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All Aboard the Blockchain Train

Companies of all sizes—even ones that might not trust each other or know each other—are collaborating to advance this new technology.

* By Nick Fortuna *

Blockchain experts often describe the new technology as a trustless system because it allows two parties that might not trust each other, or even know one another, to conduct business securely and transparently. But Chris Burruss, the president of the Blockchain in Transport Alliance, sees it differently. Instead, he said, blockchain creates trust where otherwise there would be none.

Burruss leads BiTA, founded in August 2017 to promote the development and adoption of blockchain applications in the trucking, transportation and logistics industries, including establishing industry-wide standards. It’s a broad partnership of more than 400 companies, including some of the most recognizable brands in business, such as Google, Microsoft, FedEx, UPS, Koch Industries and Anheuser-Busch. BiTA provides the platform for these companies to cooperate in developing blockchain technology, a process that BiTA expects to result in widespread adoption over the next decade.

BiTA describes blockchain as a decentralized and distributed digital ledger to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent “blocks” and the collusion of the network. With blockchain, transactions agreed to by all involved parties are added to a block, a unique cryptographic code for the block is calculated, and that code is added to the following block, creating a unique chain of blocks containing all the transactions.

Burruss said that blockchain technology is still in its infancy, but eventually, it should benefit the supply chain industry in four main ways: freeing up capital through the immediate settlement of transactions, lowering transaction costs by eliminating intermediaries, speeding up business processes and providing an enhanced level of data security. Since the record of transactions exists on many computers and is immutable, it cannot be easily hacked like a centralized database, and the potential for disputed transactions essentially is eliminated.

“Blockchain creates one version of the truth,” Burruss said. “It’s there for everybody to see.”

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Emerging technologies such as IIoT, robotics and artificial intelligence provide exciting opportunities for supply chains. They also mean an exponential growth in the amount of data these supply chains generate. When properly utilized, this data can provide crucial information to improve efficiency, reduce costs, enhance transparency and customer service. But it comes with risk. The more digitized a supply chain becomes, the more it is at risk of cyberattack. Hackers are constantly finding new ways create data breaches they can exploit. The reality that most supply chains require third-party suppliers down the chain only heightens this threat. No matter the scale of your supply chain, it is essential to have solid cybersecurity processes in place to manage and mitigate the growing risk of cyberattack. That’s what this issue of MHI Solutions is all about, from cybersecurity threats in an IIoT world to dark data to the human factor in cybersecurity to blockchain as a potential solution.
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