Transport and logistics giant UPS Inc. said today it has joined the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance (BiTA), an industry group created to guide the development of blockchain-based data-security software in the transportation industry.
Blockchain software is best known as the technological foundation of the Bitcoin digital currency, but it can be applied to any business sector with a need to ensure that data is quickly and securely shared. The technology works by ensuring that no single user can alter an electronic record without the approval of all parties involved in a transaction.
UPS joined the BiTA group to explore how it could apply blockchain in its customs brokerage business, the company said. Blockchain technology could help digitize those customs brokerage transactions by improving accuracy and by replacing existing paper-heavy and manual processes, according to UPS.
Trading partners can reach those goals by using blockchain as a digital database that can keep a record of any information or asset by using information "blocks" that are linked by secure cryptography, UPS said. In logistics, those assets could be either physical items like transportation containers or virtual items like digital currencies, according to UPS.
"Blockchain has multiple applications in the logistics industry, especially related to supply chains, insurance, payments, audits, and customs brokerage," Linda Weakland, UPS director of enterprise architecture and innovation, said in a statement. "The technology has the potential to increase transparency and efficiency among shippers, carriers, brokers, consumers, vendors, and other supply chain stakeholders."
BiTA members collaborate to pursue those goals by developing a standards framework, educating the market on blockchain applications, and encouraging the use of those applications through successful implementations, according to the BiTA website. UPS and its Coyote Logistics division will join other alliance members including TransRisk, McLeod Software Corp., PS Logistics, 10-4 Systems Inc., TMW Systems Inc., and Convoy, BiTA said.
In addition to the BiTA consortium, other companies throughout the logistics sector are working on independent blockchain projects.
One forum known as the "Trusted IoT Alliance" includes members like Robert Bosch GmbH, Cisco Systems Inc., and Gemalto NV who are cooperating in setting standards to boost the adoption of blockchain software and internet of things (IoT) networks.
Other examples of blockchain applications in logistics include initiatives by Danish shipping giant Maersk Line to digitize its trade data with help from software providers IBM Corp. and SAP SE, and a plan by food vendors Nestlé Unilever and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to tackle food safety challenges with blockchain software.