You may have already heard that a company put something “on the blockchain”. It has turned into quite a common practice to do it in the past few years, but some people have a hard time understand why it is so important to put things on the blockchain.
A new story published on The Next Web’s Hard Fork has explained that, though, using the case of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which put a shipment of 17,000 kilos of almonds on the blockchain.
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia has used the blockchain tracker of a company called LX Group in order to trace these shipments. The technology uses the blockchain to enable trackers that use a lot of data to track products.
You obviously cannot put the real almonds on the blockchain but you can have a lot of data about their whereabouts and their condition if you keep feeding information to the blockchain. The information can then be easily tracked with the use of the distributed ledger technology.
Blockchain trackers are not necessarily too different from non-blockchain trackers. However, the key point about them is that you can use them to communicate directly with a blockchain in order to get the information. This is considerably more efficient than using paper or centralized networks.
Also, the trackers created by the LX Group are equipped with things like GPS, WiFi and many sensors, which can be used for three years. All these devices help to collect information about the shipments and let it communicate in real time with the blockchain.
A specific device called the “crypto core” is also used and its function is simply to transfer the information to blockchain and to encrypt it. It has nothing to with actual cryptocurrencies, though, the crypto, in this case, relates to cryptography.
According to the director of the LX Group, a man named Simon Blyth, the device is a piece of hardware that is optimized for high speeds and that it can cover the communication with the blockchain and encryption at the same time. It can read information about the local and then send it back to the network much faster than any conventional tools used for this normally.
According to the director, the crypto core is much like an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC), just not a miner but a communicator instead. The piece is quick because it was designed only to do this, so all its design is focused.
How Tracking Shipments Work
An example used in the Hard Fork article is that a shop needs a shipment of fish to arrive in three days and to be always transported in a certain temperature. With help from the blockchain technology, this can turn into a reality easily. The trackers would easily be able to monitor the temperature of the shipment.
Also, if the temperature gets too high, a smart contract could be triggered in order to warn the company that something should be checked. If the product reaches the destination with problems, it would also be very easy to solve this problem this way as it would be clearly stamped in the blockchain what exactly happened.
When shipments are sent by big distances, normally issues can happen and before this kind of product, it was considerably harder to determine the problems and what was actually happening. However, now the people who use this technology will have more control over the shipments.
The range of data collected by the product is very diverse and it has a lot more than just temperatures and locations. With transparency brought because the information is available at all times on the blockchain, so you cannot pass the blame.
Also, as the service is automated, it is hard to tamper with the evidence, which does not let the buyers at the mercy of people with bad intentions and gives them a higher level of autonomy to deal with this kind of situation properly.
Smart contracts could easily be programmed to, for instance, offer discounts when the goods are late. There would be space for negotiations as these conditions can be set early.
Not Everything Is Perfect
Despite this being a very interesting technology, it is fairly certain to say that there are many concerns with using this technology, especially when you consider how new it is. For instance, security concerns are the number one issue that the LX Group has found out so far.
You need to trust the data that goes to the blockchain in order for it to be really useful. If you do not, it is simply useless data.
Most devices are simply left with the cargo, so they can be physically hacked or tampered with. Even with the data being encrypted, there is no way to ensure that nothing will happen to them. Though the devices are often robust, malicious people can tamper with them.
Oracles are often used in order to determine whether a smart contract should be activated or not and the last line of defense is the fact that there many of them and most will work.
Unfortunately, this problem was not solved yet. The only way to be actually able to use this system is without agents which want to make it stop working. This shows that there is still plenty of work to be done.
Nothing is ever unhackable or perfectly safe, but it looks like this technology is a great step forward in the right direction, in any case.