GS1, IBM and Microsoft look at blockchain

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/Jirsak
©iStock/Jirsak

Related tags: Supply chain

GS1 will work with IBM and Microsoft to use its standards in their enterprise blockchain applications for supply chain clients.

The firm, best known for the barcode, said its standards for identification and data enable blockchain users to scale enterprise adoption and maintain a single, shared version about supply chain and logistics events instead of the multiple platforms that exist today.

Data stored by blockchain networks could be formatted for shared communications.

Data sharing

"What attracts many organisations to blockchain technology is the possibility of sharing data across corporate boundaries while maintaining a high degree of rigor and accuracy​," said Robert Beideman, VP – retail at GS1.

"We hope to make this possibility a reality for businesses by working with dedicated technology and industry partners - and together promoting a common business language." 

IBM and 10 food firms including Dole, Nestlé and Unilever recently formed a consortium to identify areas where the supply chain can benefit from using blockchain.

GS1 Standards offer businesses like Walmart the ability to expand blockchain networks to suppliers, distributors and other partners.

IBM and Walmart used blockchain technology in a pilot test to enhance traceability of mangoes in the US and pork in China.

"Our pilot projects in the US and China demonstrated that blockchain can strengthen existing food system safeguards by improving traceability. Using blockchain, we were able to track a product from retail shelf back through every stage of the supply chain, right to the farm gate, in seconds instead of days or weeks​," said Frank Yiannas, VP of food safety of Walmart.

Brigid McDermott, VP blockchain business development at IBM, said: "One of the key benefits to blockchain in the enterprise is the trust it delivers, which enables more efficient and complete sharing of the critical data that drives enterprise transactions.

“By removing the barriers that can be caused from disparate entry systems, that trust is solidified even further.”

Digital and paper-based processes

Alibaba is trialing blockchain with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) with Blackmores in Australia and Fonterra in New Zealand against counterfeit and fraudulent food.

David E. Rutter, CEO of R3, said it sees distributed ledgers as the means to provide connectivity between participants across business networks.

"The challenge with trade finance and supply chain today is that participants are forced to use disparate digital systems bridged by paper-based processes, with little or no common standards.

“These digital 'islands' work well when everyone is on the same network, but as soon as there is a lack of connectivity with certain participants using different solutions, things quickly revert to paper and manual processing."

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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