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From Bitcoin to Bitcontainer – Blockchain Goes from Virtual to Physical

In a global context of increasing the volume of goods traded in relation to GDP, freight is facing a strong competitive pressure as well as increasing ecological requirements. The flow-through management of freight transport requires the coordination of a plurality of actors (e.g., shippers, freight forwarders, maritime carriers, rail carriers, heavy goods vehicles and customs authorities, etc.) within deadlines restricted. Blockchain technologies make it possible to respond to these issues of coordination and responsiveness, as illustrated by the 2 use cases detailed below.

Use Case 1 – Tracking Goods

As an example, the Danish ship owner Maersk is developing an international maritime freight management solution on the Blockchain in partnership with IBM via the product hyperledger fabric of the linux foundation. This solution provides for the digitization of documents related to the transport of containers such as the list of controls or the verified gross weight (VGM). The containers are equipped with sensors in particular to allow their traceability. Thanks to the information provided, the various actors are informed, specifically according to their rights, of the location of the container or the status of the delivery, for example, the customs authorization after inspection. The documents related to the cargo are grouped together on the Blockchain, thus facilitating the automation of certain administrative phases. Indeed,

Goods tracking via the Blockchain has four advantages:

  • Facilitate the coordination between different actors during the process and reduce the transition time between the stages with a real-time update of the advanced containers.
  • Reduce fixed costs by automating procedures. The documents requiring the signature of several parts are, for example, no longer sent from one actor to another but validated directly on the Blockchain.
  • Increase customer value by enabling the tracking of merchandise at any time. This allows, for example, industrialists working in just a few cases to estimate the time needed to satisfy the demand.
  • Facilitate the collection and analysis of data in a secure manner, differentiated according to the actors.

Use Case 2 – Optimization of Filling Rates

In parallel with advances in the Internet of Things, IBM is developing a Blockchain logistics management solution for road hauliers in partnership with AOS, a Bogotá company specializing in providing business solution. Thanks to their RFID chip equipment and Blockchain technology, the trucks could communicate with distributors and carriers and inform them of their positioning, filling rates, etc. In the case of incomplete loading, the parties can safely trade the free space even for small volumes with smart-contracts and thus optimize their filling rate.

This application has 3 advantages:

  • Reduce the environmental impact of the transport sector by limiting the number of empty or partially filled journeys.
  • Increase the profitability of journeys and reduce the traffic on the roads by reducing the number of vehicles in circulation.
  • Manage the collection of data on the loadings, the routes taken and the coordination between the various actors along the distribution chain (distributors, carriers, customs authorities etc.).

With a world that is becoming smaller and smaller with a growing number of exchanges, the freight transport sector has a bright future ahead of it. However, the economic and ecological constraints increase the pressure on the optimization of this sector. Blockchain technology combined with the Internet of Things offers answers that deserve to be explored.


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