IBM has been flirting with blockchain technology for years. The former PC manufacturer has quietly built multiple blockchain technologies while more obviously innovating in spaces like artificial intelligence with its Watson technology. One area of keen interest as to what the blockchain is capable of is product information, tracking, and so forth. More specifically, food safety and supply chain transparency. Immutable ledgers and open databases are a boon to industries with often chaotic supply chains, and the food industry, from production to sales, is chief among these industries.
IBM offers traditional businesses streamlined access to blockchain technology. The company has largely moved its operations into a Software-as-a-Service model, and food retailers are top among its targets. Previously, IBM’s blockchain division had developed a solution for Walmart’s grocery department to improve its food safety, as explained in the following video:
More recently, however, IBM was able to strike a deal with French company Carrefour, one of the largest multinational grocery chains in the world with over 12,000 locations. Carrefour has opted to integrate Food Trust, IBM’s tailored blockchain data system, as part of its supply chain.
The benefits of the blockchain as a whole may never be fully accounted for, as the world-shifting technology gains traction across industries, but it certainly is usable for more than just simple accounting of assets. In the food space, the blockchain can improve food safety first and foremost. The moment a product is acquired, it can be assessed against various metrics. In the future, this might be accomplished by artificial intelligence, but for the present, this data collection could create many thousands of jobs worldwide, as data collection is a delicate and important part of any tracking system.
Carrefour is merely a pioneer in jumping on board with IBM. Since Monday, the Food Trust system has gone live, and anyone in the food industry can subscribe to the modular software system which offers three primary uses.
One problem that Food Trust helps solve is that it will give food retailers like Carrefour a quicker and more accurate glimpse into the costs associated with products they are acquiring. In the pre-blockchain-and-internet world, this was an arduous process for retailers, with entire departments devoted to figuring out how to price and value products. IBM calls this module “Trace.”
The other two parts of the initial Food Trust offering are a product for enhanced certification speed – making it easier to acquire taglines such as “fair trade” or “organic” (or find out they are false) – and a more basic application for accessing and entering data into the Food Trust blockchain.
Suppliers particularly now have an incentive to get on board with Food Trust and other blockchain solutions like it. Simply making their information available on the Food Trust blockchain could potentially get a smaller supplier noticed by a giant like Carrefour and lead to new revenue.
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