Blockchain has become quite the buzz the last couple of years with the boom of Bitcoin and the subsequent bust of Bitcoin. On the news of Facebook getting in to the crypto market we have seen a resurgence of Bitcoin which currently trades at $12,900 / BTC.
Well, you won't be surprised that SAP too has been on the bandwagon for a while... Let me highlight the 3 areas that SAP is actively working with the Blockchain. As you will see all 3 areas are in support of traceability in the Supply Chain.
One of the key advantages of a blockchain solution is that the data written to the blockchain is immutable. What does that mean and why is being immutable important? Firstly, immutable means that once written to the blockchain it cannot be changed. This is especially key in industries which are forced, either through regulations or other Supply Chain pressures, to actively track where their product has been and understand whether it has always been in authorized hands. Without the blockchain this information was passed around between partners and stored in places that could be accessed my "bad actors". e.g. Stored in the cloud, or in a traditional on-premise database. No matter how good your security is, hackers or people with malicious intent could access and alter the data. With a Blockchain solution the data cannot be accessed once it has been verified to the Blockchain distributed database.
With that being said let's see what SAP is doing:
Track and trace goods in transit - Integrated with SAP Global Track and Trace, SAP's product providing end-to-end visibility to their processes with proactive exception management.
Track and trace pharmaceuticals - Integrated with SAP Advanced Track and Trace for Pharmaceuticals, SAP's product to help companies comply with drug serialization and company specific reporting requirements. The Pharma industry is highly susceptible to illicit trade and counterfeiting activities. By serializing your product and capturing the pedigree of your product from source to patient is a key requirement for regulatory authorities. Blockchain allows for the secure creation and storage of a product's pedigree.
Transportation and logistics management - Integrated with SAP Transportation Management to enhance freight, fleet and logistics management. It provides real-time, cross-network, visibility into your global and domestic transportation network. Buyers and sellers are looking to lower shipping costs by digitizing paper-based processes, streamlining collaboration to speed up payments for the delivery of goods.
Personally I believe only certain events should be written to the blockchain and not all events. These events would include ownership changes, location changes and exceptions to the process.
Another key consideration is what type of Blockchain makes sense to make this solution viable? If the Blockchain data isn't accessible to the people who need access to it (e.g. regulatory authorities) then it's pointless... A Pharma blockchain that only contains the pedigree of 1 manufacturer's products is pointless to customs person at a US border when they have to check millions of products from thousands of manufactures. Although the Blockchain solution will give the authorities the comfort that the data is true and accurate as of the time of writing to the Blockchain database it will only be viable if wide adoption becomes a reality. "One" Blockchain for the entire industry is also a requirement because in order to validate a product you need one place to go look. I put "one" in quotes because there are techniques that are being worked on to bridge the gap between several Blockchains. If this becomes a reality then it's feasible to have 1 Application able to read several Blockchains run be trusted consortium's of Blockchains.
If that doesn't make sense then come back to our site soon when I'll explain more on Blockchain which I believe to be the only true Disruptive Technology out there. Yup, more so than IOT, ML, AI, 3D Printing, ...
These other emerging technologies are certainly exciting and will change the way we conduct business but the Blockchain has the ability to not only change almost every aspect of our current businesses but also generate brand new vertical businesses. Exciting time!