When Bitcoin made its entry into the world almost a decade ago, little did anyone think that the technology that it was built upon – blockchain – would become just as significant and transformative in terms of how we do business. In fact, there’s an increasing consensus that blockchain will have as big an impact on how we use technology as the internet did in the 90s. Applications of blockchain technology are being conjured up around the globe with many suspecting that, to a large extent, its most powerful applications are yet to be imagined.
Blockchain has many useful applications in the retail industry, from incentive programs, to blockchain mobile payment options, and reducing counterfeit goods, all of which are being developed by start-ups around the world. But perhaps the most practical and useful application of blockchain, is to solve some fundamental problems in supply chain management, particularly in the cold chain.
Challenges in the food retail industry
Food retailers are responsible for ensuring that the food they sell meets the highest food safety standards, yet they rely on those further down the supply chain to provide safe produce and reliable data about how that produce was handled. This leaves them vulnerable, unable to protect themselves against the risks of food contamination, recalls, and fraud – all of which are on the rise and cost food retail businesses millions every year.
An increasing demand for food is creating more complexity in food supply chains with more players spanning further distances. Currently, if a product is deemed to be contaminated, it’s a complex and time-consuming task to trace it back to its supplier, not to mention determining the date or batch in which it was harvested or produced. And in the meantime, supermarkets have to pull large numbers of products from their shelves that may be connected to the source of contamination, and often issue costly recalls. And that’s before they even consider the costs of the damage done to their brand’s reputation.
In the case of the cold chain, there is an added complexity. Let’s say a frozen meat product arrives at a supermarket, and its temperature is within the correct range. How does the person accepting the product know that it’s been stored and transported within that range at every step along the cold chain? Currently, there’s no way for them to know if there was any issue that caused the product to defrost, because the way in which produce is monitored differs at every stage. In some cases, monitoring and reporting is still done manually, and often the recorded information isn’t shared with others along the cold chain.
Retailers need smarter solutions to mitigate these risks, grow their profits, and strengthen their brand’s reputation.
How can blockchain help?
With blockchain, the technology finally exists to create a secure end-to-end record of tracking information, temperature readings, and environmental factors. This record is decentralised. That
means it’s not owned or controlled by any one party. As data is added to the blockchain, it cannot be changed, meaning retailers can be sure that the information around the storage and transport of their produce is tamper-proof, and they can have 100% confidence in the product they sell. And if required, produce can be traced back to its source in seconds, rather than days.
Already, big supermarket chains and food suppliers like Carrefour, Walmart, and Unilever are testing blockchain applications or working with software companies to develop blockchain solutions. They understand the power of blockchain and its implications on their industry, and they are working to streamline their supply chain and draw on the efficiencies that blockchain can bring.
This is where we come in. ZetoChain will provide an end-to- end secure record of temperature and environmental data using blockchain-enabled IoT sensors placed at every link in the cold chain. If a problem is detected, the responsible parties are alerted in real time so that preventative action can be taken. Smart contracts prevent the acceptance of unsafe deliveries and the sale of unsafe products. Customers will be able to use a mobile app to scan the Zeto label on the product that they are about to buy or consume, or to view a full history of the product. ZetoChain also provides traceability information in seconds. Upcoming posts will dive into how we do this so stay tuned!