When I talk with friends and family about how blockchain technology is used for more than just buying or selling cryptocurrency, the usual response is a long silence followed by a blank stare of disinterest. To a certain extent I don’t blame them because the truth is, most people don’t care about how blockchain technology works; they only care that it works and that it works for the things they care about. Another reason most people don’t care is because there is a dearth of easy-to-understand examples of how blockchain technology is used to make a meaningful difference in consumer and business applications. In this post I’ll provide a straightforward, real world example of how blockchain technology is being used in the shipping and logistics industry to help operators operate more efficiently, which ultimately helps to lower costs to end users.
Since the beginning of civilization mankind has been involved moving products from one place to another. Merchants in ancient times kept track of their goods in handwritten logs that provided information on what it was they were transporting, where it was going, when it needed to be there, the quantity of the product(s) they had, and who they needed to give the product to at the final destination. When those products were delivered the merchant would be paid.
In today’s modern world, all of the aforementioned activities are done using computers and software tracking applications. The use of computers and software is great, but with so many different shipping companies and so many different types of software, the process of reconciling goods shipped from one place to another is tedious and time consuming. For example, I live in a moderately-sized city of ~1.2 million people and a quick google search showed that there are 19 independent, national freight shipping companies. This doesn’t the include smaller, intra-city or intra-state shipping companies, of which there are about 40–50. What this shows is that shipping is a highly competitive and fractured market, hence the need for a system to help make the interoperability of this global network more efficient.
Enter blockchain technology. As a refresher, “blockchain is a digitally distributed ledger (i.e., a record of activity), transactions, or executed events…