Blockchain conferences used to focus on cryptocurrency, disruption and hackathons. However, recent attendance at the Blockchain Expo North America showed a significant shift in the blockchain landscape. There is now less focus on cryptocurrency and more on achievable business value. More and more large organizations are no longer questioning if blockchain is worth the time and instead have a strong appetite for incorporating blockchain throughout their enterprise.
One of the major challenges in implementing blockchain solutions is in the formation of the business network necessary to achieve effectiveness. This can lead to the perception that blockchain is a disruptive technology that is difficult to adopt. However, organizations are finding ways to integrate blockchain through use cases that complement and improve current established processes, relationships, and systems instead of creating major disruption.
To make it easier for large organizations to adopt blockchain without creating disruption, the Linux Foundation launched the Hyperledger Project in 2016. Hyperledger functions as a collaborative open-source effort designed to advance cross-industry, enterprise-grade blockchain technologies. It is a community of software developers and leaders in finance, banking, the Internet of Things (IoT), manufacturing, supply chain and other industries collaborating to create blockchain solutions, such as distributed ledger frameworks, smart contract engines, client libraries, graphical interfaces, sample applications and more for use at the enterprise level.
Blockchain for Supply Chain Operations
One popular use for blockchain discussed at the expo is supply chain operations. Supply chains are notoriously complex and typically involve a mix of multiple geographical locations, various manufacturers and suppliers, invoices, payments, routes to market, and many other variables that can hinder a smooth flow of operations. Supply chain participants all make contributions, have dissimilar or no systems to support the process, and all want to play their part, get paid, and avoid problems. Blockchain can be used to track the information required from each player and provide linear tracing from source to consumer. It empowers organizations by providing a real-time digital ledger of transactions and movements for all parties in their supply chain system. It also makes it possible to transfer funds anywhere without the need of a traditional bank.
Blockchain for Food & Beverage
In the food and beverage industry, it is very important to have records to trace the journey of each product to ensure quality standards are met. While blockchain is being used to create an immutable tracking and sequence of transactions, the introduction of IoT provides additional qualitative process information. Food safety is a key initiative underway to assure quality, safety and reduce fraud. RFID, GPS and temperature sensors provide additional information to the blockchain. These IoT elements add the dimension of product tagging, physical tracking of delivery, and assurance that items that require refrigeration are properly handled so they are safe for consumption.
Blockchain Data Schema
Another significant area of focus at Blockchain Expo was in regard to data standards. Although most organizations have different systems of record, a cross-enterprise solution can still be achieved if each network participant agrees to the information and format of the data provided to the chain. In most industries, there are defined data standards that have already been developed. Rather than starting from scratch, consortiums are using these record formats or subsets to establish a common means of transacting through the chain.
Overall, the Blockchain Expo showcased blockchain as much more than just a hyped-up technology. It proved there are new avenues for businesses to use blockchain that go beyond cryptocurrency. A message that resonated from one of the presentations was that lofty whitepapers and difficult-to-achieve use cases are no longer relevant to portray the advantages of blockchain. The industry needs to focus on implementations that actually drive business value and can more easily be incorporated into organizations without creating major disruption.