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Combined with IoT, blockchain can fight COVID

Most people at least know that blockchain is the technology on which bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are built, but a digital ledger that timestamps and orders transactions in an easily traceable and immutable way has many more uses. .

In this third article in PYMNTS’ Blockchain in Action series, we’ll look at how the Internet of Things (IoT) can be combined with blockchain technology to make supply chain management much more effective, efficient, and secure.

Read more: Blockchain in action: how to track everything in real time

See also: Blockchain in action: TradeLens connects shipping, customs and trade finance

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 10% of all pharmaceuticals in the global supply chain are counterfeit.

Two years ago, Singapore-based Zuellig Pharma teamed up with the world’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck to test eZTracker, a blockchain-based tracking system designed to spot counterfeit and expired pharmaceuticals, starting with its human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, Gardasil. The system has also been used to track COVID vaccines to ensure they haven’t expired.

The system is quite simple and works like many blockchain supply chain systems: scannable QR codes are attached to each dose and carton of vaccine, which is scanned at each scheduled stop and the information is uploaded to the blockchain, where the data cannot be changed. or deleted, and is visible to everyone in the system.

Read also: PYMNTS Crypto Basics Series: What is a Blockchain and how does it work?

But when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, the problems are getting worse. Vaccines expire quickly and some need to be kept at extremely low temperatures – as low as -70 degrees – at all times.

This is where the Internet of Things (IoT) comes in. By adding data from RFID-equipped temperature gauges – which are small and cheap enough to attach to each box – the blockchain can track not only where the vaccines are, but also that they haven’t been spoiled. by high temperatures. And, they can be tracked in real time.

Zeullig, which has a cold storage transport system called eZCooler that can be combined with its blockchain tracker, has combined the two.

No empty shelves

While vaccines and other medicines are a matter of life and death, the same system can be – and has been – applied to milk and products that need to be kept cool to avoid spoilage. It works well enough that companies can spot trucks with failing refrigeration systems on the road, before the driver even knows.

And IoT devices can measure other things like GPS location.

The usefulness of the same RFID trackers does not end once the product has reached the end of the supply chain. Uploading IoT data to a blockchain can alert warehouse and retail store managers when a product’s supply is low. And using the blockchain’s self-executing smart contracts can even be programmed to command more before it runs out without being told.

Read more: PYMNTS DeFi series: what is a smart contract?

“Supply chains must meet several objectives: high levels of customer satisfaction, profitability targets, and resilience to disruption,” wrote Vishal Gaur, Emerson Professor of Manufacturing Management at SC Johnson College of Business in Cornell, in the Harvard Business Review in December 2021.

Add in factors like sustainable sourcing and fair wage data, and “until recently, the cost of achieving all of these goals was exorbitant, forcing organizations to make trade-offs,” Gaur said. “However, analytics combined with the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain technology is rapidly making these goals achievable.”

Which is good, because laws in the United States and European Union “will soon require companies to track the movement of their products, keep records of that movement to prove their identity, and measure the environmental impact of activities throughout the supply chain”. he added.

Walmart Canada has combined blockchain and IoT technology to reduce billing disputes with third-party trucking logistics companies from 70% to less than 5%, Gaur noted.

Beyond the movement

There are many other ways to use the blockchain-IoT partnership.

Glasgow’s Scottish Universities Environmental Research Center (SUERC) tested 50 bottles of rare and expensive whiskey in 2018 and found 21 to be fake or labeled as older than they were. Two years later, he partnered with Everledger to create a blockchain system that attached tamper-proof NFC tags to whiskey bottles at the distillery and uploaded the data to a blockchain, providing authentication for stores and auction houses. at auction.

In Taiwan, energy distributor TaiPower has attached blockchain-based, IoT-enabled solar energy meters to its solar panel fields, allowing the company to avoid dispatching staff during the COVID lockdown.



About: PYMNTS’ survey of 2,094 consumers for The Tailored Shopping Experience report, a collaboration with Elastic Path, shows where merchants are succeeding and where they need to up their game to deliver a personalized shopping experience.

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