20 years ago, the innovations we now have in the transport sector would seem crazy. Though cryptocurrencies are equally important, it is the blockchain technology that supports them that is changing the transport sector. With several applications in various sectors of industry, it is not surprising that blockchain is being used in transportation.
What Is A Blockchain?
To put it simply, when a transaction is made (buying or selling cryptocurrencies), it is recorded on a digital ledger and timestamped. These ledgers can be grouped and stored in blocks that are connected to each other. The links between blocks are created through cryptography and this ensures the data stored cannot be tampered with. These blocks, linked together, make up a blockchain. A blockchain is similar to a bank; It stores cryptocurrencies that are used to trade physical goods. But unlike traditional banks, blockchains do not play the middleman role. Buyers and sellers are connected directly. Blockchains offer several advantages over banks such as security and low transaction costs.
Ways cryptocurrency is changing up the transport sector:
Blockchains, and by extension cryptocurrency, have had significant impacts in several sectors of industry. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are used to generate revenues in sports; smart contracts are used by financial institutions to secure documents.
1. Improved freight tracking
To meet customers’ demand for on-time and same-day delivery, transport companies have invested heavily in tracking technology. Despite this, customer needs are difficult to satisfy and the technologies are inadequate. The primary reason is the difficulty in authenticating data. There is also the risk of data misinterpretation or manipulation. In a blockchain, the entire network contributes and validates data. Due to the total participation, data authentication is easy. Blockchains also eliminate the risk of data being tampered with.
2. Increased efficiency through the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI
In 2017, Swiss firm SkyCell fitted Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to freight containers containing temperature-sensitive biopharmaceuticals. The sensors were used to monitor temperature, humidity and location which were then recorded on a blockchain. Through accurate, real-time records of the monitored signals, the company was able to keep the temperature-deviation rate below 0.1% Using IoT and AI technology, companies like SkyCell can monitor environment-sensitive products and keep records on the blockchain. The information can then be used to make necessary adjustments to the freight containers. DB Shenker announced its partnership with SkyCell in a tweet. The partnership would see SkyCell using its temperature-controlled containers for Covid-19 vaccine distribution.
3. Streamline transport supply chain
Information about goods like vehicle spare parts can be stored on blockchains. The information which includes past owners and supply trail would help buyers decide the best products to purchase. Blockchains would also eliminate the need for middlemen.
4. Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) Communication
Some companies have implemented Vehicle to Vehicle Communication in their fleets. Through V2V, freight vehicles can communicate and exchange information easily, increasing fuel efficiency and safety. Information from vehicles can be stored on a blockchain and remain visible to all. Once validated, the information cannot be manipulated or replaced, creating a reliable database. The records can then help transport companies streamline their operations.
5. Reduce paperwork
The backbone of the transport sector is logistics and logistics requires storing a lot of data. Besides being a time-consuming process, logistics requires much paperwork such as granting access to products and approving customer requests. Blockchain automates the process and keeps data collected in digital form. It is more secure and accurate.
6. Reliable load boards
It is quite common for freight brokers to store a load on multiple boards. This duplicates the data and makes the load boards unreliable. The data also loses its integrity and would often be ignored. Unlike brokers, a blockchain is less prone to errors. It timestamps all loads to increase security and ensure loads are not duplicated.
7. Smart contracts
A smart contract is a program coded into a blockchain that executes automatically if a condition is met. In the transport sector, it is applied in the paying of bills, fees and filling forms. If a shipper were to be paid once the shipment reaches the destination, the company can use a smart contract to do this. Using real-time records on the blockchain to monitor the shipment, the smart contract would pay the shipper when it reaches its destination. Smart contracts would make tasks possible without the usual administrative steps. This would cut costs and reduce chances for fraud and errors.
8. Faster clearance at customs checkpoints
With the use of smart contracts, the processing time of goods at checkpoints is lessened. Approvals would be quicker and more efficient.
What are the risks?
The transportation industry has several benefits to gain by adopting blockchain technology. However, the technology also has some risks. A blockchain is immutable, which means once data is entered it cannot be changed. This attribute could backfire if incorrect data is entered. Also, blockchains maintain security through the use of a private key. A damaged or missing private key cannot be replaced. If this happens, there would be a massive permanent loss of data. The transport sector is no stranger to new technology but some are wary. The Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) has been the standard industry system for over 30 years. Yet, there is no central EDI standard. There are various versions of the standard which have created many of the problems blockchain technology is trying to fix. Due to this, some believe blockchains would simply add to the problem rather than solve it. However, blockchain technology is still evolving. As it evolves, many of the flaws of the technology would be overcome. Considering the various innovations going on in the crypto space, we could see blockchain being fully implemented in the transport sector in future.