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Blockchain Newsletter for June: COVID-19 spurs blockchain innovation

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blockchain pulseWelcome to the first issue of Blockchain News You Can Use. We hope to become a “must read” among the hundreds of news sources you have at your fingertips.

What makes us different? Each month we will focus on one or two critical topics, crystallizing the news coverage into a quick read about what’s important to you in the blockchain industry. We’ll also point you to curated resources that can help you learn more about this emerging technology. It’s a rapidly evolving space, and we’ll help you stay in the know.

Blockchain in the news

COVID-19 spurs blockchain innovation across data sharing, cryptocurrency and the supply chain

As you well know, blockchain adoption has been advancing even before the coronavirus pandemic. Now, it’s a platform for rapid innovation as organizations around the world look for trusted ways to share data, ensure privacy, distribute funds and jumpstart medical supply chains. The urgency around finding solutions is sweeping aside roadblocks to blockchain like getting participants “to agree on IP rights, governance and business models,” says Harvard Business Review.

Learn how innovative companies and individuals use blockchain for social good

The result is new cooperation between the public and private entities with an interest in using trusted data to track the pandemic and intervention effectiveness. With lives at stake, decisions must be evidence based. One such project, MiPasa, was launched by the World Health Organization, with support from Oracle, Hacera, Microsoft and IBM, among others. MiPasa provides validated data and analytics tools so researchers can use big data and AI to monitor trends and forecast outbreaks. Patient privacy is a key consideration, particularly when it comes to track-and-trace efforts. Academics and developers at University of Cape Town in South Africa think blockchain is the answer.

Meanwhile, the blockchain community is actively raising and distributing funds for COVID-19 relief efforts. In addition to many individuals and companies, CoinDesk, Consensys, Gitcoin and The Giving Block have partnered to use an innovative mathematical formula for distributing matching grants to the causes that are most favored by citizen donors. Funds will go directly to charities serving on the frontline of the global pandemic.

IBM is also contributing to relief efforts. An early and persistent pandemic problem has been the shortage of ventilators and other critical equipment along with supplies such as masks, face shields and protective coverings. As manufacturers pivoted their production lines to fill the gaps, IBM launched the Rapid Supplier Connect blockchain-based solution to link new, fully vetted suppliers with qualified buyers and help with rapid onboarding of both. Early joiners included Northwell Health and The Worldwide Supply Chain Federation. If you’re interested in hearing more about the solution, a panel discussion with Rapid Supplier Connect suppliers talking about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it is available to view on demand.

What’s more, the pandemic is putting a strain on the global food supply chain. As workers fall ill, processors shut down, farmers lose their markets and retailers wrestle with product shortages. To help supply chain participants find new certified partners faster, we are making blockchain-based IBM Food Trust Documents available at no charge through 20 August 2020. Read our next story to learn more about blockchain in the food supply chain.

Can you trust what you eat?

Only if you’re sure it’s been safely handled at every step from farm to table. Blockchain is proving to be the ideal technology for tracking food supply chains, managing food safety and validating trusted sourcing. Trust in the food supply chain is critical to food producers, distributors, retailers and consumers alike.

That’s in part because food recalls are continuing to climb, with both public health and economics impacted when contaminated food products have to be pulled from the shelves. Direct costs have been estimated between $10 million and $30 million per recall, and that does not include indirect costs like decreased sales, reputational damage, brand crisis management and possibility of litigation.

By tracking products throughout the supply chain, blockchain can help producers ensure food safety before it gets to the shelves. Ecuadorian milk products producer El Odeño will use IBM Food Trust blockchain technology to make sure its products stay cold all the way to customer’s table, reducing spoilage, waste and associated costs. And Dole Food Company, a three-year member of the IBM Food Trust, plans to use the blockchain for product tagging and traceability across all three of its business divisions by 2025. Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is getting on board by testing blockchain technology to replace manual tracking and certification of food products in the export supply chain.

Specialty coffee companies are using blockchain to assure their customers that the coffee they are buying — at a premium price, no less — really has been sourced from the specific country named on the label. For example, buyers of Nestlé’s luxury coffee brand Zoégas can now scan a QR code on the package and trace their coffee back to its origins in the rainforest. Likewise, Thank My Farmer is a new consumer-facing app built on the IBM Food Trust solution by a consortium of coffee makers. Scan the code on your bag of coffee to trace what’s in your cup from brand to roaster to trader to farmer. The result is a purchase based on facts.

What else we’re reading

  • Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) has announced a second crypto fund worth $515 million for startups focused on payments and DeFi.
  • Hyperledger achieves a huge milestone with the release of Hyperledger Fabric 2.0, an open source, production-ready DLT technology backed by a strong developer community.
  • The New York Times builds its News Provenance Project on the IBM Blockchain Platform to test adding provenance metadata to news content to establish trust.
  • IBM makes the Top Ten in the CoinDesk 50 for propelling enterprise blockchain to thousands of companies.

June’s features of “watch, read and listen”

Busting myths and discovering new opportunities

Discover what is fact and fiction when it comes to getting started with blockchain and learn how you can deliver new value to your customers. Watch this session.

Getting started with IBM Blockchain

Wherever you are in your adoption journey—and no matter which industry you’re in—we’re here to help you meet your business objectives. You can develop your own network using our platform or start that project you’ve been talking about with help from our services. You can also join our existing networks:

  • Food Trust – our food supply chain network
  • TradeLens – our containerized freight transport network

Still not sure where to start? Schedule time to talk with one of our experts specific to your industry, and they can help guide you in the right direction.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our first edition of “Blockchain News You Can Use.” We’ll be back next month with more. In the meantime, if someone forwarded you this email and you’d like to subscribe, sign up here.

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Managing Editor

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