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Ford, IBM collaborates to track cobalt with blockchain

Dive Brief:

  • Ford and IBM, together with other partners, are experimenting with a blockchain solution that will allow the cobalt to be tracked from the mine to the end user, according to a press release from the company.
  • They have collaborated with companies at every stage of the supply chain, including a mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with the goal of creating a "blockchain platform that could be used to track and validate a range of minerals used in consumer products. . "
  • "Initially, the miner – in this case Huayou – will add the data in the blockchain to the point the cobalt is bagged and labeled, "Hannah Slocum, an IBM spokeswoman told Supply Chain Dive in an e-mail." For key events such as merging, refining, etc., the corresponding inputs and outputs are added to the blockchain"He said that shipping events are also included in the ledger.

Dive Insight:

This blockchain implementation of IBM, Ford, Huayou Cobalt, LG Chem and RCS Global is an attempt to provide more transparency in a supply chain "that previously had none", said Slocum.

Cobalt demand is expected to increase eight-fold from current levels by 2026, as it is required for batteries in everything from smartphones to electric vehicles, IBM said, but the mineral has ethical concerns. In 2012, UNICEF estimated that 40,000 children worked in the Congo mines, which are known cobalt production sites, according to a Washington Post report.

"With a trusted participant placing source data on the blockchain … participants in the supply chain can know the percentage of cobalt checked to meet the guidelines and in turn can guarantee their downstream partners who are following these guidelines" said Slocum.

IBM plans to make the solution more widely available for tracking and validation of materials after the pilot, which plans to complete bin mid-2019. It will also use Hyperledger Fabric from the Linux Foundation. "The record is automatically updated every time a transaction is recorded and made visible to authorized participants in real time," said Slocum.

IBM announced a partnership with MineHub the same day he announced his driver with Ford. IBM and MineHub will focus on creating a solution for the mining supply chain using blockchain, according to a press release.

The pilot with Ford is not the first blockchain project that IBM announced with a Fortune 500 company. The technology company began collaborating with Walmart last year on a blockchain project to monitor the leafy greens. This was done in an attempt to know better where orders come from and avoid batches that could cause foodborne illnesses. But some people are skeptical about the ability to blockchain to be really much better than a traditional online database.

"You can manufacture blockchain is as simple as anything else, "Sarah Taber, an independent food safety consultant performing food safety audits on farms across the country, he told the Supply Chain Dive last year. "It's treated as a guarantee and it's not like that, it's just a ledger where the voices are held."

Blockchain also does not protect from what happens to the physical product. A can of lettuce could still be opened and replaced with something else, as the New York Times pointed out in a story on the same effort as Walmart.

Changing the information inside the blockchain, however, is difficult and one of the points highlighted by IBM.

"In an authorized blockchain network, which is what we announced, the participants are known the one with the other, so there was a bad actor who was trying to alter the ledger, the actions could be easily seen by the other participants, "said Slocum. "In addition, if fraudulent, or even accidental, activities occur" off-chain ", the system will show an incomplete chain, giving the network an insight into where a problem might occur so that it can be addressed. ensure that the data on the blockchain retain its integrity. "

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