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After an E. coli outbreak in Romaine lettuce made more than 200 people sick in April, Walmart defined a new stringent policy for its salad-based suppliers.
"All green leafy vegetable suppliers should be able to track their products on farms (according to production batch) in seconds, not days," the company said in a letter last week.
To do this, Walmart has introduced a new system for its suppliers that is powered by a highly publicized technology – blockchain.
"Today, Walmart and Sam & # 39; s Club have sent a letter to suppliers of fresh and leafy vegetables asking them to trace their products back to the farm using blockchain technology." Walmart stated in a press release. "The suppliers are expected to have all these systems within the next year".
Blockchain is a technology in which each computer contributes to a shared public ledger, allowing automated systems to function without a central authority. Blockchain technology is best known as the basis of bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that has undergone unexpected wild oscillations.
While bitcoin has become the most well-known application of blockchain technology, companies have experimented with alternative uses, including IBM's "Food Trust Solution", which uses blockchain technology to create a transparent and secure tracking system for # 39; food industry. The Walmart system uses IBM technology.
Managing the flow of goods and services around the world, known as "supply chain management", has been seen as a great opportunity for blockchain technology. Supply chains often require many companies to coordinate over long distances, creating complex systems that can be difficult to follow.
"Blockchain at this time turned out to be one of the real words in supply chain management," said Richard Young, a supply chain management professor at Penn State Harrisburg. "One of the things about blockchain is that all the participants are really owners of a piece of this thing, so when you talk about Walmart and you produce you have to think about a large number of suppliers." From the point of view of detection, it makes sense in my mind. "
Tobias Schoenherr, a supply chain management professor at Michigan State University, said that while it is still early for blockchain technology in the industry, early experiments have shown promising results.
"We are still exploring," said Schoenherr. "I think there's still a lot to learn to make it more mainstream, but I think overall it's here to stay."
A variety of other industries are also testing the blockchain's ability to help in areas such as ethical production, sustainability and banking. JPMorgan has recently implemented blockchain technology in an increase of 75 banks with the intention of quickly resolving the problems that normally involve payments between banks. A recent survey by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers found that 84% of companies are "actively involved" in blockchain technology.
William Mougayar, Chief Investment Officer of the blockchain investment company JM3 Capital, cautioned that the interest of the companies in the blockchain was not "a passing fad, but slightly overestimated today in terms of potential".
"The promoters' voices are increasing as engineers are working quietly on the difficult problems that need to be solved," Mougayar said. "If the promoters and the commercial segment rush to promise technology, an accident will happen."
Mayank Pratap Singh, co-founder of the IT services company EngineerBabu, echoed Mougayar, emphasizing that blockchain technology will take time to mature.
"We are at the dawn, as in 1995 for the Internet." Pratap said: "I think understanding the fundamental fundamentals of blockchain is important before implementing them for solutions."