Blockchain – along with its sister buzzwords “bitcoin” and “cryptocurrency” – has been a hot topic in the tech and finance sectors for several years and is now beginning to infiltrate the transportation and logistics industries. But what is this elusive technology and how can you utilize it to enhance the security and efficiency of your supply chain?
What is Blockchain?
Blockchain is defined as an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.1
So what does that mean?
To simplify it, think of the blockchain like a spreadsheet. In your company, you may have spreadsheets that you edit, save and then send to another person who edits or adds information, saves it, and then sends it on to the next person and so on. The file can only be opened and edited by one person at a time and all others are locked out. However, if that spreadsheet were a blockchain, all users with a password to the spreadsheet would be able to access and edit the same file at the same time, eliminating the need for multiple versions of the same file and reducing the risk of misplacing a file or inadvertently editing an older version.
The main appeal of blockchains is that they are decentralized, meaning there is no single point of failure. The blocks are sealed by cryptography and validated by a distributed network of users, so they are extremely secure and unchangeable without the approval of all members of the network.
3 Uses for Blockchain in Your Supply Chain
1. Blockchain and IoT
Blockchain technology combined with Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, such as telematics, could be extremely useful for multiple areas of the supply chain. For example, telematics sensors placed strategically throughout a trailer can detect things like GPS tracking location, door open/closed events and cargo volume. The telematics system can then transmit this information to a blockchain, providing an unchangeable record of all events and documentation associated with the shipment.
Blockchain technology and IoT solutions are also becoming a hot topic in food transportation safety. According to IBM, blockchain technology is an ideal solution for addressing food safety issues such as cross-contamination and contamination source traceability to help lower the unnecessary waste and economic burden of food recalls. Using blockchains, food providers can more quickly trace the source of contamination to ensure safe removal from stores and stop the spread of illnesses.2
2. Blockchain and Vehicle Maintenance
Blockchain technology connected to a vehicle’s telematics system can be used to help service centers capture diagnostics data to better determine service needs and enhance preventative maintenance scheduling. Blockchains can also be used as a tool for storing and validating vehicle performance information and maintenance history. For example, if a fleet wanted to purchase a used trailer, the fleet could access the equipment’s blockchain data to authenticate the trailer’s performance and maintenance records, similar to how used car buyers can access a vehicle’s records through CarFax. However, since blockchain data is immutable, purchasers of used equipment can be sure that the equipment’s records are accurate and have not been altered to cover up any past issues.
3. Blockchain and Smart Contracts
Perhaps one of the greatest uses for blockchain technology in the supply chain is through smart contracts. Smart contracts are self-executing tasks that are programmed into the blockchain to be executed when a certain condition is met.3 Basically, a company could set up a smart contract to automatically release payment for a good or service once that good has been delivered or the service has been completed, eliminating the need for a middleman or third-party administrator.
Since they are designed using blockchain, smart contracts are secure, unchangeable and validated by everyone in the network, making it virtually impossible for a hacker to break in and modify the contract without the rest of the members of the network noticing and blocking the attack. Eventually, smart contracts could eliminate the need for third parties, paper-based systems and multi-step approval processes, cutting costs and lowering the risk for errors.
Blockchain in Transport Alliance
To help unlock blockchain’s potential in the transportation industry, Great Dane has joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), a coalition of industry leaders dedicated to the development of blockchain standards, education and solutions for the freight industry. As the first trailer OEM to join BiTA as well as the only trailer OEM in the industry to have developed a data-driven integrated telematics solution for trailers, Great Dane will be able to provide unique insight into the data security and asset management needs of fleets. The company will collaborate with the other members of BiTA to educate and guide the transportation industry towards the successful implementation and adoption of blockchain technology.
 What is Blockchain Technology? A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners. (2016). Retrieved from https://blockgeeks.com/guides/what-is-blockchain-technology/
 IBM Announces Major Blockchain Collaboration. (August 22, 2017). Retrieved from: https://www-03.ibm.com/press/us/en/pressrelease/53013.wss
 How Blockchain is Revolutionizing the World of Transportation and Logistics. Retrieved from: https://www.winnesota.com/blockchain#infographic