Four signs you need to get your startup on the Blockchain

Words by

BusinessWorld Special Features Writer

For nearly a decade, Blockchain has consistently dominated finance and tech headlines after emerging in 2009 as the backbone behind Bitcoin. While application of this technology has snowballed well beyond financial services — and into nearly every sector imaginable — since its debut, firms worldwide are still struggling to imagine how the new tech might help them.

By definition, blockchain is a decentralized public ledger of digital transactions. It uses a peer-to-peer network, where cross-referencing copies of the ledger are spread across computers around the world.

This makes the entire system virtually impervious to censorship, tampering, or corruption.

The unprecedented transparency and instantaneous access made possible by blockchain has opened a myriad of opportunities in revolutionizing how businesses operate.

It’s still a huge leap into a largely experimental field, but firms that have found success with the ledger are reaping benefits competitors aren’t even equipped to imagine.

So how do you know if this technology is right for you? Marie Wieck, general manager of IBM Blockchain, outlines four signs your business is ready for a Blockchain boost.

You have multiple players operating on a shared supply chain

Global firms today operate in vastly interconnected space, where industries and supply chains are increasingly becoming interdependent. Leveraging blockchain helps you establish the needed trust and transparency to succeed in these partnerships.

If your business involves multiple players along the supply chain, it might be a good idea for you to start experimenting with the distributed ledger.

As Ms. Wieck said, sharing information on a blockchain opens new opportunities and more efficiency between participants. “It is really creating a level of trust and transparency by sharing common data across all the members of the given network,” she said.

You need a tamper-proof record, updated in real time

By design, databases on the blockchain are immutable — once a record is inserted into the chain, it’s nearly impossible to tamper with.

“What we find very interesting from a blockchain perspective is the immutability – that you have a historical record – whether that it’s over time, over distance, or over number of participants,” said Ms. Wieck.

Having an immutable record ensures you, as the provider of data, that your information has not been altered. Meanwhile, the recipient of your data is certain that the information has not been changed.

In fact, with immutability built into the technology, extensive audits become unnecessary. People can update and access the database in real time, and trust what they see.

You need instant analytics to track your performance metrics

If Blockchain provides an immutable record, then it can also be used to track data a flow of data. Because collaborators on the Blockchain can access data instantly, without the need to check each other’s work, this technology can cut down supply chain inefficiencies dramatically.

“You could see where things are spending time,”Ms. Wieck said. “Are they getting bottlenecked in a certain area? Are there opportunities for efficiency between partners by knowing more of the participants? Can you create other value solutions [with that information]?”

“And particularly when it’s regarding … an end-to-end value chain like a trade supply chain, there are enormous opportunities for collaboration in terms of sourcing and use of materials, in terms of increased visibility through customs, in terms of greater efficiency of applying regulatory rules.”

You deal with valuable goods that need tracking

Ms. Wieck said that every industry, as long as it involves physical goods or elements of value, can benefit from this technology.

Businesses elsewhere in the world are using the immutability of that record to fight counterfeiting and corruption in high-value industries like the production and transport of diamonds and high art.

Others are using this system to track the movement of perishables like food to ensure its safety as it moves along the chain.

Here in the Philippines, one (quite literal) field that might benefit greatly from adopting the distributed ledger is our archaic agricultural sector.

“We see it in the agricultural space, (not only) in terms of traceability for food trust but also for sustainability,” said Ms. Wieck.

Blockchain tech can be utilized to chart the journey of crops from farm to market to table. Along the way, stakeholders can track where that crop is, in real time, ensuring it’s safe — and more importantly — still safe to consume.

This allows farmers to guarantee the quality of their products, and at the same time, allows consumers to see where the products they are buying come from.