“Leaders from the global supply chain and logistics industry, the world’s largest ports, blockchain start-ups, importers/exporters and civil society have teamed up with the World Economic Forum, the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, and over 20 governments to accelerate blockchain deployment across supply chains.”
So we’re told in a statement that appears to suggest a new era in the blockchain space where cooperation, for once, is gaining prevalence over competition at least at this very early stage of the technology.
“Over 100 organizations and experts are on the team, representing large shippers, supply chain providers and governments. They include Maersk, Hitachi, Mercy Corps, Korea Customs Service, Llamasoft and Ports of Los Angeles, Oakland, Valencia and Rotterdam.
The multistakeholder group will co-design an open-source roadmap or toolkit to guide supply chain decision-makers towards blockchain deployment. It will highlight technical and non-technical drivers of success, risks and recommendations as well as requirements.”
Meaning this is a coordinating forum where effectively the entire supply chain industry has joined forces to lay down the pipelines.
“The project has created a broad and diverse community of stakeholders to share experiences and develop a toolkit for innovators and decision-makers to navigate the complex policy, technical and commercial issues that arise from digital transformation of the supply chain,” David Libatique, Deputy Executive Director at the Port of Los Angeles, said.
Cooperative competition appears to be the dominant theme as business “enemies” lay down their metaphorical guns to first build the pipelines upon which they can then compete. The World Economic Forum says:
“Analysis in the first white paper points to a mindset shift in business from protective and silo-thinking towards a willingness to try new collaborative models.
Competing ports have started to share data to optimize calls of shipping liners in the North Europe area. The ports also expressed willingness to expand their model to other ports.
Similarly, and beyond the shipping industry, the world’s four largest agriculture companies have partnered to digitize international grain trading.”
Consortiums have been a theme in the blockchain space since 2017 because the technology is inherently cooperative. It is afterall just a network of nodes. A blockchain with only one participant is a database. The more participants, the more it is a blockchain.
This forum, however, appears to be of a different scale. It almost sounds like a consortium of consortiums.
“As digital technologies such as blockchain increasingly encourage higher levels of trust among supply chain partners, they will have effects on processes in the physical world as well,” said Nadia Hewett, project lead at the World Economic Forum, before adding:
“As a result, fragmentation within and across industries could diminish, the occurrence of errors and exceptions could decline, and operators could require fewer resources to complete the same tasks.”
In its foundations, a blockchain is nothing more than the replication of the same data, shared across many participants, with all these different identical copies then connecting to each other.
That connection makes the changing of any copy pretty much impossible, unless everyone agrees to change it. What’s more, even if all do agree to change it, there will be indisputable proof of what exactly was changed and when.
This quality has been a very difficult problem in computer science for decades because we can all just right click and copy paste. The solution, and thus the creation of digital scarcity, effectively translates a paper document into a dynamic digital document that still retains the qualities of paper.
Virtual data, of course, travels a lot quicker than physical data. In addition, it can be far more accessible to far more people at the same time. However it does still have some of the same problems as paper where the physical meets the digital.
If someone lies on a paper form and says he has 100 tomatoes, for example, when he doesn’t, he can also lie on the blockchain when inputing and entering that information.
The problem for him or her can be the same as for a 51% attacker. The truck driver carrying these tomatoes, for example, will also input how many tomatoes he was given by the lier. And so on through the chain with reports easily compiled as this is digital.
Thus logically it should be a lot harder to cheat here or lie than on paper or on a one admin database, but of course it can still be done where the physical meets the digital, it’s just more difficult and/or costly.
“We believe that blockchain is a promising technology for several industry verticals, including the financial sector, distribution and logistics, among others,” Norihiro Suzuki, Vice President at Hitachi, said. “Hitachi is actively contributing to the development of platforms through open source software communities.”
The wider industry at this stage is still in kind of a debate mode. As with any new invention, there are plenty who focus on the short-fallings in a reflexive way when met with all the grand promises.
A pantomime way of putting it is one side says it will eradicate poverty, while the other says: well, it hasn’t, so it’s rubbish.
Obviously blockchain is not a rapture. Earth is still under our feet, as is the sky above. It is an improvement, however, and we won’t quite feel it for some time, but even now some are saying why wouldn’t you use blockchain where you can and where it involves trust, cooperation, or where it gives any advantage, however little.
Code is very cheap afterall. It’s just digital data. Your laptop can hold a decade of bitcoin transactions. In the physical realm, that takes skyscrapers.
“The World Economic Forum will be releasing monthly white papers on the findings from the community. The recommendations will include guidelines on data privacy, security, creation and use of data, public versus private platforms, interoperability, digital identity and signatures.”
So they say. A number of in-production projects are now live. Scalability, quite unintuitively for those who fought for big blocks, has turned out to be almost a non-problem so far primarily because the tech is still at an exploration stage.
As late as 2015 or maybe even 2016 some very prominent bitcoin developers would say the whole thing is just an experiment that might fail.
It hasn’t, but that sort of “does this really work” is now probably being played in boardrooms and among coders outside of this space.
So scalability hasn’t quite been needed for the growth of infrastructure and exploration to continue.
It should also be born in mind that as a very new space and as a space – to put it very crudely, as a thing created among peasants – the story so far has kind of been first come, first served.
The world is vastly bigger than whatever talent currently focuses on blockchain tech. A lot of that talent is right now finding solutions to real problems by beginning to utilize the blockchain.
It is next year, 2020, when things probably start to take off, but the laying of infrastructure will probably be an incremental decade long endeavor.
Now is the exciting stage when opportunities are wide open. Then in 2030 we might hopefully enjoy them.