By Pete Harris, Co-Founder and Research Principal
Welcome to the latest vendor update, curated by Chain Business Insights, in which we focus on recent significant news from the blockchain meets supply chain world. Usually, this update is for our clients only, but since we’re still in pilot mode, as it were, we’re making it free to all. Don’t get used to it! Also, if you are doing something that you feel merits inclusion, we want to hear from you, so please contact us.
In this roundup, we have news for you regarding BiTA, IBM, SAP, ShipChain and Sweetbridge:
This industry group is just months old and already it has an expanded mission and a new name to match. The Blockchain in Trucking Alliance is now the Blockchain in Transport Alliance, with a focus on “development of blockchain standards and education for the freight industry.” No biggie then.
The expansion of mission beyond trucking – which accounts for 75% of goods shipments in North America – was encouraged by early members, which have transportation businesses beyond trucking, including air freight and maritime. The members “wanted an organization to further their interests in blockchain standards, regardless of [transportation] mode,” noted Chris Burruss, a transportation veteran who became the first president of BiTA in October.
Since it’s formation in August, more than 540 applicants have applied to join the Chattanooga, TN-based organization, and international expansion to London and Singapore is being planned. Current members include shippers, carriers, brokers, fleet operators and technology vendors with transportation/logistics offerings, some of which are already embracing blockchain technology. Some of the notable names involved are UPS (and its Coyote unit), C.H. Robinson, TMW Systems, McLeod Software, Bridgestone, YRC Freight and SAP.
Our take: BiTA is moving fast to solidify its mission and organization. In Chris Burruss, it has a leader with transport and trade association experience, even if he is not a technologist. The challenge for BiTA will be serving the needs of a diverse membership base. It also wants to set some standards, and that’s usually a slow-moving activity. Education is probably its best bet for now.
More at http://www.bita.studio
SAP, the enterprise software giant that has already drunk the cloud, AI and IoT Kool-Aid, and which is figuring out a blockchain strategy to align under its Leonardo banner, has kicked off its “blockchain co-innovation alliance” with nearly 30 customers/partners and a strong focus on digital supply chain solutions.
SAP is naming just a few of its partners, including: British American Tobacco, Capgemini, Deloitte, GrainCorp, HCL Technologies, HERE Technologies, Maple Leaf Foods, Moog, Natura Cosmeticos, NatApp and PeerNova.
As for solutions, SAP and its partners will explore how blockchain might be applied to improve the collaborative aspects of a number of Leonardo services, including:
And if all the above activity is not enough, SAP is also working with global consulting company EY on EY Ops Chain, a blockchain-based supply chain management solution to enable customers to tightly integrate digital contracts, share inventory and logistics information, and process pricing, invoicing and payments.
Our take: SAP is a latecomer to blockchain technology (and also, actually, to cloud), but its existing supply chain applications, customer relationships and market expertise will give it a good platform upon which to develop and refine its offerings. On the downside, it will be competing with the likes of IBM and Oracle.
More at http://www.sap.com/products/leonardo/blockchain.html
Aiming to disrupt certain participants – namely brokers and freight forwarders – in supply chains is ShipChain, a startup that’s leveraging blockchain technology. ShipChain is building its own Ethereum-based service that it will ‘anchor’ to the public Ethereum platform. The idea is to implement a decentralized online brokerage as well as track and trace functionality (allowing for automated payments) for transportation and logistics players. The promise is to reduce costs for shippers and carriers by removing significant middle-man price markups (some say they are as high as 30% to 50%).
Headed by logistics exec John Monarch, ShipChain is currently raising funds through the sale of SHIP tokens – the money that will be used by participants to use the ShipChain service once it’s live. If all goes well, the company hopes to raise as much as $80 million through the sale of tokens, which has already begun.
Our take: It’s early days. There’s a website and a white paper (both of which look decent and say the right things), and there’s a credible management team in place. Now the hard work starts, which means fund raising and actual product development/rollout. A tracking pilot involving Purdue Farms is part of the early plan and a fair amount of integration (with ELDs, existing systems, IoT devices) will be needed to allow the service to gain critical mass. The company’s current roadmap runs into 2020, which suggests that it knows it will be a long haul (pun intended).
More at http://www.shipchain.io
Given Big Blue’s leading role in blockchain, and it’s focus on supply chains, there’s almost always going to be news to comment on. This time it concerns supply chains for air cargo.
Global aviation services provider dnata has completed a proof-of-concept involving IBM, Emirates Innovation Lab, and flydubai Cargo. Jointly, the team developed a logistics platform in which blockchain was implemented to process a purchase order from the origin to delivery to the consignee warehouse at its destination, leveraging digital trade documents.
Our take: PoCs are not live rollouts, even limited ones. So it’s unclear just how significant this one project is. What’s more certain is that blockchain has much to offer to the world of air cargo, as highlighted by air transport IT specialist SITA in a recent whitepaper.
More at http://www.ibm.com/blockchain and http://www.dnata.com
Sweetbridge has begun to talk about its vision, mission and plans. The Swiss-based nonprofit foundation (and alliance of blockchain technology participants) is building a global supply chain commerce system on top of Ethereum blockchain technology.
A big part of what it’s about is making better use of money that’s essential for the operation of supply chains, and it is looking to create “an economic framework that transforms supply chain and logistics collaboration through fast, fair and flexible value exchange protocols that unleash working capital for the benefit of all participants.” In the first instance, it’s creating an offering to borrow funds using ether cryptocurrency as collateral, and beyond that it’s looking at digitization of other assets to borrow capital against.
Recently, Sweetbridge acquired Aperio, an Arizona-based company with a blockchain platform that can record virtualized assets that might be transferred through a digital supply chain. In other news, the company hired Bob Summerwill, a core Ethereum developer (and former Enterprise Ethereum Alliance technology guru) as its principal developer.
Next up is a token sale through which it hopes to raise $65 million. The tokens can be used to pay for Sweetbridge applications and to reduce exchange fees and interest on loans.
Our take: The Sweetbridge vision is about as big as it can be. It looks to be making decent baby steps on the technology side but a crucial commercial step will be the token sale, which begins this month. Like ShipChain, Sweetbridge will need some deep initial pockets to fund its rollout.
More at http://www.sweetbridge.com