Blockchain Technology : The Beginning of a New Era in Traceability
Think of a traceability system that has nothing to do with an authority, a regulation, or a global data provider. In this traceability system, assign a unique identity to each of your products, and transmit the data revealed by this identity to space. Everyone who reaches the identity you have forwarded can see the data you share and integrate and use it with their own systems. All the data presented should be secure, unalterable, transparent, and distributed. Again, 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 important application was to securely exchange money without a central bank. As you all know, it’s called BitCoin. Don’t worry, BitCoin is not the main topic of this article. The subject of this article is a traceability system using blockchain.
Traceability in Brief
Traceability can be briefly defined as the recording of all movements of a product throughout the supply chain. Traceability applications are used by the pharmaceutical, food, cigarette, alcohol, and cosmetics industries today.
The Role of “Blockchain” in Traceability Applications
Engineers who managed projects for conventional traceability applications had to follow the rules imposed by authorities, regulations, and standards for years. To generate a traceable system, high-cost servers, fast networks, and specially developed software for data sharing with stakeholders were developed. The systems that emerged as a result of these efforts were not very easy to operate and manage, with high operating costs and ungainly systems.
The engineering team, annoyed by this issue, rolled up their sleeves to generate traceability systems by using blockchain. A big dream has arisen to generate a real traceability system The dream was to record every point in the supply chain, starting from all the raw materials used in the production.
Even though it seemed possible to achieve the job with conventional client-server technology, this was expensive, difficult to operate, inefficient, and boring. But blockchain removed all the challenges, allowing a product to be traced throughout its lifecycle. The only thing that needs to be done is to access the data of all raw materials, which is used during the production, from the blockchain and associate this data with a single key that represents the product and transfer the key to the “blockchain”. There are no servers, no authority, no security, but there is transparency.
You are confused, aren’t you? I can hear that you are considering and want to discuss how to secure your data with Blockchain, how it will comply with the rules imposed by the authorities, and your company’s internal security procedures. It’s not surprising. Everyone I’ve talked to about this issue, at first, disagrees and gets defensive with these arguments.
An Entertaining Example
Let’s get simple answers to the questions in mind with an entertaining example!
To your lover, you are writing an obviously private letter. Is it possible to be sure that the postman does not read your letter and respect your privacy? Unfortunately, it is very difficult to be sure of this. However, if you put your letter in a box that cannot be opened without a key and send it to your sweetheart, you can be sure that the postman will not be able to read it. Don’t forget to give the key to your lover too 🙂
The conclusion to be drawn from this example is that the traceability system installed 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.
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 Blockchain Traceability: Serialization
We shared a lot of information such as what product we produced, when and where we produced it, and much information with the blockchain network (Ethereum, Ripple, Corda, etc.) to provide traceability. So, how will our suppliers, customers, and end-users in our supply chain access this data? We called serialization the key because it is the answer to this question.
Serialization can be defined as the marking of each product in a production line with a different unique code. The most commonly used technologies for serialization are GS1 Datamatrix and QR code. However, we can also use techniques such as RFID, NFC, or 1D Barcode, taking into account the needs of our application, without depending on them. The important thing here is to present the key to be used to access the traceability data of the product, taking into account the user habits, to the supply chain.
The singularization of products, especially in high-speed production lines, creates a feeling of bottleneck in projects. The easiest way to overcome this feeling is to take a look at the development of traceability-oriented printing and image processing technologies. One of the products in the ink, carbon film transfer, and laser printing industries that have developed with the increase in 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 the vision inspection system.
What You Need to Do for a Blockchain-Based Traceability System
First of all, you need to determine the goals of the traceability system you want to design. While determining this target, you should analyze the expectations of the target markets (end-user, wholesaler, distributor, etc.) very well.
For example, if your target market is only a supermarket shopper, it will be sufficient for the traceability technology to provide information such as expiration date, production date, and nutritional value. However, if you think that the wholesaler channel should also benefit from this system, you will also need to provide information such as shelf life, package dimensions, and storage conditions.
We learned from our experiences that it is possible to 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 smaller parts. For example:
- Serialize your products first.
- Provide the consumer with the expiry date and production date with serialized products.
- Add useful information such as origin, package weight, nutritional values to the data set, which will be presented to the end consumer later.
- Include information such as large parcel weight, size, aggregation information, storage conditions, and storage time that may be useful to the distributor and wholesaler.
Be Realistic in Your Designs
Improve your designs with realistic scenarios, not assumptions. For instance, do not try to serialize directly after production on a damp or wet package stored in the cold chain. Work with subject matter experts to decide where the correct serialization should be done to avoid failure.
Aim for Maximum Integration
When constructing a traceability system, never exclude processes such as supply, production, storage, and shipment that have been going on for years within the company. 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 that implements centralized and distributed applications for traceability. Our expert staff in equipment, software and integration are always with you. Please contact us to get information about the blockchain-based traceability system.