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How Transnational Businesses Are Using Blockchain to Solve Real World Problems

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How Transnational Businesses Are Using Blockchain to Solve Real World Problems


A blockchain is a series of timestamped database entries that are virtually impossible to forge or alter after the fact. It doesn’t sound like game-changing technology, and yet blockchain has arguably been the most disruptive breakthrough of the last 20 years. To its proponents it’s the greatest invention since the Internet itself and the backbone of a revolution that’s shaking up industries the world over.

As is so often the case, the truth of the matter lies somewhere between the two extremes: blockchain is indeed transformative tech, but it’s not a panacea for all the world’s woes. In reality, its prime beneficiaries are those businesses that straddle continents, countries, and markets. The sort of transnational entities whose goods – be they tangible or intangible – pass through an array of intermediaries as they traverse the globe.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these businesses and the ways in which they’re harnessing blockchain to solve real world problems.

In the Beginning There Was One



Long before blockchain became synonymous with business, there was Bitcoin. The distributed ledger used by Satoshi Nakomoto to power the world’s first cryptocurrency didn’t attract much attention at first; then again, neither did Bitcoin. By 2017, however, both had been thrust into the spotlight as BTC hit record highs of $20,000 and blockchain was being talked up as a possible solution to all kinds of enterprise conundrums.

The dust has since settled on the excesses of 2017, and a number of things have become evident:

1.
Bitcoin is here to stay.

2.
Blockchain has a number of applications beyond moving money.

3.
Many of these use cases revolve around logistics and transportation.

The first two statements do not require elucidation. The third demands more detail. Why does the movement of goods – an industry that has been in existence for millennia – suddenly require blockchain? Let’s dive in and find out.

Harboring Trust in a Trustless World



In the modern world, the bulk of the world’s freight is manufactured in the east and then shipped west in hulking container ships. The management of these goods, as they wend their way slowly across the ocean, is a labyrinthine task that involves multiple intermediaries: manufacturers, packers, shippers, lorry transporters, port services, customs, shipping operators – and that’s just to leave China. It’s the same story again at every port the ship alights at on its journey.

Many of the goods being transported in this manner are temperature and time sensitive. It’s important for the recipient to be able to determine that these conditions have been maintained throughout their passage. Bills of lading can be tampered with, however, and inspection receipts forged. Without being present at every point at which the goods were inspected or transported, it’s impossible to attest to the veracity of the documentation.

It’s here that blockchain enters the equation, providing a system for establishing proof that certain conditions were met at a specific date or time. As a December 2021 academic paper on blockchain for port operations and logistics management observed, “existing systems fall short of providing traceability, transparency, information security, and immutability of data stored and exchanged during various operational processes. As a result, the productivity of port terminals is adversely affected. Blockchain…provides traceability, transparency, auditability through immutable provenance data of on-chain trusted transactions.”

In 2021, the Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) was established to help digitize the global logistics industry. “The supply chain is a very fragmented market with participants who largely rely on paper,” explains the firm’s CEO Bertrand Chen. “The biggest issue is: how do we share the data?”

From Harbors to Waterways



blockchain

Where there’s water, there’s invariably blockchain it appears. While port authorities have their own reasons for utilizing the tech – Spain’s introduced a blockchain pilot as far back as 2018 – there are other maritime entities following suit. SeaCoast is a startup intent on provisioning informational services for maritime travelers; tourists, sea captains, rowers, beachcombers and anyone else whose excursions incorporate littoral areas.

Using augmented reality, SeaCoast’s technology overlays data points onto smartphone footage of local amenities, detailing shops, points of interest and, in the case of its PortView app, mooring and harbor navigation information to improve safety when docking. SeaCoast is using blockchain to power a tokenized rewards system that incentivizes maritime visitors to submit up-to-date information and exchange coastal data.

The Logistics of Blockchain



We live in a hyperconnected and increasingly complex world. As the Internet of Things proliferates, we will ultimately arrive at IoT’s singularity, whereupon the number of humans using the web will be dwarved by the number of automated networked devices. Smart sensors will be built into everything, including every carton, packet, and package being shipped around the world in container ships, beaming their status to a mainframe that will update every intermediary in the supply chain as to its status. And the database being used to record this hive of activity? Naturally, it’s a blockchain.

A blockchain is a series of timestamped database entries that are virtually impossible to forge or alter after the fact. It doesn’t sound like game-changing technology, and yet blockchain has arguably been the most disruptive breakthrough of the last 20 years. To its proponents it’s the greatest invention since the Internet itself and the backbone of a revolution that’s shaking up industries the world over.

As is so often the case, the truth of the matter lies somewhere between the two extremes: blockchain is indeed transformative tech, but it’s not a panacea for all the world’s woes. In reality, its prime beneficiaries are those businesses that straddle continents, countries, and markets. The sort of transnational entities whose goods – be they tangible or intangible – pass through an array of intermediaries as they traverse the globe.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these businesses and the ways in which they’re harnessing blockchain to solve real world problems.

In the Beginning There Was One



Long before blockchain became synonymous with business, there was Bitcoin. The distributed ledger used by Satoshi Nakomoto to power the world’s first cryptocurrency didn’t attract much attention at first; then again, neither did Bitcoin. By 2017, however, both had been thrust into the spotlight as BTC hit record highs of $20,000 and blockchain was being talked up as a possible solution to all kinds of enterprise conundrums.

The dust has since settled on the excesses of 2017, and a number of things have become evident:

1.
Bitcoin is here to stay.

2.
Blockchain has a number of applications beyond moving money.

3.
Many of these use cases revolve around logistics and transportation.

The first two statements do not require elucidation. The third demands more detail. Why does the movement of goods – an industry that has been in existence for millennia – suddenly require blockchain? Let’s dive in and find out.

Harboring Trust in a Trustless World



In the modern world, the bulk of the world’s freight is manufactured in the east and then shipped west in hulking container ships. The management of these goods, as they wend their way slowly across the ocean, is a labyrinthine task that involves multiple intermediaries: manufacturers, packers, shippers, lorry transporters, port services, customs, shipping operators – and that’s just to leave China. It’s the same story again at every port the ship alights at on its journey.

Many of the goods being transported in this manner are temperature and time sensitive. It’s important for the recipient to be able to determine that these conditions have been maintained throughout their passage. Bills of lading can be tampered with, however, and inspection receipts forged. Without being present at every point at which the goods were inspected or transported, it’s impossible to attest to the veracity of the documentation.

It’s here that blockchain enters the equation, providing a system for establishing proof that certain conditions were met at a specific date or time. As a December 2021 academic paper on blockchain for port operations and logistics management observed, “existing systems fall short of providing traceability, transparency, information security, and immutability of data stored and exchanged during various operational processes. As a result, the productivity of port terminals is adversely affected. Blockchain…provides traceability, transparency, auditability through immutable provenance data of on-chain trusted transactions.”

In 2021, the Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) was established to help digitize the global logistics industry. “The supply chain is a very fragmented market with participants who largely rely on paper,” explains the firm’s CEO Bertrand Chen. “The biggest issue is: how do we share the data?”

From Harbors to Waterways



blockchain

Where there’s water, there’s invariably blockchain it appears. While port authorities have their own reasons for utilizing the tech – Spain’s introduced a blockchain pilot as far back as 2018 – there are other maritime entities following suit. SeaCoast is a startup intent on provisioning informational services for maritime travelers; tourists, sea captains, rowers, beachcombers and anyone else whose excursions incorporate littoral areas.

Using augmented reality, SeaCoast’s technology overlays data points onto smartphone footage of local amenities, detailing shops, points of interest and, in the case of its PortView app, mooring and harbor navigation information to improve safety when docking. SeaCoast is using blockchain to power a tokenized rewards system that incentivizes maritime visitors to submit up-to-date information and exchange coastal data.

The Logistics of Blockchain



We live in a hyperconnected and increasingly complex world. As the Internet of Things proliferates, we will ultimately arrive at IoT’s singularity, whereupon the number of humans using the web will be dwarved by the number of automated networked devices. Smart sensors will be built into everything, including every carton, packet, and package being shipped around the world in container ships, beaming their status to a mainframe that will update every intermediary in the supply chain as to its status. And the database being used to record this hive of activity? Naturally, it’s a blockchain.

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