Blockchain Technology : The Beginning of a New Era in Traceability
Imagine a traceability system without authorities, regulations, and global data providers. Give your products a unique identity and shout the data which this identity points to into space. Anyone who knows the identity can see the data you share and integrate and use it with their systems. Keep all data secure, unchangeable, transparent, and distributed. I repeat, there is no authority, no regulation, no global data providers. Isn’t it like a dream? Blockchain technology, the subject of university dissertations in the 1990s, was embodied by an academic article published by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. The first notable application was money that could be exchanged securely without a central bank. As you all know, it’s called BitCoin. Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you about BitCoin in this article. The subject of our article is a traceability system using blockchain.
Traceability in Brief
We can define traceability, in brief, as recording all the movements of a product throughout the supply chain. Today, we use traceability implementations with the pharmaceutical, food, cigarette, alcohol, and cosmetic industries.
What is the Place of “BlockChain” in Traceability Implementations?
Engineers who perform projects for conventional traceability implementations had to follow rules imposed by authorities, regulations, and standards for years. They’ve developed high-cost servers, fast networks, and specially developed software for data sharing with stakeholders to create a traceable system. The systems that emerged as a result of these efforts were high-cost and cumbersome systems. Also, they were not very easy to operate and manage.
The engineering team, uncomfortable with this issue, rolled up their sleeves to create traceability systems using blockchain. They set up a big dream for a real traceability system. The dream was to record every point in the supply chain, starting with all the raw materials used in the production of a product.
Even if it seemed possible to achieve the job with conventional client-server technology, it was expensive, difficult to operate, inefficient, and boring. However, blockchain eliminated all challenges, allowing a product to be traceable throughout its lifecycle. All that needs to be done is to access the data of all the raw materials used during the production of the product from the blockchain and associate this data with a unique key that refers to the product and transfer the key to the “blockchain”. No server, no authority, trustless and transparent.
You are confused, aren’t you? I feel like you think and want to discuss how to secure your data with Blockchain. Also how to comply with the rules imposed by the authorities, and your company’s internal security procedures. No wonder, everyone I’ve chatted with, opposed and defensive with these arguments in the first place.
A Fun Example
I’ve prepared a fun example where you can find answers to the questions in your mind in a very simple way:
You have a beautiful lover and you write her passionate love letters. Can you know if the postman read your letter when you post it? No, if the postman wants to read it, he’ll read it. However, if you put your letter in a box that you cannot open without a key and send it to your lover, you can be sure that the postman didn’t read it. Don’t forget to give the key to your beautiful lover 🙂
We can understand from this example that the traceability system established on the blockchain is much more secure than the conventional traceability system. Please note that the only way to access data in a blockchain is to have the key.
The Key to Traceability in Blockchain: Serialization
We shared which product we produced, when and where we produced it, and other information with the blockchain network (Ethereum, Ripple, Corda, etc.) to provide traceability. Well, how will our suppliers, customers, and end-users in our supply chain access this data? We called serialization the key because it’s the answer to this question.
We can define serialization as marking each product in a production line with a different unique code. The most commonly used technologies for serialization are GS1 Datamatrix and QR code. But regardless of these, we can also use techniques such as RFID, NFC, or 1D Barcode, taking into account the needs of our application. Here, it is important to present the key that will be used to access the traceability data of the product to the supply chain, taking into account user habits.
The singularization of products, especially in high-speed production lines, creates a sense of bottleneck in projects. The easiest way to overcome this feeling is to look at the development of traceability-oriented printing and image processing technologies. One of the products in the industries of ink, carbon film transfer, and laser printing that have developed with the increase of traceability requirements in the last 20 years will definitely be your solution. One of the technologies you should use to ensure that the products you serialize are traceable is image processing technology.
What You Need To Do For Blockchain-Based Traceability System
First, you need to determine the goals of the traceability system that you want to design. In setting this goal, you should analyze the expectations of the target markets (end-user, wholesaler, distributor, etc.) very well.
For example, if your target market is only the consumer who purchases from the supermarket, traceability technology will suffice to provide information such as expiration date, production date, and nutritional value. However, if you believe that the wholesaler should also benefit from this system, you will also need to provide information such as shelf life, package sizes, and storage conditions.
Our experience has shown that we can achieve success goals in large-scale digital transformation projects by dividing them into phases. For this reason, we recommend that you manage a large project by dividing it into small parts.
- First, serialize your products.
- Offer the consumer an expiration date and production date with serialized products.
- Add useful information such as origin, package weight, nutritional values to the data set, which you will then present to the end consumer.
- Include information such as large case weight, size, aggregation information, storage conditions, and time that may be useful to the distributor and wholesaler.
Be Realistic in Your Designs
Proceed with realistic scenarios in your designs, not with assumptions. For example, do not attempt to serialize directly after production on a damp and wet package stored in a cold chain. Protect the project from failing in the first step by working with experts in the subject and deciding where to do the correct serialization.
Aim for Maximum Integration
When setting up a traceability system, do not exclude processes that have been going on for years within the company, such as procurement, production, storage, and shipment. Add value to every stage of the process by integrating the data from these operations with the traceability system.
Meet VISIOTT’s BlockChain Based Traceability Systems
VISIOTT is a solution provider for centralized and distributed traceability implementations. Our expert staff in equipment, software, and integration are always with you. Please contact us for information about the blockchain-based traceability system.