Monday, 01 June 2020

Blockchain is already tracking and securing freight shipments across the globe

From frozen food shipments in Florida to ensuring child labor wasn't used to mine cobalt supplies from the Democratic Republic of Congo, blockchain is being used to secure and monitor the supply chain.

Late last year, dexFreight completed its first blockchain-based freight shipment in Florida. The frozen food shipment was hauled from Preferred Freezer Services in Medley to Manny’s Enterprises in Sunrise.

DexFreight’s platform allows shippers and carriers to directly connect, negotiate rates, and schedule pickups and deliveries.

“DexFreight solves the issue of false documentation by making our transactions with shippers completely transparent, and so we can get paid for the service we provided,” said Robert J. Julia, chief financial officer of Arel Trucking. “This technology is the way of the future for the whole trucking industry.”

Related: Can blockchain revolutionize the supply chain or is it just hype?

DexFreight CEO and co-founder Rajat Rajbhandari told Fleet Owner the goal of that initial shipment was to “understand the nuisances” to better understand “what it takes to build a system that can handle thousands and thousands of shipments.”

In the months since that first shipment, dexFreight has been continuing to develop the user interface and “figuring out the best platform for smart contracts,” he said.

Over the remainder of 2019, dexFreight is rolling out its early adopter program, allowing 50-100 companies across the supply chain a chance to test out the updated system.

In the coming years, Rajbhandari projects there will be a significant shift, as people become more comfortable with a decentralized transaction system.

People are “creatures of habit,” he said, and like to do things in a “certain way.” But as more companies experiment with technologies, there will be a slow shift toward greater and greater acceptance of blockchain.

DexFreight also has a contract with Veracruz, Mexico, to perform a proof-of-concept project for a blockchain-driven port community system. The system will help link Customs, terminal operators, and the port authority at the nation’s third-largest port.

“It is perfect timing to build the system and use blockchain as one of the tools in the bigger system,” Rajbhandari said.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Scanlog, a Scandinavian logistics company, announced it will integrate blockchain-based “track and trace” technology from ShipChain to monitor up to a dozen trucks before the end of this year.

The companies said in a joint release that ShipChain will install GPS-enabled cellular devices into the cab of Scanlog-associated vehicles. Known as Axle Gateways, the devices will generate encrypted data and a unique signature that will be posted to the Ethereum blockchain. By tracking deliveries, Scanlog expects to identify steps to make its shipping network more efficient and effective.

ShipChain has also completed a pilot program with Perdue Farms during which they tracked the Perdue fleet and uploaded the information to the blockchain.

Earlier this year, another type of blockchain pilot program brought together Ford Motor, IBM, South Korean cathode maker LG Chem, and China’s Huayou Cobalt. The companies said they were joining to monitor cobalt supplies from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Supplies of cobalt, expected to be needed in huge quantities for electric vehicles and electronic devices, are concentrated in Congo, which has struggled through civil war and political tensions.

The pilot program aims to help manufacturers ensure that cobalt used in lithium-ion batteries has not been mined by children or been involved to fuel violent conflicts.

Cobalt from Huayou’s mine will be placed in secure bags, entered into a blockchain, and traced from the mine and smelter to LG Chem’s plant in South Korea and then on to a Ford plant in the United States.

This is the fourth part in a series on blockchain and its role in trucking. Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 here. The final part will be published on Monday.

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