By Pete Harris, Co-Founder and Research Principal
Welcome to the first Chain Business Insights vendor update of 2018. A lot is happening in the blockchain meets supply chain world, and we’ll highlight some key developments below. Usually, this update is a pay-per-view post (or free for our clients of course), but since we’re still in beta mode and would like early feedback, we’re making it free to all one final time. We’re keen to receive comments, and if you’re working on something that you feel merits inclusion, please contact us.
In this roundup, we have news regarding IBM and Maersk, Viant, Provenance, Chronicled, OriginTrail and Streamr.
IBM and Maersk
IBM and Maersk announced that they’re forming a joint venture company to develop and commercially operate a set of blockchain applications to “accelerate the digitalization” of global trade processes. The IT and shipping giants first began collaborating in June 2016.
The as-yet-unnamed JV expects to launch products within six months of receiving required regulatory approvals, and these will initially focus on:
– providing end-to-end supply chain visibility, allowing all players to exchange shipment event information in real time; and
– digitizing paper trade documents and automating processes using smart contracts, to reduce the time and cost for cargo clearance.
Ahead of the JV launch, several organizations have piloted the platform that was created in the early collaboration. Among them are DuPont, Dow Chemical, Tetra Pak, Port Houston, Rotterdam Port Community System Portbase, the Customs Administration of the Netherlands and US Customs and Border Protection.
The JV’s mission is to commercialize its offering and promote it to a wider audience. It appears to already have a pipeline, with interest from a diverse group of manufacturers, logistics providers, terminal operators and government agencies. These include: Agility Logistics, APM Terminals, General Motors, Guangdong Inspection and Quarantine Bureau, Peruvian Customs, Procter and Gamble, PSA International and Singapore Customs.
In addition to blockchain technology, the JV (which will be headed by Maersk executives) will tap into IBM’s expertise in cloud delivery, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and Internet-of-Things. That pretty much covers all of Big Blue’s strategic businesses.
Our take: For IBM, this is another “Walmart deal”. In Maersk it has identified a leading and innovative player that has a central role in a global industry set for disruption, and is bringing its technology expertise to manage that disruption. IBM can leverage Maersk’s understanding of global trade and its connections, while providing the industry with a subscription-based platform that comes with “you won’t get fired” comfort.
Created as an autonomous unit within Ethereum specialist ConsenSys, Viant has built a blockchain-based platform for modeling business processes and tracking assets within supply chains.
Viant’s platform is designed to be agnostic to the types of assets that are being processed and tracked. Already, beta customers include GlaxoSmithKline (tracking usage of licenses of scientific discoveries); Imaginea (providing transparency of zero carbon emission fuel to consumers); World Wide Fund for Nature (tracking fish from catch to plate); and an Oil & Gas Supermajor (automating the crude oil nomination process).
Aligning itself with Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, each Viant customer runs a private instance of the platform for security and performance.
Our take: ConsenSys is the world’s leading Ethereum software house, and it has a strong focus on developing enterprise applications for the technology. Given the adaptability of its platform, it could emerge as a leading blockchain disrupter in the supply chain space. In fact, one wonders how Viant plans to scale to meet potential demand.
Already an established blockchain player in the track/trace/transparency space, UK-based Provenance is collaborating with startups and established partners to determine whether blockchain can unlock financial incentives to improve transparency and sustainability in supply chains.
Also involved in its collaboration – which is led by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership – are startups Landmapp, FOCAFET Foundation and Halotrade. The partners include: the UK’s Department for International Development, Unilever, Sainsbury’s, Sappi, and global banks Barclays, BNP Paribas and Standard Chartered.
The pilot aims to show how blockchain has the potential to be scaled up for a range of different global supply chains – and potentially could benefit 1.5 billion families that depend on small-scale agriculture worldwide.
Provenance’s platform – already in use by 300 business – allows retailers to track and prove social sustainability claims in their supply chains, and empowers banks to finance good practices and lower costs in those supply chains. As an example of industry interest, Unilever wants to source all of its raw agricultural materials sustainably.
Our take: “Sustainable” and “transparent” are buzzwords in supply chain, and Provenance has gained much recognition for its platform in this space. Still a small startup, it’s partnering on a global scale, too. A company worth watching for sure.
Also worth noting:
Chronicled – The San Francisco-based blockchain for supply chain specialist hired two co-founders and principals from supply chain consultants The LinkLab. Chronicled has been working with The LinkLab to roll out the MediLedger Project, focused on applying blockchains to pharma supply chains. Susanne Somerville and Eric Garvin now carry Chronicled business cards and will continue their work on MediLedger, which got its start with support from pharma giants Pfizer and Genentech.
OriginTrail – Based in Slovenia, the startup is creating a blockchain-based decentralized storage system that is built for data exchange between organizations that make up a supply chain. Original data is kept outside of the blockchain component, while fingerprints are stored on the chain to authenticate the data. The company recently completed its initial token sale of Trace tokens, raising more than $22 million. More at https://origintrail.io.
Streamr – The Swiss startup, which has built a tokenized market for real-time data streams, has partnered with Finland’s Ruuvi to demonstrate an Ethereum-based cold chain monitoring solution. Ruuvi’s RuuviTag IoT sensors measure temperature, air pressure, acceleration and humidity, and can run on a single battery for three years. In its demo, Streamr interfaces to the RuuviTags to monitor temperatures that execute smart contracts when a threshold is reached.