Blockchain - what is it about?

In recent years, distribution and associated transport routes have become more and more complex, mainly due to globalisation. This also leads to a lack of transparency. It is becoming more and more difficult to know where which product is or has been when. Partners in the supply chain exchange information more or less reliably and promptly. This can be supported e.g. by contracts and other agreements or also interfaces to goods management systems. Unfortunately, the latter are often very different, also in terms of performance, security and validity.

Here the so-called blockchain processes and technologies could help. In principle, this is nothing more than an electronic log or transaction book, with a growing list of entries. These are called blocks. And the growing list becomes a chain of blocks. Of course, the blocks must be designed as secure as possible, ideally with the same technology. For this fixed rules are needed, like e.g.

  • Cryptographically protected entries (incl. time stamp)
  • Decentralized data storage via a network (with a so-called peer-to-peer network)
  • Clearly defined access rules
  • Validated systems

Advantages and disadvantages

The obvious goal is to ensure greater security and transparency in the supply chain. In the end, every authorised person can trace where and when the goods were stored and which transition points existed. This makes it also considerably more difficult for counterfeit goods to enter the supply chain.

One challenge is certainly the technology. The peer-to-peer network is limited if technologies are not harmonised or a supply chain becomes too complex (with too many interfaces).

Now, several large health insurance companies have announced a collaboration to utilize blockchain technology to "improve transparency and interoperability in the health care industry" and "address a range of industry challenges, including promoting efficient claims and payment processing, to enable secure and frictionless healthcare information exchanges, and to maintain current and accurate provider directories."

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