There has been a spate of recent news about some real-world applications of blockchain. These stories are often floating about, but a recent surge of announcements — which include investment in the technology by some of the world’s biggest companies — suggests it’s time to take another look at how the much-hyped distributed ledger technology is coming along.
It’s not just the wealth of blockchain adoption news that’s worth taking a look at, it’s also the wide variety of industries that have entered the arena. Take retail, for a start. Carrefour, the French supermarket giant, has recently said that not only has it adopted blockchain technology for its supply chain but that the tech has actually improved its bottom line.
The company, Reuters says, has “seen sales boosted by the use of blockchain ledger technology to track meat, milk and fruit from farms to stores and will extend it to more products to increase shopper trust”.
Using blockchain has given Carrefour the opportunity to let customers see information about products such as when it was harvested or packed, which in turn reassures them about the quality of what they’re buying and lets them opt out of things like genetically modified foods.
It’s certainly an interesting confluence of two pillars of modern technology — increased information and the provision of trust as a customer value. Carrefour’s blockchain project manager, Emmanuel Delerm, told Reuters that blockchain has helped to create a “halo effect. If I can trust Carrefour with this chicken, I can also trust Carrefour for their apples or cheese,’” he said.
There are other retail heavyweights pursuing blockchain, too. Coindesk reported this week that Walmart has joined a pharmaceutical consortium that tracks where drugs have come from using the blockchain.
That announcement is not the first of Walmart’s forays into blockchain, Coindesk says. The company has also reportedly insisted that all of its suppliers of “leafy greens” integrate IBM blockchain Food Trust, which is a system for tracking fresh food through the supply chain. Food Trust, Coindesk says, is built on Hyperledger Fabric, one of the major blockchain platforms.
That article suggests that Walmart’s “supply-chain clout” will catalyse use of MediLedger, the aforementioned pharmaceutical consortium. Members of that consortium already include Pfizer and other pharma giants, meaning that with the combination of a major retailer like Walmart, it has started to seriously gather speed. It’s big money, too — “health and wellness”, a vertical which includes pharmaceutical products, was worth $35 billion to Walmart last year.
Not just retail
But it’s not only retail and supply chain solutions where blockchain is having its day. Some of the largest banks in the world — 14 in total, including Barclays, Nasdaq, Credit Suisse Group, Banco Santander, ING, and Lloyds Banking Group — have registered a new blockchain-based token, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Next Web reports further that the intention of the new permissioned blockchain system launched by these banks is to make cross-border trades quicker and less risky. “The token, which has been in the works for four years now, will function both as a payment device and a “messenger that carries all the information required to complete a trade,” The Next Web says.
That cryptocurrency, which is called a “utility settlement coin”, or USC for short, will be a challenger to JP Morgan’s token, TNW says.
What this all means is that blockchain, in a variety of guises, is developing into a more mature product. Established companies and highly competitive industries are taking it on and using it as a way of improving their businesses. It may not be long before techies with blockchain expertise are as commonplace and in-demand as developers are. Only time will tell.