – to the world of cryptocurrency. “I don’t think Facebook will bring stability immediately,” Bensonoff says. “I believe it’s going to take a lot more in terms of mass adoption, but Libra could be a step in the right direction.”

-The SEC’s view. Regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission have been eyeing stablecoins with the possibility that some of them could be classified as securities. “That could put stablecoins in the same category as stocks, subject to the registration, disclosures, and accreditation of investors that demands,” Bensonoff says.

-Will Libra replace PayPal? Maybe not, considering that PayPay is one of the founding members of Libra, Bensonoff says. “I think they will have some influence on the direction,” he says. “However, crypto in general is a threat to all existing payment processors, including PayPal. I believe PayPal is smart and will adopt and accept crypto payments, and they will figure out a way to monetize it. The downside for them is they won’t be able to charge nearly as much as they do now.”

“I believe Libra is going to have a positive impact in terms of awareness, adoption and interest in cryptocurrency from both businesses and consumers,” Bensonoff says. “But at the same time, with that could come more regulatory scrutiny.”

About Kirill Bensonoff

Kirill Bensonoff (www.kirillbensonoff.com) has over 20 years experience in entrepreneurship, technology and innovation as a founder, advisor and investor in over 30 companies. He’s the CEO of OpenLTV, which gives investors across the world access to passive income, collateralized by real estate, powered by blockchain. In the information technology and cloud services space, Kirill founded U.S. Web Hosting while still in college, was co-founder of ComputerSupport.com in 2006, and launched Unigma in 2015. All three companies had a successful exit.

As an innovator in the blockchain and DLT space, Kirill launched the crypto startup Caviar in 2017 and has worked to build the blockchain community in Boston by hosting the Boston Blockchain, Fintech and Innovation Meetup. He is also the producer and host of The Exchange with KB podcast and leads the Blockchain + AI Rising Angel.co syndicate. Kirill earned a B.S. degree from Connecticut State University, is a graduate of the EO Entrepreneurial Masters at MIT, and holds a number of technical certifications. He has been published or quoted in Inc., Hacker Noon, The Street, Forbes, Huffington Post, Bitcoin Magazine and Cointelegraph and many others.