Amid the pain points around blockchain as a fledgling technology, skeptics and even some pragmatic proponents sometimes offer the refrain that “blockchain is a solution in search of a problem.”
Reasonable people can disagree on that suggestion, but one thing is clear: blockchain and associated innovations are far from catch-all solutions to every problem, yet big companies are increasingly exploring these technologies for where they seem poised to offer new kinds of operational optimizations.
To that end, the ecosystem saw a spate of headlines this week that suggests such high-profile enterprise blockchain explorations are, indeed, accelerating.
Walmart Wants Help Automating Delivery Functions
On November 14th, the Canadian arm of Walmart announced it had worked with blockchain startup DLT Labs to create a blockchain-powered tool that could automate various activities pertaining to delivery logistics, with the companies hailing it as the “[f]irst enterprise full production blockchain solution launched at a large scale for a mission-critical function to date.”
Specifically, the new system will be used to “track deliveries, verify transactions, and automate payments and reconciliation among Walmart Canada and its carriers which deliver inventory to over 400 retail stores across Canada annually,” the builders said.
Stakeholders will be able to access the solution through a mobile app or via web starting on February 1st, 2020. John Bayliss, Walmart Canada’s senior vice president of logistics and supply chain, said of the new project.
“Blockchain is enabling a material advance in our smart transportation network, with expedited payments, extensive cost savings and other benefits among our supply chain. Moreover, this degree of improved efficiency represents a powerful platform for us to continue to reduce our environmental footprint and continue our leadership in environmental sustainability.”
Of course, the chance ever remains that Walmart will expand the system beyond just Canada if its initial months prove fruitful.
Nestle and Carrefour Turn to IBM Food Trust Blockchain
Also on November 14th, French retail giant Carrefour and Swiss food and drink powerhouse Nestlé revealed they had signed on with the IBM Food Trust platform to use its blockchain to track the logistical details of baby milk products.
“Blockchain technology enhances transparency and advances the food transition for extremely high-quality products, which parents expect for infant nutrition,” Carrefour said.
Accordingly, the meld will allow consumers to scan product QR codes with their mobile devices so as to directly inspect the logistical metadata of the underlying products “from dairy to shelf.”
“For Nestle and … this innovative blockchain technology creates a new benchmark for transparency and the high standards of care required to ensure the quality of their products,” Carrefour added.
For its part, IBM was notably in cryptoeconomy headlines last month for sponsoring a report that found that central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) are likely coming in the next several years.
Alibaba Arm Tests Its Own Blockchain
Enterprise blockchain adoption is surely not just isolated to the West, either.
For example, this week Ant Financial — a subsidiary of the massive, multi-faceted Chinese company Alibaba Group — has launched the testing phase of its in-house blockchain network, which is set to go live after three months and will cater to helping businesses optimize their operations.
“While the blockchain is open to developers and institutions from all over the world, we will be cautious in terms of selecting nodes on the platform,” Ant Financial’s technology director Jieli Li noted.
Accordingly, Alibaba does not have its own direct blockchain plans for now, but one of its subsidiaries is exploring how blockchain can be used to boost retail operations, which is certainly of great interest to Alibaba. If the project proves successful, Alibaba would undoubtedly pay closer attention.