Solving plant problems with industrial-strength blockchain

Jan. 24, 2018
Sheila Kennedy examines how remote and predictive maintenance gets a boost via “smart contract” technology.

The increasingly digitalized industrial space is a prime candidate for deployment of blockchain technology. Operations and maintenance organizations depend on efficient and secure collaboration among trustworthy suppliers and partners. Blockchain replaces human risk factors and paper transactions with a shared, synchronized, tamper-resistant digital database or “distributed ledger” that provides end-to-end encryption, streamlines cross-organizational and cross-border logistics, and improves traceability and accountability. Originally conceived for “smart contracts,” blockchain now has the potential to solve industrial business problems.

Application initiatives

IBM recently announced it is collaborating with a consortium of major food suppliers and retailers to tackle food safety and transparency challenges using the IBM Blockchain Platform. The collaboration “enables participants to exchange data that could include farm origination details, batch numbers, manufacturing and plant processing data, temperature, expiration dates, and shipping details,” says Brigid McDermott, vice president of blockchain at IBM. “This information is digitally recorded on the blockchain,” she adds.

When information is digitally recorded “from farm to fork” and a grower, manufacturer, or retailer becomes aware of an issue, participants can “quickly identify the root of the problem and surgically address it in a manner that is better for consumers and the supply chain,” explains McDermott.

For the distributed, heavily regulated transportation industry, Ericsson developed a rail-use case for its Blockchain Data Integrity service on GE’s Predix platform. It addresses the governance and auditability of remote rail asset installation and maintenance, as well as the integrity of field-service work orders. The microservice ensures that “data captured during field inspections and/or from IoT systems is reliable and consistent, even as it is transferred across systems.”

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