BNSF Railway Co. said today it has joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), an industry group created to guide the development of blockchain-based data-sharing software in the transportation industry.
Blockchain first gained notice as the foundation of the Bitcoin digital currency, but has since found applications in industries from banking to healthcare to transportation. The technology creates a "distributed ledger" of information that can be accessed by all members of a particular blockchain, preventing any individual company from making changes to the data without the approval of the majority of partners in a transaction.
Fort Worth, Texas-based BNSF becomes the first Class I railroad to join the group, and will cooperate with a range of companies including UPS Inc., FedEx Corp., SAP SE, McLeod Software, Trimble, and TransRisk, the railroad said. BiTA has 205 active members, while another 350 applications have been received and the applicants are in the process of being on-boarded before joining, according to Craig Fuller, the group's co-founder. About 1,200 applications have been filed to join the group. It is the largest industry-specific blockchain association, according to Fuller.
The group also includes a wide range of third-party logistics providers (3PLs), carriers, and shippers, as well as banks, insurance companies, and technology vendors, according to BiTA. Together, those member companies intend to create open standards for applying blockchain technology to create secure databases of logistics values and transactions.
The partners are working to define what data goes into the freight transportation blockchain, how that data is formatted, how the data is structured, and in what cases blockchain would be used, BNSF said.
"Blockchain technology has the potential to change several aspects of the transportation industry, and it is important that the industry comes together to align around a set of standards," Muru Murugappan, BNSF's vice president of technology services and chief information officer, said in a statement.