This may be hard to believe for skeptics, but just in case you’ve received some overseas goods recently, you should know that the blockchain might have helped deliver them. This is thanks to an agreement struck between global shipping giants Maersk and blockchain based, IBM. The partnership has grown to now involve 94 partners who include customs houses, shippers, ports and others. As a result of this all-important partnership, shipping times have been slashed by a whopping 40 percent which is an unprecedented improvement according to Marie Wieck leader of IBM’S 1600 employee outfit. The great improvement has been lauded by all stakeholders in the shipping process and has also gone a long way in slashing the cost of buying goods from overseas.
The blockchain could as well revolutionize the shipping industry just as standard-size shipping did 60 years ago. So how has the blockchain managed to record such impressive numbers with regard to shipping times and shipping costs? According to Marie Wieck, the blockchain has gone on to slash paperwork handling chores by a factor of 10 making it easy to get involved in sanitary certificates, bills of lading, invoices, customs releases and other vital pieces of documentation. She further added that before the blockchain had anything to do with it, containers spent more time sitting on the ports than in the ocean during shipping of flowers from Mombasa, Kenya, to Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The blockchain allows for the sharing of data, property records and sales transactions among cooperating companies on a shared computer network. This information is distributed using the concept of the “shared ledger” which involves the distribution of information across all computers as opposed to just one. A single database eliminates conflicts that arise when numerous parties are attempting to reconcile two separate databases. Encryption technology provided by the blockchain ensures transactions are restricted to only the parties involved. The blockchain has also been heralded for its assistance in other areas such as Lotteries, voting, ID cards and graphics rendering.
The wonderful developments in various industries inspired by the blockchain have surprisingly not turned all skeptics into believers with some still poking holes into the credibility of the technology. One such detractor is Vint Cerf, one of the internet’s creators who did a flowchart mocking the blockchain where he put the sentence “do I need a blockchain?” in the top box and followed it up with an arrow that pointed to another box labeled “No”. a western union chief gave a damning assessment of Ripple after using it terming it as “too expensive”.
Just as there are detractors there are also fans of the blockchain, one of them being IBM’s rival SAP. Who regards the blockchain as real and not a get rich quick scheme. SAP has a blockchain shipping project of their own and has partnered with the likes of UPS, US Customs and the Border Protection Agency. IBM’s TradeLens project is the highlight of the industry though enabling over a million shipping events every day. TradeLens does not have scalability issues and will in the future open up for all who want to join in.