How blockchain is being used in supply chains

21 December 2020

  • Latest Gillmore Centre for Financial Technology webinar tackles blockchain
  • Industry leaders reaveal how blockchain is breaking down industry barriers
  • Mastercard explains its move into supply chain management
  • Blockchain gives companies and customers visbility of supply chain

Shoppers can now trace the whole journey of their seafood by simply scanning the packet thanks to the growing use of blockchain in supermarket supply chains.

Mastercard's blockchain-based Provenance Solution allows companies to track and trace their full supply chain using Internet of Things sensors on pallets,and containers and allows quickfire payments to suppliers.

The technology was revealed by Leandro Nunes, Vice President of Product Development and Innovation at Mastercard at the latest Gillmore Centre for Financial Technology webinar

Warwick Business School’s Gillmore Centre for Financial Technology was established with a £3 million donation to research emerging technologies in the financial sector such as AI, blockchain, mobile payments, cryptocurrencies and crowdfunding platforms.

The Blockchain Symposium: Financial Services and Beyond brought together academics and senior figures from some of the leading organisations in the use of the technology.

Mastercard may be known for its credit and debit cards, but Mr Nunes revealed the US multinational is among the top four companies in the world for the number of blockchain patents produced.

He said: “Global supply chains are complex with low visibility leading to the continuous counterfeiting of products. Brands have the liability, but not the visibility, and yet 65 per cent of Generation Z try to learn the origin of the products they buy and 71 per cent of consumers are willing to pay a premium for traceability.

“Our Provenance Solution platform enables companies shipping everything from cattle and avocados to shrimps and wheat to audit their supply chain in an instant and pinpoint problems. Using blockchain, it provides traceability and privacy on a scalable network to such an extent that it is handling 20,000 transactions every second.

“For example, we have worked with Topco Associates, a leading US supermarket co-operative on seafood traceability. Customers can use their phone to scan the code on the packaging and it will bring up the whole supply chain. The supermarket has total visibility with suppliers also having limited access.

“It also creates a more efficient payments system for suppliers. Instead of avocado farmers waiting 30 days for their money it is done on the platform in 48 hours.”

David Furlonger, of Gartner and co-author of The Real Business of Blockchain: How Leaders Can Create Value in a New Digital Age with Christophe Uzureau, explained how UEFA is using blockchain to tackle ticket fraud.

How blockchain is being used in football

Using a distributed ledger and a mobile app European football’s ruling body has created a more secure ticketing system for fans and improved security at grounds, as UEFA can identify each ticket-holder instead of them being hoovered up by third-party websites.

UEFA can track the tickets and create a network for fans who can sell or exchange unwanted tickets with each other and gain access to players and merchandise.

Mr Furlonger added: “With the ongoing pandemic UEFA is looking at introducing contact tracing with the app to get fans back into stadiums and it is also engaging fans with tokens. This is now covering the five core areas that define blockchain and when machine learning and AI is added it will further enhance its value.

“There are three pathways for business and society when looking at blockchain. There is pure centralisation that digital giants are building; incomplete decentralisation where a consortium of organisations join together in a blockchain network; and then there is real decentralisation which will allow other kinds of business models and opportunities to emerge.”

Nitin Manoharan, Director, Global Head Enterprise Architecture & Technology Innovation at Philip Morris International, is part of the cigarette manufacturer’s deep dive into blockchain as part of its $6 billion investment in R&D.

“One area where we are looking to use blockchain is in tax stamps,” said Mr Manoharan, who studied for his PhD at Warwick Business School. “This is a very manual process where the tax stamps are transported across the border to be pasted on the products before they are exported. With blockchain it can be done automatically and provide a transparent and secure audit trail, so the stamps can be sent as stickers, with payments made instantly and then scanned at the border for identification.

“We have trialled it with several countries but there are many who are 10 to 15 years behind the technology needed. But places like Estonia, Switzerland and Dubai are keen to adopt this.”

Joe Nandhakumar, Professor of Information Systems and host of the webinar, said: “This was a valuable exercise in revealing the current state of how blockchain is being used and how it is allowing financial services to branch out into new services outside of their traditional industry.

“Similarly, we are seeing new players move into roles that were once the sole domain of financial services companies. The breaking down of industry borders is an interesting development as blockchain becomes more and more a part of our lives."

Ram Gopal, Pro Dean for Research and Director of the Gillmore Centre for Financial Technology, added: “The research we are undertaking at the Gillmore Centre for Financial Technology will seek to investigate how blockchain and other technologies like AI and cryptocurrencies are developing and bring fresh perspectives to this fast-changing world.”

To watch the webinar in full click here.

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