IBM and Maersk’s Blockchain Supply Chain Grows
Tech company IBM and shipping giant Maersk are developing a global trade blockchain platform. The project, called TradeLens, is growing. To date, 94 other firms have joined the project. Even though IBM and Maersk are the only two shareholders of the project and the main investors, the project features diverse participants.
The firms include those form industries such as port operations, customers authorities, logistics companies, and even ocean carriers. Rather than term the project a “partnership,” IBM and Maersk refer to it as a “joint collaboration.” Maersk stated, “At the time of the launch, we wanted to be clear that we were not offering a bespoke Maersk – or IBM-only solution.”
The project just completed its pilot stage and early adopters can participate in its continued development. It is expected that the project will be commercially available by the end of 2018. Once ready, IBM and Maersk will sell access to the platform by contracting with customers. As the sellers, Maersk and IBM will receive the fees and revenue, according to IBM. This model allows the platform to be released to the market more quickly.
As for how the platform works, TradeLens is built upon IBM’s blockchain platform and it uses the Hyperledger Fabric. According to Todd Scott, the VP of Global Trade at IBM, “We have architected all of these solutions so that it’s very easy for data to be exchanged between the two different blockchains – take TradeLens and IBM food Trust for example -if clients were to be inclined.”
TradeLens is also interested in using APIs for shipping purposes, and it is working with shipping standard bodies such as CEFACT. Scott added,
“On top of the bedrock of blockchain technology we are working with standards, and also have 125 or so APIs, and we are going to give all that access to the developer community so they can even create additional technologies of their own on top of it.”
Not everyone is optimistic about the project. Sean Edwards, Chairman of the International Trade and Forfaiting Association stated, that it is fine for IBM and Maersk “to say ‘we are open for everyone to join,’ but all they are really saying is ‘come and use our system.’” Edwards also added that it is becoming a possibility that banks and other entities may have to be present on a number of different platforms and that “I don’t think somebody like Maersk is going to solve that.”
TradeLens is not the only one of its kind being developed. Citigroup is also developing a trade finance and supply change platform with distributed ledger technology, IoT technology, and artificial intelligence.