Supply chains - the complex webs that move raw materials to factories to stores to our homes - are prime for innovation. Here's a look into how blockchain technology can potentially increase accountability and expose malpractice within logistics.

There's little doubt that blockchains are disrupting the financial services industry. But what are the next industries poised for an Etheric revolution?

Supply chains - the complex webs that move raw materials to factories to stores to our homes - are prime for innovation. Brian Iselin made a very striking presentation on the importance of supply chains by removing all his clothing that likely had slave labor involved in its production at the first Ethereal Summit. Being able to scan a barcode and see every single step in the item's production and transport - signed and published on a distributed ledger - will allow us to actually have faith that we are not supporting questionable business practices. We will be able to avoid counterfeit goods, by checking for the manufacturer's crypto-signature. We'll be able to see if the produce we're consuming is organic - or if the stickers were just swapped during their shipment!

The following interview is with Consensys's Viant, a startup that was until recently in stealth mode. Viant is designed to provide decentralized coherency to link the many members of a supply chain together.

Who is funding Viant? What is the structure of your organization? Will there be a token?

Viant is a ConsenSys incubated company. There are no plans for a token at this time. 

How far along in development are you? How far away from commercial deployment w/ GSK, MicroSoft, etc?

After a year of building, we came out of stealth a few weeks ago and announced our Beta customers - GlaxoSmithKline, World Wildlife Fund, Imaginea Energy, Oil & Gas Supermajor, Global Leader in Consumer Packaged Goods. We have received coverage from majors like Fortune and Business Insider and the inbound interest to participate in the second Beta cohort has been unreal. 

Some of our clients are already asking to move to pilot and production - 2018 is going to be a dynamic year.

How are your first commercial partners expecting to benefit from this deployment?

Blockchains are great for programming business logic using smart contracts, ensuring transactions are cryptographically secure, and creating a single source of truth for n-sided marketplaces.  Our current users have seen increases in revenue, reduction in cost and risk, and increase in customer satisfaction. On a higher level, entirely new business models can be unlocked with this new technology, and it’s one of the things we are looking most forward to enabling. 

Are these first deployments mostly for within a single large corporation (rather than trying to onboard an entire industry)? 

Yes, however companies are pursuing relationships with other participants in their supply chains.

How do blockchains provide something new here?

The Viant platform offers instantly presentable and verifiable asset information by all participants. Viant also enables asset attribute and state lineage from origin through chain of ownership. Finally, Viant provides trust and reliability with a cryptographically secure and immutable blockchain. These are all very new concepts enabled by the Ethereum Blockchain.

What is the revolutionary potential of this system? What do you invision being built on TOP of your system?

I would echo the answer to my previous question, and add that Viant’s unique ability to let a business analyst model their solution and deploy it to the blockchain with one click is revolutionary. What used to take us months to build, now takes users minutes. Because Viant was built as a platform, we hope that an endless number of solutions are built on top of Viant.  

How can Viant help the healthcare system?

In the near future governments and regulatory bodies will recognize the power of blockchain technology and mandate its use in the pharmaceutical industry. For example, the U.S.  Drug Supply Chain Security Act has mandated unit-level track and traceability for pharmaceuticals by 2023. Leveraging the Ethereum Blockchain is a perfect way accomplish this in a provably immutable way.

What is your business model?

PaaS, but we are still exploring what works best in this new world.

What sort of controls are built in to prevent 'rogue actions'? Do these mechanisms inhibit the 'self-sovereign' nature of blockchains?

Viant uses proven consensus mechanisms and currently deploys private blockchain environments. Potentially more important is that we are receiving an ever-growing demand for public chain use cases which we are building towards supporting.   

What sort of API is available for integration into existing business systems?

Viant’s API approach allows a path for easy customization and integration with existing systems. 

Supply chain is not the sexiest blockchain application, even if it may prove to be one of the most crucial building blocks. Who are you, and how did you two personally get here?

Tyler: When I was first introduced to the concept of blockchain in 2015 there weren’t the laundry list of use cases we see today - so I had to try and figure them out myself. I kept coming back to supply chain where I started writing and researching. Naturally, when I had the chance to join ConsenSys and work with Kishore on a supply chain implementation, I jumped at the chance. Finance use cases might get most of the press, but supply chain is the sleeping giant. 

It's easy to dismiss blockchain supply chains as a rather boring development, but as these systems are adopted it will make more sophisticated applications increasingly feasible. Blockchains will grow past the realm of abstract financials and become a mesh that links the digital and physical worlds together.

Moreover, the application of distributed ledgers for supply chains will empower consumers to make informed decisions about their purchases, hopefully allowing us to gradually force the most egregiously unethical businesses to change their ways or become nonviable.

Featured image from chuttersnap on Unsplash

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Activist and writer focused on the next-gen applications of crypto networks. He can be reached at @aitherick or aitheric at protonmail dot com.

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