The blockchain platform of IBM and Maersk recently unveiled TradeLens received a wave of attention from industry media. From what we can say, the conversation on TradeLens has been encouraged not so much by a breakthrough that represents TradeLens – after all, it is essentially a customized custom version of HyperLedger Fabric – but rather by IBM's massive public relations machine.
A critical look at the information that has been published on TradeLens so far raises some interesting questions. The first question concerns the apparent reluctance that the transport and maritime logistics community must adopt the technology. The now famous joint IBM-Maersk study that traced a chilled flower container from Kenya to Rotterdam and assessed the amount of documentation and hand changes needed was conducted in 2014, a lifetime ago in blockchain-years. That Maersk and IBM were developing a blockchain solution together was announced in spring 2017. Although this project has been under development for years, some major maritime operators have joined. The IBM press release truncates the participation of Hamburg Süd, for example, which appears to be a line of containers owned by Maersk . Most of the other participants are terminal operators or customs authorities.
The second question concerns the details of the technology, which, to be honest, have not been particularly imminent. One thing we know from the TradeLens site is that "the platform is provided by IBM Cloud to members around the world." TradeLens insists, however, that "Blockchain is the main technology that powers TradeLens, ensuring that data remains protected, authorized and distributed."
Anyone with a past familiarity with the blockchain would immediately ask how TradeLens data can be described as "distributed" if in fact the blockchain resides on IBM Cloud. If TradeLens lives on IBM servers, then IBM can alter the blockchain, block data, censor transactions, my information, etc. Therefore, some of the main advantages of blockchain – while simultaneously increasing security and cost removal using decentralization by eliminating trusted intermediaries – will never be realized by TradeLens.
Actually we think that some of the most interesting works in the blockchain / transport and logistics space are performed not by historical operators like IBM and Microsoft, but by a heterogeneous group of startups. Companies such as dexFreight, Fr8 Network, Block Array, Slync and ShipChain – all members of the Blockchain in the Transport Alliance – are experimenting with a series of technological compromises, business problems and go-to-market strategies. In the interaction between these start-ups, industry watchers and technology enthusiasts can evaluate the choices made and the underlying reasons, and watch the industry evolve much more quickly than it does in an older company. decades.
Slync, for example, has a team of developers at the Salesforce Einstein AI project and focuses on reducing costs by automating workflows. Blockchain is only 5-10% of what Slync does, according to CEO Chris Kirchner, but the company is actively piloting licensed blockchain solutions that tend to have a limited number of nodes allowing a group of five or six companies to collaborate. Block Array, on the other hand, has built its technology on the public etereum network without authorization and has already released a product called Freight Trust that replaces paperload policies with smart contracts. Another company, Block Shipping, has a similar purpose as it is building a project with a particular niche. The Danish startup wants to create a global container ID and claim that each container will have a globally unique ID and that it will be useful to symbolize those containers as resources.
There is also a range of financing models for startups working in space. Slync raised money from venture capitalists and large investors just like a traditional technology startup, while ShipChain made a token pre-sale, bringing in $ 30M for SHIP token. dexFreight has completed a family friend and angel to begin, and hopes to make an STO ("token security offer") in the coming months, when the Securities Exchange Commission will find a STO model that it likes and approves it . A security token represents ordinary shares or shares in a company and would be separated from the utility token that powers the network, regulates payments, and encourages participation. STOs could be the best of both worlds, allowing a startup to raise capital efficiently without additional costs for IPO compliance, while protecting the utility token that manages the network from the volatility arising from being traded on secondary markets.