By Dr. Phil Forshee, Senior Principal Scientist, Authentix.
Speaking at the UEIL Annual Congress in Budapest, Hungary on October 25, 2018, I was honored to share my insights in “Building Trust in the Supply Chain – An Introduction to Blockchain.”
Since its introduction in 2008, blockchain has taken the world by storm as the underlying technology for Bitcoin and the exploding cryptocurrency industry. At its core, blockchain is an information technology innovation that will likely change how many systems of record are designed and implemented. By offering immutability and transparency, blockchain can offer significant benefits to enhancing trust across complex business networks.
An application for which blockchain is particularly well suited is supply chain management. Blockchain provides two supply chain elements that are critically important – reliability and integrity. Everyone on the blockchain can see the complete chain of ownership for an asset because all the entities on the chain have the same version of the ledger, providing consensus. Once a record is on the chain it cannot be erased or modified, thereby adding further transparency to the supply chain.
Securing the supply chains of bulk products such as lubricants and refined fuels has its own unique challenges, as bulk products do not lend themselves to using conventional packaging-based security technologies such as 2D barcodes or NFC chips. However, the creation of spectral fingerprints for products (based on molecular spectroscopy) or results from chemical marker analysis can be uploaded to the ledger along with other transactional elements to authenticate the physical product throughout the supply chain.
While blockchain technology by itself does little to address the physical authentication of products, it does create demand for secure technologies to enable authentic physical to digital transformation of a transaction. Verifying the physical end of transactions going into a ledger provides the trusted inputs required to exploit the promise blockchains can provide to a multi-stakeholder supply chain.