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Global shipping leaders join IBM and Maersk blockchain platform

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Two of the world’s largest container carriers announced a full integration onto IBM and Maersk’s TradeLens blockchain platform. CMA CGM, a French container and shipping company, along with MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company have joined the TradeLens network to enable a complete digital transformation of their supply chains.

Marvin Erdly, head of TradeLens for IBM Blockchain, told Cointelegraph that as supply chains become digitized, manual paper-based processes, like processing bills of lading, are removed from the equation. “These processes are now embedded in blockchain networks and smart contracts that are trusted by all parties involved,” he said.

Erdly further shared that both CMA CGM and MSC, together with Maersk, will act as platform foundation carriers by running nodes on the TradeLens network. These organizations will validate transactions across the network, ensuring that documents shared between participants are authentic and valid.

The addition of CMA CGM and MSC also brings data from nearly half of the world’s ocean container cargo to the TradeLens network, which has already tracked 30 million container shipments and roughly 13 million published documents since its launch in 2018.

COVID-19 highlights need for blockchain-based supply chains

While it’s notable that CMA CGM and MSC have joined the TradeLens network, this also demonstrates how the coronavirus pandemic has prompted the need for digitized supply chains.

According to Erdly, automating complex business-to-business processes have become more important than ever before due to the pandemic. In order to ensure the future success of the global supply chain, which is a $50 trillion dollar industry, blockchain is slowly but surely becoming a necessary component:

“The initial challenge faced by the TradeLens network was reaching a critical mass. The more entities we have on the network, the more valuable the network becomes. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the platform into having a critical mass. Other entities will now want to join, ultimately creating a network effect. This is why CMA CGM and MSC joining is such an important milestone.”

By joining TradeLens, CMA CGM and MSC will be able to digitally share permissioned shipment information between supply chain entities. The platform, which is powered by IBM Blockchain and IBM Cloud, makes it possible for entities to access data, while keeping sensitive information private for organizations. This provides network participants with a comprehensive, transparent view of data as cargo moves around the world.

As Don Tapscott writes is his book, Supply Chain Revolution, this in turn opens up the internet of value, where assets can finally be moved digitally between parties:

“Blockchain can enable the digital handling of trade documents, such as purchase orders and bills of lading. Near real-time sharing and verification of trade documents on the blockchain will also help streamline the process of asset tracking and offer freight forwarders visibility.”

Ultimately, blockchain presents an important business opportunity for companies working with multiple entities, as it brings transparency, trust and collaboration to complex processes that typically rely on paper documents. For example, an important milestone in the process of onboarding CMA CGM and MSC was a 15-customer pilot involving more than 3,000 unique consignments,100,000 events and 6,000 containers. This pilot demonstrated how the TradeLens platform distributes and shares shipment data across various supply chains with speed and accuracy.

Andre Simha, global chief digital and information officer for MSC, noted that TradeLens is an important initiative in the digitalization of global shipping and logistics, mentioning the platform clearly has the potential to help carriers and their customers increase transparency and reduce errors and delays. “This all comes at a crucial time when the industry is re-thinking and improving the resiliency of supply chains,” he said. Simha further noted that by integrating with TradeLens, the company can begin to show their customers and business partners how they can create value using a blockchain platform.

Ironically enough, getting customers to understand the value of a blockchain network should become easier due to the pandemic. Vincent Clerc, CEO of ocean and logistics for A.P. Moller-Maersk said that the TradeLens ecosystem is indeed gaining momentum during a time when customers and supply chain stakeholders are increasingly turning to digital and online solutions. Clerc noted that organizations are beginning to see the value of digital products and platforms for keeping supply chains flowing during lockdowns that have complicated manual and physical interactions between stakeholders in the logistics value chain.

Clerc further noted that since the pandemic began, Maersk has seen a 27% percent increase in mobile business transactions on the Maersk app. “In a world now where resilience is king, TradeLens has an important role to play in terms of providing supply chain resilience and in increasing the customer experience through increased visibility,” he remarked.

Blockchain brings value to supply chains

Overall, it’s become clear that blockchain will continue to play an important role in the digitization of supply chains. This has become even more apparent due to COVID-19.

“This further validates the notion that blockchain is here to stay, as it’s becoming a critical element for businesses that need to transact across multiple entities,” said Erdly. Erdly also pointed out that TradeLens has continued to scale over the years, noting recent additions of new ports and terminals joining the platform. Growth should continue, as a network effect is closer to being achieved now that CMA CGM and MSC are live on the platform.



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Blockchain is still far from maturity, says China’s former IT minister

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Wu Zhongze, China’s former vice-minister for Science and Technology and a well-known digital economics expert, believes that blockchain technology is still quite young.

During an interview with The Paper, the former IT minister also stated that there was still “not much difference between where China and leading economies such as the United States and Europe” stand in terms of developing blockchain-based ecosystems.

Wu noted, however, that China has improved across a number of sectors that are necessary for blockchain development, including hardware manufacturing, platform and security services, industry investment, and financial development, adding:

“With the innovative development of blockchain technology and industry, its application is accelerating, and the scale of the industry continues to increase. This field is expected to become a new economic growth point in the future.”

In what he called the “rapid advancement” of China’s blockchain infrastructure, the former minister stated that distributed technology will bring new opportunities to integrate and develop new technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, data centers, and the industrial Internet.

A recent report by Securities Daily explained how China’s publicly-listed companies spend the millions they have allocated toward blockchain R&D.

The study surveyed 23 companies in China who began working with blockchain back in 2016. Figures suggest that companies allocate an average 20% of their annual revenues toward such purposes. The majority of these funds are spent to further government-related solutions.



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Blockstack PBC changes its name to ‘Hiro’

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Blockchain software firm Blockstack PBC announced that it will be changing its name to “Hiro Systems PBC.”

Muneeb Ali, co-founder and CEO of Blockstack, told Cointelegraph that the team plans to focus on a narrower set of priorities once the stacks 2.0 mainnet launches — something they believe has the potential to unlock an “immense amount of value and possibility”:

“We’ll narrow our focus to building tools for developers that are building apps and smart contracts on Bitcoin. This is enabled by the fact that the ecosystem around Stacks has matured (…) With key functions being taken care of by other organizations, PBC will no longer need to spend the majority of its time at the ecosystem growth or pubic infrastructure (blockchain) layer.”

In a previous interview, Ali said that the best way to bring about a user-owned internet “is to anchor applications and smart contracts to the Bitcoin network in a way that uses Bitcoin as a reserve currency and its powerful blockchain as a security mechanism.”

In June, Algorand and Blockstack launched a joint open-source project to support the development of a smart contract language dubbed “Clarity.” Both companies claimed that existing smart contract languages are neither secure nor predictable enough to meet the growing needs of the emerging industry.



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South Korean telecom launches blockchain wallet for official documents

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The South Korean telecom giant SK Telecom has announced it will issue its first digital wallet for blockchain-powered digital certificate storage and management with the approval of the Ministry of Public Administration and Security.

According to NewsTomato, SK’s Wallet is compatible with the ministry’s own Government24 digital certificate initiative, which promotes the use of electronic certificate issuance and distribution systems in South Korea in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SK Telecom’s digitalized public certificates include copies of resident registration cards, health insurance qualification certificates, immigration certificates, among other documents previously issued on paper and signed by hand. They will be now issued through a mobile app backed by blockchain technology.

Certificates issued through the Government24 app can be received in the SK’s wallet and later submitted to public entities, financial institutions, and private companies as electronic documents.

In the initial stage, 13 types of certificates will be compatible with the wallet, but at the end of the year, SK Telecom plans to make it compatible with “a total of 100 types” of certificates, including tax-related documents.

Oh Se-hyun, head of SK Telecom’s Blockchain & Certification Business Division, argued that blockchain is an essential technology in a society that is “rapidly changing due to the need for non-face-to-face solutions where we need innovation in the process of submitting and processing certificates centered on paper documents and manual work.”

He also highlighted the security advantages that the technology could bring to such processes.

Recently, it was revealed that one million South Koreans have foregone their physical drivers licenses in favor of a blockchain-powered digital alternative used in conjunction with the PASS smartphone app.

This represents more than 3% of the entire driving population in South Korea, which sat at 32.6 million licensed drivers in 2019 according to Statista.



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