Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Future of Logistics May Well Depend on Blockchain Technology

European Competition Promotes Thinking Way Out of the Box
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – Like it or not there are new influences coming on stream which will impact every facet of modern life, most of which the man in the street has no concept of at the moment. Whilst most may have heard of blockchain, and many may have a basic knowledge of what the word means, hardly anyone can conceive how this storage of digital blocks of data, invented to bring the infamous bitcoin to reality, will affect industries like logistics in both the short and long term.

One of the ways which is already starting to play a part can be illustrated by the forthcoming ‘EU Blockathon’, a competition organised jointly by the European Commission and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) Observatory which will be held in Brussels 22-25 June. Ten already selected teams will work with a variety of experts in the field in a bid to address the scourge of counterfeit goods. This has a particular relevance to freight and logistics operations with the forthcoming Fulfilment House Due Diligence Scheme which takes effect in the UK from next year.

The Blockathon is inspired and supported by the team that created the largest Blockchain Hackathon in the world which took place between 5-8 April 2018 and produced some really encouraging programmes including assuring the pedigree of pharmaceuticals for global distribution ensuring that the patient can be completely confident that their medicine is authentic no matter where in the world they are situated.

The innovative nature of this approach is probably best demonstrated by one of the winners at the April event, Team Kryha, which had built up a prior concept, which evolved into a platform, by copying the collective behaviour of an ant colony and combining it with Artificial Intelligence and blockchain technology. At the Hackathon the team found a use for their work by transferring it to a system of autonomous drones, capable of delivering goods or collecting information.

Drone of course can mean any autonomous vehicle and, as with all boundaries of science, the use of such technology is limited to the imagination of the user. An explanation of this particular project can be seen in a short video made prior to the team’s victory and the prospects of such systems may be particularly relevant to the field of logistics in the future.

The total prize for the winners of the EU Blockathon is €100,000 and the event has a very important purpose. According to EUIPO In 2017, 10% of EU consumers (approximately 43 million citizens) were tricked into buying a fake product instead of a genuine one. This figure represents the size of the combined populations of Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland and Portugal. Over three times more people, 35% (approximately 150 million in total), wondered whether the product they had purchased online was real or fake.

The intention is to use blockchain technology to develop an infrastructure where anybody interested (producers, consumers, transport services, etc.) would be able to check the authenticity of any product openly and easily, as well as the possibility to alert rights holders to fakes.

We are entering a new age of collective communication and events such as those above are proving to be the platforms where concepts can be converted to real world use.