The Supply Chain – the Blockchain’s Most Loyal Disciple?

The Supply Chain – the Blockchain’s Most Loyal Disciple?

At this very early stage in its revolution, no-one will deny that the number of blockchain-based start-ups currently in existence is simply phenomenal.

And whilst no-one has the exact numbers, it seems likely now that the vast majority of these are coming to market as an ICO. And the number of ICOs which have completed so far in 2018 alone is fast approaching 1500 at the time of writing, according to our own quick scan of the ICO Alert home page.

 Of course, not all of these can be presumed to be legitimate operations – but it is now thought that 80% of them are, according to the Wall Street Journal. Though we should perhaps point out that legitimate does not necessarily imply competent. 

What can be observed, however, is that a large percentage of these ICOs seem to fall into a small number of distinct groups – payment processing and banking; content management; data management; and supply chain logistics. 

High Proportion of Established Businesses

It is within this last category that a further interesting observation can be made: ICOs in this bracket are often actually extensions of pre-existing, established businesses. This is, of course, in contrast to ICOs more generally which are often nothing more than concept sales managed by teams who are looking to raise the kind of capital that will essentially allow them to create a business from thin air. With supply chain ICOs, it appears that we often observe the opposite.

Examples of supply chain blockchain projects include the SyncFab ICO – which formed directly from an existing supply chain manager for manufacturers of the same name – and, of course, IBM’s very own Blockchain For Supply Chain. 

“To disrupt supply chain industries, there is a high-entry barrier: you need networks,” explains Ali Yazbek, ICO market analyst. “So the reasons that many supply chain-based ICOs are actually extensions of existing businesses looking to migrate unto the blockchain are not too difficult to grasp.”

It appears, then, that supply chain businesses are front-runners for bringing about what some see as the Holy Grail of blockchain legitimacy: mass adoption. And if supply chain businesses make for a natural fit for the benefits of blockchain-based smart contract management, there also appears to be one specific sub-category which appears as pre-dominant. 

Running a Tight Ship

Dockchain, Quasa, ShipChain, CargoX, CargoCoin, Blockshipping, Smart Containers – the list of supply chain ICOs related to shipping seems almost endless. The last entry in that list demonstrates serves up one very powerful example of why the blockchain is almost certainly on the point of revolutionising one industry at least. 

Smart Containers emerged – unsurprisingly – from an existing business that is already embedded within the industry that it is seeking to disrupt: the transportation of both pharmaceutical goods and foodstuffs. These are two types of sensitive goods where smart-contract management should bring new and much needed mechanisms to minimise waste and spoliation in maritime transportation.

The project team behind SmartContainers, however, has gone one step further – anticipating that their solution will have wider applicability within the transportation industry, they are planning to roll out a platform that will accommodate other businesses that require the kind of smart contract management that they will be applying to their own. 

These developments are all still in their embryonic stages. But even so early on in the game, the proposed solutions which are now emerging within the supply chain space do augur well for much more efficient supply chain solutions in the near future. And the benefits will accrue not just to the first movers who manage to establish a strong presence in the industry, but also to the rest of us as we begin to observe less instances of waste and higher levels of both efficiency and accountability. 

If the Blockchain fails to establish a real presence in other industries such as banking and data management – something which is not beyond the realms of possibility – it nonetheless does seem that supply chain management will be unlikely to figure on that list.