Future Trends 2019: Supply Chains Among Top Contenders for Blockchain Growth

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Predictions about blockchain’s future run the gamut from wildly transformational to completely dismissive. Before we get too mired in the trough of disillusionment or carried away by the hype, here are some recent forecasts about blockchain, including the latest crop of coherent use cases.

Opportunity Beckons, If We Address Risks

The first thing that caught my eye was how Gartner analysts stood by their prediction that blockchain will generate over $3 trillion in business value by 2030. They tempered that optimism by predicting bumps along the way. Among Gartner’s top 10 strategic predictions was this gem: By 2022, 75 percent of public blockchain will suffer “privacy poisoning” — inserted personal data that renders the blockchain non-compliant with privacy laws. Blockchain’s steep learning curve heightens its risk. Fair enough.

Supply Chains We Can Trust

On the other hand, supply chains are among the top contenders for blockchain growth. IDC predicted by 2021, 30 percent of manufacturers will build digital trust using blockchain technology, and collaborative supply chains will give consumers direct access to product histories by 2021. Vast, complex supply chains behind industries like pharmaceuticals are becoming the proving ground for blockchain. Add in other innovations like the Internet of Things (IoT), and that’s a recipe for real innovation. I saw an example of how one blockchain solution supports the quality control of shipped medications during the above video interview at SAP TechEd.

Taking Quality Control to New Heights

This co-innovation project was built on SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain and uses IoT-based sensors from Modum.io. Sensors inside the boxes of shipped medications monitor and report conditions every step of the journey. Transmitted data about product temperature is shared on a paired mobile device. Everyone on the chain — from manufacturer through wholesaler, pharmacist, physician, and consumer — can be sure the medication stays within agreed-upon parameters.

“Companies like pharmaceuticals are very excited because they can directly link inspection lots defined in the quality management of their SAP ERP systems to the sensor data on the chain throughout transit of the medication,” said Christian Sommer, head of Blockchain Technology at SAP. “Integrating data from the entire process from shipment to delivery means tremendous efficiencies and quality control.”

Smarter Business

Many industries — food, electronic components, and pretty much any product that could be damaged in transit ­– are exploring blockchain. Think of the potentially life-saving outcomes when it comes to tracing tainted food or recalling dangerous products. But track and trace is just the beginning.

According to IDC, 35 percent of manufacturing organizations will have created new ecosystems by implementing artificial intelligence- and blockchain-centric platforms that automate 50 of processes by 2022. Blockchain’s potential is especially strong when it comes to smart contracts. In personalized medicine, logistics partners could discard products before delivery and automatically trigger a replacement shipment. If parameters have been met, organizations have irrefutable proof they met service level agreements, triggering payment. Companies could also demonstrate compliance with industry mandates like the United States Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA).

Advertising Transparency

Blockchain has potential to automate trust in every industry’s supply chain, even those without physical products. Forrester researchers predicted by the end of 2019, over 50 percent of the top advertisers will use blockchain for media buying supply chain transparency. Their reasoning?  Advertising is plagued by hidden fees, exorbitant margins, and poor performance, which is why major brands have cut millions for their digital ad budgets already. Invalid impressions will total an estimated $10.9 billion by 2021. Blockchain could expose advertising’s true value across media buys. With hidden fees and duplicate or unnecessary expenses revealed, companies can reallocate advertising spend to where it counts most.

Identity Management

Some analysts also saw blockchain as an opportunity to overhaul siloed approaches toward data access and control. By 2022, IDC said 40 million Europeans will have blockchain-based digital identities. These analysts think blockchain uptake can “democratize” identity management, simplifying and speeding up how we use, access, and share data. This would increase digital trust in whatever people and businesses happen to be doing.

Cascading Impact

As the co-innovated SAP solution demonstrated, blockchain automates trust. Its cascading impact will be equally significant. IDC predicted by 2021, in-industry value chains, enabled by blockchains, will extend digital platforms to entire omni-experience ecosystems, reducing transaction costs by 35 percent. Gartner analysts forecasted the dominant blockchain platforms will support the flow of both private and public transactions across multiple interoperable ledgers by 2022.

The core promise of blockchain is to bring business positive outcomes from hyperconnectivity without compromising security. We need to explore the good while ferreting out the bad. As always, the truth about blockchain’s business value will fall somewhere in between the extremes.

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