Supply Chain

Ontology Partners With German Startup to Accelerate Supply Chain Identity Solutions

Ontology has partnered with digital identity specialist Spherity to expedite the development of ID solutions across the supply chain.

Ontology recently partnered with German digital identity and cloud wallet provider, Spherity, to collaborate on expediting development on digital identity solutions for products and enterprises.

The partnership will see Spherity’s Cloud-Edge wallet integrate with Ontology’s (ONT) blockchain, and allow Ontology to use Spheriy’s Decentralized Digital Identity solutions.

The two firms will work together on creating proof-of-concept pilots demonstrating applications for digital identity within the context of supply chain, mobility, and pharmaceuticals — leveraging Spherity’s existing customer base.

Ontology and Spherity will also collaborate on research and marketing initiatives.

Identity solutions target the supply chain

Spherity CEO, Dr. Carsten Stöcker, told Cointelegraph that most of the investment, research, and development into blockchain-based identity solutions is not directed at identifying individual citizens.

“[B]lockchains and distributed ledgers are mostly used to encode a myriad of other forms of information that goes into tracking goods and value as it moves across the planet,” said Stöcker. He continued:

“The technologies that we call identity systems don’t just identify individual citizens and correlate their legal, financial lives with their digital lives – they also identify machines, autonomous algorithms, corporate entities, product information, licenses, and many other things that need a strong identity and signing rights to enter into this system of auditable, yet private transaction information.”

“There are millions of use-cases that have nothing to do with KYC or human identity of any kind, and even in the KYC space there are many ways to build in pseudonymity, revocable anonymity, disposable identities, and other capabilities beyond merely asking crypto users to show their papers and peg their digital lives to their status as subjects in a nation-state,” he added.

Connecting Asian and European DLT platforms

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Ontology co-founder, Andy Ji, stated that the firms “are looking for partners to build a proof of concept showing end-to-end traceability of manufactured goods from birth in an Asian factory to sale in the European market.”

“Most likely, this would take the form of a Chinese manufacturer already using other Ontology services to make their transactions more auditable, and a German import sector with very high regulatory compliance needs or facing reputational risks,” he added.

The partnership will also allow both firms to access new markets, with Ontology having an established foothold in Asia while Spherity boasts a strong European presence — particularly within Germany, Switzerland, and Austria.

The firms hope to facilitate greater interoperability and collaboration between European and Chinese blockchain ecosystems.

Retail Giant Carrefour Launches Blockchain Food Tracking Platform for Poultry in Spain

Global retail giant Carrefour, which has recently joined IBM’s blockchain-based Food Trust, has deployed blockchain to track poultry in its Spanish shops.

Retail giant Carrefour, headquartered in France and operating in more than 30 countries, is deploying a blockchain food tracking platform based on Hyperledger in its Spanish network, a press release states Tuesday, Nov. 20.

The food tracking solution, initially developed by U.S. tech corporation IBM, will be used to track free-range chickens branded as “Calidad y Origen” (“Quality and Origin”) that were raised in the northern region of Galicia without antibiotic treatment. Each package in the Spanish network will be marked by a QR code providing detailed info on the chicken’s date of birth, type of nutrition, packing date, and more.

In the press release, Carrefour writes that blockchain is a key technology for supply chains, as it provides greater transparency and allows customers to review the entire distribution process. In the nearest future, the company is planning to extend the use of decentralized technologies, implementing them to all food from the “Calidad y Origen” line.

As Cointelegraph reported earlier, Carrefour already tested blockchain tracking for French poultry in early 2018, expressing its commitment to decentralized solutions.

In October, the retail giant announced it was joining IBM’s blockchain-based Food Trust that had been created back in 2016. Since the launch of the trials in August, the program has been joined by major retailers and companies, such as Nestle SA, Unilever NV, and Walmart.

Other firms with large supply chains have often applied blockchain in order to increase transparency, cut costs, and reduce time spent on food delivery. For instance, Walmart uses a farm-to-store blockchain tracking system for its leafy greens, while U.S. fast-casual salad chain Sweetgreen is planning to trace its salads in the same way.

As well, the world’s four largest agriculture companies, mostly known as ABCD, use blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) to automate grain and oilseed post-trade execution processes, considered to be a highly manual and costly part of the supply chain.

Rwandan Government to Use Blockchain Tech to Track Conflict Metal Tantalum

Rwanda’s tantalum mining traceability will be improved by British blockchain startup Circulor in tandem with Rwanda’s government.

Rwanda has partnered with a U.K.-based blockchain startup to trace the mining of the conflict metal tantalum in the country, according to the startup’s press release, published Oct. 16.

Rwanda is the world’s leading producer of tantalum, the mineral used in consumer electronics such as smartphones and computers. By using blockchain technology in partnership with startup Circulor, the Rwandan Mining, Petroleum and Gas Board plans to make the production of tantalum more transparent.

The press release states that blockchain tech implementation will help “companies comply with the internationally mandated efforts to eradicate sources of funding for conflict minerals.”

According to Reuters, mining company Power Resources Group (PRG) — whose listed partners include Kemet, an Apple supplier — has run a pilot for tracing the metal and is now “using the production system.” PRG’s CEO, Ray Power, told Reuters that he has been hearing “criticisms on traceability” for minerals since 2015.

The companies have partnered to use Circulor’s blockchain platform, built on the Hyperledger Fabric, an open source enterprise-focused digital ledger software hosted by the Linux Foundation, for tracing the tantalum’s supply chain.

Douglas Johnson-Poensgen, Circulor CEO, underlined that the new technological application will “dramatically reduce costs for miners who current shoulder a disproportionate share of the cost of compliance.” He also added:

“Our blockchain platform will empower consumers to understand where the materials in the products they buy come from and also make it harder for materials that are not ethically sourced to pass through the supply chain.”  

This spring, Circulor had partnered with the German car manufacturer giant BMW “to track so-called ‘clean’ cobalt supplies in order to ensure their ethical provenance,” Cointelegraph reported March 6.

Also this spring, De Beers, the global diamond producing giant, had announced the use of blockchain technology for digital tracking diamonds “from mine to retail.” The company’s goal was to increase efficiency in the supply chain and to support consumer and public trust in De Beers’ non-conflict diamonds production.

Blythe Masters: ‘Hundreds’ of Blockchain Benefits Will Hit Commodity Supply Chains

Blythe Masters has confirmed her belief that blockchain will shake up commodities.

Former JPMorgan executive Blythe Masters predicts “tens if not hundreds” of blockchain projects will soon increase the efficiency of commodity markets, Bloomberg reports Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Masters, who since leaving the investment banking giant has become CEO of her own software outfit Digital Asset Holdings, said commodity supply chains would greatly benefit from the advent of distributed ledger technology.

“Supply chains are notoriously complex and inefficient,” she told attendees of the invite-only London Metal Exchange (LME) annual dinner, quoted by Bloomberg.

As Cointelegraph has reported, the supply chain aspect of various global industries from shipping to agriculture has formed a focus for blockchain-based solutions involving many major corporations, including most recently Walmart and IBM.

While not everyone shares the opinion that blockchain tech is ready for mainstream implementation, the technology looks set to benefit legacy structures by simplifying bureaucracy, increasing confidentially, and boosting productivity, Blythe noted.

Masters’ Digital Asset Holdings is similarly designing software to aid the sector in blockchain implementation, she said at the LME event, involving banks and investors among other participants trading bonds and assets. Bloomberg notes that the LME market still sets prices via an open-outcry trading ring.

Having taken a proactive role in promoting both Bitcoin (BTC) and blockchain, Masters joined advocacy group the Chamber of Digital Commerce’s board of advisors in 2015.

Overstock’s Medici Ventures Invests in Blockchain Platform to Fight Wine Counterfeits

Overstock’s investment subsidiary Medici Ventures has funded a blockchain project aimed at fighting wine counterfeit.

Overstock.com’s venture capital subsidiary Medici Ventures has invested in Israeli-based technology company VinX to develop a blockchain-powered wine futures platform, according to a press release published October 4. The exact amount of the investment was not disclosed.

Per the announcement, VinX plans to develop a token-based digital wine futures platform based on the Bordeaux futures model, that will enable the trade of wine futures on a blockchain platform. The initiative purports this will create a secure supply chain that assures product provenance and thus reduces fraud in the wine industry.

According to the press release, 20 percent of wine globally has counterfeit labelling. VinX reportedly plans to deploy blockchain to link wine consumers directly with wineries, eliminating allegedly fraudulent intermediaries. Patrick M. Byrne, the CEO and founder of Overstock.com, said:

“Like any economy, the wine industry has difficulty scaling its middlemen-heavy systems in parallel with the growing demands of an increasing global market. VinX’s steps in tokenizing wine futures while allowing wine enthusiasts to know without a doubt that the bottles they purchase are filled with authentic wines will position the entire industry as a model of a new global economy that replaces old boys’ networks with frictionless trust through technology.”

In May, Cointelegraph reported that Chinese blockchain startup VeChain began testing a blockchain application to verify wine supply chain and fight counterfeits. Statistics reportedly showed that “at least half of the Chateau Lafite-Rothschild consumed in China is fake.”

In September, Albert Heijn, Holland’s largest supermarket chain, revealed it is using blockchain to make the production chain of its orange juice transparent. The system will reportedly store data that reveals the quality and sustainability ratings held by various produce growers, as well as information about the fruits themselves.

A recent study by ReportLinker predicted that the blockchain in agriculture and food supply market will be worth over $400 million in the next five years. The report states that “the blockchain market is expected to grow, owing to the increase in the demand for supply chain transparency along the agriculture and food verticals,” explaining that food fraud is estimated to cost the global food industry $49 billion annually.

US Tech Firm Eyes Blockchain Supply Chain Solution for Major Chinese Ports

A new partnership between Ideanomics and APMEN Tech Trade Co. could see blockchain improve port clearance in Shanghai and Guangzhou.

U.S.-based technology company Ideanomics has partnered with the Asia-Pacific Model Electronic Port Network (APMEN) Trade Tech Co. to streamline supply chains with blockchain tech, a press release reports Thursday, September 20.

Together with APMEN Trade Tech Co., Ideanomics aims to leverage blockchain and what it calls “super artificial intelligence” to cut out “layers of middlemen” in port clearance and shipping handling for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) online port clearance system.

The first instigation of the tools will take place in two major Chinese ports, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the former holding the title of the world’s busiest port in 2017.

The move marks the continuation of a growing trend in the blockchain sector, with a raft of major corporations aiming to disrupt legacy supply chain infrastructure with the technology’s introduction.

In the press release about the Ideanomics and APMEN Tech Trade Co. partnership, Bruno Wu, chairman and co-CEO of Ideanomics, stated:

“We will integrate business data from various partners, establishing a risk control model in cooperation with a single window to provide risk control services for regulatory authorities and enterprises.”

Ideanomics will have a 60 percent stake in the new venture, promising it will list on an unspecified Chinese stock exchange before the end of the year, the press release notes.

As the industry expands, some sources have more recently become skeptical of blockchain supply chain efficiency, cautioning the “hype” that may be associated with the phenomenon.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in China last week, Tradeshift CEO Christian Lanng even went as far as to say blockchain was not suitably “high performance” in its current state to suit such purposes at scale.

“Whenever people say blockchain, I think what they’re really saying is they would like to connect things digitally,” he suggested.

‘Not High-Performance’: Tradeshift CEO Prudent on Blockchain Supply Chain Potential

Blockchain is not ready for at-scale supply chain deployment, Tradeshift’s Christian Lanng believes.

Digital invoicing startup Tradeshift CEO Christian Lanng countered “hype” over blockchain’s role in supply chains Wednesday, September 19, telling CNBC the technology “wasn’t ready yet.”

In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, China, Lanng highlighted the use cases for blockchain in areas such as identity and certifications, but argued supply chains were too much of a challenge for the technology in its current state.

“If you want to have authenticity, if you want to know where it is sourced, that it is done in a responsible way […] [blockchain] is a great technology to manage that kind of flow and be sure of the integrity,” he told the network, adding:

“The problem is just it’s not a high-performance technology.”

Talk of the promise of enhancing supply chain performance using distributed ledger technology has become commonplace across the global economy this year. As Cointelegraph continues to report, multiple global heavyweights are considering and working on implementing blockchain-based solutions to legacy infrastructure.

For Lanng, however, the optimism is premature. “Whenever people say blockchain, I think what they’re really saying is they would like to connect things digitally,” he continued, noting:

“I don’t think blockchain is a mature enough technology yet to carry that … I also want to be a little bit cautious for some of the hype.”

Lanng also highlighted cost hurdles and the difficulty of creating an “at scale” blockchain deployment.

The innovation has nonetheless already seen some success, as a joint shipping supply chain product from IBM and Maersk received heavy praise from logistics partner CEVA as a “big step forward” in August.

More recently, UK’s leading port operator, Associated British Ports (ABP), signed an agreement with digital logistics enabler Marine Transport International to develop blockchain use for port logistics.