Why Blockchain Matters

Blockchain has the potential to disrupt more facets of your life than perhaps any other technology. Here’s what you need to know.

In 2016, more than $1.4 billion was invested globally in blockchain startups. IBM invested $200 million and 1,000 employees in the technology.

Walmart, IBM and Tsinghua University in Beijing are running a pilot project for tracking and tracing pork in China and produce in the U.S.

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Technologies like blockchain face challenges on the path to wide-scale integration.

Among companies in consumer goods and manufacturing, 42 percent plan to spend at least $5 million on blockchain technology this year. If you participate in any part of a supply chain and don’t know about blockchain – you need to get smart fast.

The basics

Transformational technologies like blockchain face significant challenges on the path to wide-scale integration. One of the biggest issues for blockchain is something as simple as communication – how to explain it to the masses.

The vocabulary alone is new to most people, and the underlying math and computer science can cause people to quickly tune out.

But the basics of blockchain are simple. I gave a webinar earlier this year, Blockchain Simplified.  I started with a simple definition – a blockchain is a continuously updated list of all transactions – and added to it throughout my talk until I landed on my final definition.

A blockchain is a secure, distributed digital ledger of complete business flows across a peer-to-peer network that enables smart contracts.

Applying blockchain in everyday business

Definitions are great, but examples help internalize a concept. I’ve got two:

The first is something most people can relate to – property ownership. Let’s look at a house. Today when you buy a house you pay intermediaries (title search companies) to validate who technically owns it and who has the right to buy and sell it.

What if a secure digital ledger was created when the house was built, which updated every time ownership changed? At any time, anyone could access the ledger for that property and have complete confidence in its accuracy – no more intermediaries necessary.

This reduces both time and cost. And imagine the power of a digital system like this in countries where property rights are hampered by corruption and fraud.

The second example is for supply chains – and this is where I get really excited. When I earned my supply chain certification, I learned the four stages of supply chain management evolution. Supply chains evolve from inefficient and wasteful to fully optimized.

That optimized fourth stage, known as the extended enterprise, occurs when a company integrates its internal network with the internal networks of supply chain partners. This improves efficiency and product and service quality since they are sharing information in real time to achieve each other’s goals simultaneously.

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Blockchain is another disruptor with winners and losers.

Secure blockchain, a digital ledger of business transactions between supply chain partners, can enable the extended enterprise. That is exactly what Walmart, IBM and Tsinghua University are building and testing right now. When they release the results of their test, we will have greater insight into blockchain ecosystems.

Continue your blockchain journey

Blockchain is another disruptor with winners and losers. If your company has not started learning and planning for this technology, it’s still early enough in the game to catch up and create growth strategies. I encourage everyone to become literate in blockchain. Bigger than the internet, it is going to revolutionize everything.

It’s time to strap in for the ride. goldbrown2

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Blockchain Meets Virtual Reality

How Blockchain Can Restore Trust In Trade

Podcast: Building the Blockchain Ecosystem

Elba Pareja-Gallagher is Director of Finance Global B2C Strategy at UPS.

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