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320+ million people own cryptocurrencies worldwide.

Source: TripleA

Relevance to the Future of Logistics

Traceability & Transparency

Today, companies have limited visibility of products as they move through production processes and supply chains. Manufacturers, retailers, and end customers are all demanding better and more reliable track-and-trace capabilities for products, raw materials, and waste. Blockchains, paired with logged records from sensors, can provide this visibility as a trusted, immutable ledger.

Supply chain professionals and customers can access a blockchain ledger with an interface from which they can see each product’s shipment status and accurately confirm product attributes, such as whether it was locally produced, organically grown, or received certifications. Additionally, using blockchain technology, companies can quickly identify points of unauthorized removal or the insertion of products, helping to investigate theft, fraud, and counterfeiting. Finally, with hundreds of international trade laws and regulations, a blockchain-supported level of transparency enables supply chain organizations to ensure supplier and distributor compliance.

By acting as a single source of truth, blockchains can bring a sense of fidelity to all partners along the supply chain.

Smart Contracts

During its supply chain journey, each product can be subject to multiple back-office processes, from manufacturing invoices and customs forms to retail agreements and delivery payments. These processes can take weeks or even months of human activity, involving many different parties. Instead, blockchain-based smart contracts effectively eliminate delays and shorten the critical-path timeline.

The smart contract is essentially an elaborate digital ‘if-then’ statement which self-executes procedures once pre-determined and agreed criteria are met. For example, if a product and all its components have been properly recorded, tracked, and traced in a customs agency’s smart contract, the product meeting all requirements may automatically clear customs without any forms. Smart contracts can also perform more advanced functions like splitting payments among parties based on the distance each has travelled or subtracting varying degrees of penalties from payments depending on how late or damaged a package is when it arrives at its destination.

By implementing blockchain-based smart contracts, logistics organizations can streamline processes, reduce clerical errors, and bring transparency to an automated system.

Cryptocurrency Payments

It has been estimated that in 2022, about 320 million people around the world own some form of cryptocurrency or ‘crypto'. In Vietnam, almost 1 in 5 people are crypto users while, in Nigeria, this number reaches almost 1 in 3.

Like the normalization of credit cards and PayPal as payment methods before it, bolstering the rise of e-commerce, crypto can help companies extend their reach into markets as an alternative form of payment. While the value of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum has proved volatile, there are other cryptos – known as ‘stablecoins' – which have a more reliable, predictable value as they are pegged to a fiat currency like the USD or Euro. Some countries have begun to recognize and provide more legal space for crypto, including protections and regulations. To date, 2 countries, El Salvador and the Central African Republic, have gone so far as to recognize Bitcoin as legal tender.

As the personal use of cryptocurrency appears to be increasing and with regulations to follow, supply chain companies should consider accepting this alternative form of payment to better accommodate their customers.

Challenges

Technical limitations such as scalability and power consumption must be overcome to enable sustainable, large-scale deployment.
Industry-wide adoption along and across supply chains will be difficult given industry fragmentation and competition.
Governance, standards bodies, and industry consortia will be required to ensure conformity to regulations and interoperability between carriers, operators, customers, and customs authorities.
Cryptocurrencies are mostly unregulated, increasing the risk of scams and lowering levels of trust; this is a barrier to the acceptance of crypto as payment and assets.

This trend should be MODERATELY monitored, with some use cases applicable today.

Outlook

Many pertinent and impactful use cases have been identified in the supply chain for existing blockchain technology. It is only a matter of time before multiple players along and across supply chains coordinate and collaborate to create comprehensive blockchain ecosystems, accelerating the full capabilities of this technology.

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