Blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT) are one of those technologies that are helping in bringing transparency between the producer and the consumer of a product. They empower a consumer to discover that the product they are paying for is exactly what the manufacturer claims. With blockchain technology, it is easy to know the details of the steps a product has gone through. To understand ‘how can blockchain and IoT help in the food supply chain and other businesses we need to first understand ‘what blockchain is ?’ and ‘how does it work?’.
Blockchain is a database of pieces of information in which the data is stored on cloud storage in the form of blocks and each block is linked with the other related blocks with a chain. The information stored can be viewed by every person that has any relation with it but none of them can temper the data once stored on the cloud.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Internet of Things as the name suggests is the network of interconnected things (appliances) that are connected digitally and can share data and instructions among them. This is possible of the low-cost sensors that are embedded in devices to give them a digital presence. One of the easiest examples is a Television, AC which a user can easily control with a smart device in his hand. Now let’s find out ‘what change blockchain with the cooperation of IoT is bringing in the food supply chain?’
Blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT) in Food Supply Chain
In past when a customer used to buy a product he/she had to blindly trust the label information about the authenticity of the product as they had no way to find out all the related information about it. The customers were not ensured about the quality of the product until they use it. Even it was also hard to say that ‘does it worth the amount they are paying for it or not?’. IoT and Blockchain could transform the food industry. With the introduction of Blockchain, every information about the product is stored on the cloud. Whenever it arrives at each mediator before consumer purchases it the information about that gets lodged into the blockchain database.
This information is stored with the help of QR code or NFC chips. To store this information the QR code pasted on the product is scanned at each resting station which signals that the product has passed from this place. So now when a consumer picks up a product to purchase he can easily scan the QR code or the NFC chip to confirm the authenticity of it. All a customer need is a smartphone and an internet connection to access this information. This information gets added in the form of a ledger. This transparency was never experienced by the consumer.
But then where does IoT come into play?
When a product gets a QR code or NFC fixed in it, it becomes possible to keep track of that product and where it passes from.
IoT shows its presence when a lot of sensors are installed to keep track of every essential information about the product. Even more important thing to consider is that about half a million people die every year because of foodborne diseases. For a food product, it is necessary to keep them at a certain temperature otherwise they will get spoiled. Sensors like temperature sensors are installed at various checkpoints, so when a food supply passes that sensor it senses the temperature and updates that information in the blockchain network.
If any spoilage is detected then the product is returned to the manufacturer or producer at that exact moment. It prevents the situation of receiving a spoiled delivery, which not only wastes a lot of time, money and fuel but also put the health of the consumer under threat. Many enterprises suffer a lot of financial loses because of this. Even when a spoiled product reaches in a consumer’s hand, it also adversely affects the reputation of the brand. It just takes one poor quality item for a consumer to lose its faith in that brand.
Walmart and IBM are working on blockchain technology so that it can be used more frequently and every field possible. Apart from food supply chain Blockchain and Internet of Thing (IoT) finds its utility in different fields.
Uses of Blockchain and IoT Technologies in Other Fields
1. Blockchain initially got the buzz from cryptocurrency which people can easily transfer as money without the need of any third party like a bank involvement.
2. Normal Car odometer can be easily manipulated. So a buyer sometimes pays a higher price to buy it that it doesn’t worth it. Smart odometers are available that keeps track of the odometer reading and store it on an untameable blockchain database.
So a buyer can check the authenticity of the information provided by the seller.
3. Even voting can be made more transparent with the blockchain implementation. Paper and electronic voting can be eliminated which allows voters to vote from there person computer.
The information then is available for everyone to view but none will be able to bring any change into it. But this has a lot of challenges like malware issues which if fixed can make the election process more transparent.
4. Packages and shipments can be traced with blockchain and IoT by maintaining a digital ledger about the luggage.
5. Smart Contracts can increase the usability of blockchain than just an information storing system. It will allow the system to also take some action when any condition is met.
Let’s see some of the examples:
- The insurance company can use it to validate claims and calculate payouts.
- We can store our personal data on the blockchain which cannot be altered and allow only authorized viewers. Those data may be our medical records, personal identity information.
- Artists can receive their royalties through the smart way. In most streaming platforms where a listener can view the music he had listened and the artist can view the number of streams his product has received.
The system automatically calculates the royalties and pay it directly to the artist. Transparency, right? Blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT) have a scope of lots of improvement to make the supply chain more transparent for every stakeholder. But it can change the world for better and in future, it can be seen in every field possible.