project44 is proud to sponsor the Transparency 2018 conference, and helped kick off the event today by presenting a demonstration. This demo showcased a possible application of Blockchain technology in the LTL shipment lifecycle that currently leverages an API foundation for automation and visibility.
Focusing on key milestones, documentation, and the transfer of assets during the LTL shipment lifecycle, the demonstration illustrated how APIs can automate the addition of information and documents to a Blockchain that will provide a transparent, immutable record of an LTL shipment.
The buzz around blockchain technology is palpable. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re a part of—if you work in a sector that touches technology at all, you’ve probably noticed blockchain being featured more and more heavily at conferences or in trade publications. There’s good reason for the hype—blockchain is an exciting technology—but not many people understand it, and industries are still figuring out how they can use it. It has been of particular interest in transportation and logistics, so let’s look at what blockchain is, what it can do for logistics, and what we need to do in order to take full advantage of it.
What is Blockchain?
Blockchain is a digital ledger technology capable of recording transactions and storing their data across many computers. This means the data is not stored in one single location, but shared across a peer-to-peer network, and that the blocks of information are immutable, and cannot be altered retroactively. It’s an excellent way to ensure information symmetry, as transactional data can only be accepted into the blockchain once a kind of consensus is reached. Once the data has been verified, it is added to a block of information tied to the rest of the blocks in a series, creating a “chain” of information, or a history of transactions.
The most well-known use of blockchain technology today is cryptocurrency—like Bitcoin or Ethereum. In fact, many people incorrectly believe that cryptocurrency and blockchain are the same thing, when in reality, cryptocurrency is just one of many possible applications of blockchain technology. Many industries are taking notice, and starting to figure out ways to implement blockchain technology.
Blockchain for Transportation and Logistics
Blockchain has a lot of potential within the logistics space. It’s outstanding for digital record keeping, and sharing transactional information across multiple systems. With that in mind, the obvious use within trucking would be to record transactions and RFPs. Thanks to its accuracy and traceability, blockchain technology will be helpful in matching rate quotes to invoices, and managing potential discrepancies between them. Individual stages of a shipment can be recorded in a blockchain as well, like proof of delivery for example. It can even go as far as to record things that modify transactions like accessorials.
APIs Are Necessary to Implement Blockchain for Logistics
The potential is clearly there, and although the industry isn’t completely certain how it will implement a technology like blockchain, it makes sense to start preparing for it. That means creating a modern technology infrastructure so that you’ll be able to support blockchain—along with other revolutionary technologies—when the time comes.
All of the next big, game-changing technologies in this industry rely on adopting a modern technological infrastructure. Developments like IoT, big data analytics, and blockchain require the transfer of consistent, normalized data in real-time in order to function effectively and efficiently. Pertinent information must be added to the blockchain somehow, and that somehow is APIs. You can’t achieve that level of information with EDI or SMC3, which don’t allow for consistently up-to-date, accurate information. Instead, you need to leverage the speed and efficiency of API technology to ensure things like blockchain or IoT are receiving the information they need to function at their highest levels. Building a modern technology infrastructure with APIs now will ensure that you’re able to connect to and leverage blockchain technology in the simplest way possible once it’s readily available in the industry.
Blockchain Connectivity and Integration
APIs are already facilitating the transfer of data in the transportation and logistics industry. They serve as connections for disparate systems, and enable information to be transferred in real-time. APIs are the technology enable automation and visibility, and the the building blocks of digitization. They also make integration simpler. This same technology can be used to add information to a blockchain, as well as access the information already stored. Essentially, APIs are the gateway to accessing blockchain, and they already have a practical application within the transportation and logistics industry. Building a modern infrastructure based on APIs is the best strategy to ensure your company is competitive on a technological level for the foreseeable future.