and Supply-Chain Management: Many Promises, Few Solutions
management and global trade are among the most obvious use cases for blockchain
technology. By recording data about the movement of goods on a blockchain,
organizations can create transparent, fraud-resistant databases to track the
movement of material. They can also take advantage of smart contracts to
streamline trades and payment.
of solution is particularly useful when trade takes place across borders and
government authorities cannot unilaterally guarantee or enforce fair trading
and record keeping.
Lots of news outlets have covered how
transformative blockchain technology promises to be for supply-chain
management. They’ve done the same for global trade.
however, the excitement surrounding blockchain platforms within these contexts
has not matched reality. Most real-world implementations of blockchain
technology for supply-chain management and global trade have been limited to
narrow use cases involving specific organizations, like Walmart’s use of a blockchain to help track the food that it sells or the use of a
blockchain by specific banks for trade finance.
Putting Blockchain Technology into Practice
is poised to change that, due largely to the sheer number of organizations
participating in the platform and the array of regions and industries that they
which was developed by IBM and Maersk, a Danish logistics company, is “an open
and neutral industry platform” that “promotes a more efficient, predictable and
secure exchange of information in order to foster greater collaboration and
trust across the global supply chain,” according to the platform’s website.
recorded on the blockchain to ensure transparency and enable organizations to
track and share information related to global trade, such as when a particular
item was shipped and when it was received.
also features an application layer on which TradeLens itself, as well as
third-party developers, can build and share software tools for interacting with
IBM and Maersk announced TradeLens to the public very recently, the platform
has already achieved significant adoption. According to the project, more than 20 port and terminal
operators spread across at least three continents are using the platform. Customs authorities in Europe, South America, Australia, the
Middle East and East Asia are participating in the platform.
figures highlight the geographic breadth of TradeLens’ reach, as well as the
significant levels of adoption it is enjoying among government authorities and
balance, it’s worth noting that TradeLens remains quite new and is far from
achieving universal adoption by all global-trade stakeholders. IBM and Maersk
have said nothing about how extensively participating organizations are using
the platform, or how many applications are running on it. It’s also unclear how
easily new organizations can join the network and which plans IBM and Maersk
have for continuing to expand it.
TradeLens is significant because it represents by far the largest and most
pervasive real-world use case to date of blockchain technology for global
supply-chain management. Indeed, measured in terms of the number of large
organizations that are participating, it’s one of the biggest enterprise
collaborations of any type around blockchain technology.
minimum, the platform will help to provide a proof of concept for large-scale
use of blockchain technology within supply-chain management and global trade,
and drive further enterprise interest in the power of distributed ledgers.