After years of talking, the blockchain is now walking, at least at UPS where they’ve shipped beef from America to Japan in a “blockchain-verified” way.
The shipping giant does not detail what blockchain they used exactly, but it was developed by HerdX, which claims to offer an end-to-end solution called the HerdX Livestock Ecosystem. They say:
“The shipment of beef left Kansas the week of November 4 wrapped in UPS Temperature True® packaging, a cold chain thermal management solution that features temperature-sensitive air freight containers.
The packaging contained sensors that monitored and recorded the shipment’s temperature from origin to destination.
Data sourced via UPS Temperature True monitoring devices was uploaded and integrated seamlessly within HerdX’s blockchain verification platform.
The beef arrived via air freight to an urban contemporary steakhouse where invited guests were provided menu items featuring scannable QR codes containing tracking information detailing the journey of the beef they were to consume.
All non-domestic HerdX products moving forward will now feature similar verification.”
That makes it very interesting because at least for the temperature data there is no human input, so it kind of goes straight to the blockchain presumably through some oracle.
These data can of course go to a database, but then anyone would be able to modify them, requiring trust on the vendor, trust which is required not only by end consumers, but also health inspectors and the like.
With a blockchain the health inspectors could potentially have a node themselves, so the data would go directly to them. In which case trust requirements would be reduced to primarily ensuring the sensors are correctly measuring the temperature.
The end consumer can then connect to these nodes through an app that technically can be called a Simple Payment Verification (SPV) connection.
There’s no payments here, but the point is the SPV only receives information, it can’t change it. The nodes, presumably run by UPS, HerdX and the health inspectors can change the information but only if all three collude to do so and depending on the design SPV nodes could potentially see that there has been a change and what the change was, with the nodes unable to lie depending on the design.
The higher the number of different entities taking part, then the lower the ability to secretly collude. Bitcoin for example has 10,000 nodes in nearly 100 countries. Getting them all to do something without everyone knowing is pretty much impossible.
While with a database anyone that gains access can change something without everyone knowing, making the data far less trustworthy than in a properly designed blockchain.
The blockchain usage in supply chains therefore is becoming quite popular, with Nestlé and Carrefour putting milk on it.
In China they’re arguably moving a bit faster with scannable blockchain codes on many supermarket products on the shelf.
Here in London we’re yet to see one, nor are there any in America, but presumably they’re on their way now that the concept is seemingly proven.