insight magazine

Business Interest in Blockchain Booms

Billions of dollars are flowing from around the globe into pioneering digital ledger technologies. By Derrick Lilly | Spring 2018


Bitcoin may have brought blockchain into the limelight, but the technology behind cryptocurrency record-keeping is increasingly spreading into the mainstream business world.

“Companies that move products and people through complex supply chains see promise in the inherent security and ease of use of blockchain,” says David Schatsky, an emerging technologies analyst and managing director at Deloitte LLP, in an interview with Kim S. Nash for the Wall Street Journal.

A blockchain digital ledger allows users to add blocks of information to the chain after each party runs algorithms to mutually evaluate and validate a proposed transaction. Once approved, the transaction or data is time-stamped and added to the chain, which is inherently encrypted, unchangeable, and always up-to-date on all users’ systems.

Nash reports British Airways is testing blockchain for maintaining consistent real-time flight data across airport gates and monitors, airline websites, and in customer apps. Walmart is also betting big on the technology, developing blockchain solutions with IBM to manage its supply-chain data for dozens of products.

As Nash learned, Walmart’s blockchain allows the company to precisely track the produce and products it carries. For instance, the retailer has been testing the technology for several months in its mango supply chain between the U.S., Mexico, and some South American countries.

“After a mango is picked from a tree, it makes many stops before getting to a store shelf. Farmers, packing-house workers, and others along the way use a mobile app from Walmart to send details such as harvest dates, locations, and images of their fruit to the retailer’s blockchain,” Nash writes.

Walmart’s head of food safety, Frank Yiannas, tells Nash that the process is simpler and more secure than the array of barcodes, scanners, paper forms, and individual databases typically used. In fact, in a simulated recall, Yiannas says his team traced the origin of a bag of sliced mangoes in just 2.2 seconds in the blockchain versus the nearly seven days it took using Walmart’s other systems.

Yiannas explains that blockchain’s speed and accuracy allows the retailer to save sales, and prevent further illness and possibly death, as stores will know exactly which mangoes to pull off shelves in case of crisis.

With corporate spending on blockchain software expected to reach $2.1 billion in 2018, up from $945 million in 2017, according to researcher International Data Corp., blockchain is quickly becoming a technology accounting and finance professionals will need to know and embrace.

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