3 Hints that Your Travel or Transportation Company May Benefit from Blockchain

Buzzwords abound in the Information Technology landscape and “blockchain” will continue to add a major theme to the teeming jargon.

A lengthy breakdown of what blockchain is will not follow. What you will, however, get from reading further are some ideas of how this seemingly intricately complex system can help create more efficiency to business operations and deliver possible impressive returns on investments – if applied to the right scenarios.

But first, here’s a twist to the seemingly hallowed tradition of explaining what blockchain is when discussing it in many types of articles – blockchain is not bitcoin.

Blockchain and Bitcoin are not the same, and not even close.

Blockchain is a special type of database that is designed to log every change and transaction to it (and to every copy of it) instantaneously, continually connecting this newly updated database (this is the “block”) to the prior instance of the database, forming a long trail (this is the “chain”) of all the interaction history of that special database (this is the “blockchain”). Only those granted special permissions can view and interact with a particular blockchain.

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. Quite different from what is stated above.

If you already knew this, you were ahead of the pack. If this was previously unknown, then at least you learned something new for the day and are now ahead of the pack.

Providing further details on what blockchain is will divert away from the real intention of this article: discuss three indications that your company may benefit from blockchain. But just remember: blockchain is a special type of shared database that records and backs up every interaction with it, and, blockchain is not Bitcoin.

First Hint that Your Travel or Transportation Company May Benefit from Blockchain: Inordinate Amounts of Paper Documents are Used to Communicate and Prove Activity

When someone mentions “global trade”, do nightmarish images of mounds and mounds of documents (e.g. bills of lading) appear in your thoughts? If so, you may want to explore the benefits of blockchain to whack away physical paper with an immutable, correctly shared, electronically stored version of what those documents contain.

For example, when documents need to be signed by the shipper that prove a shipment was loaded and sent on its way, and signed by the receiver that prove delivery was made, a blockchain solution may be able to cut down the reliance on a paper trail, and even provide a possible video testament of the initial condition and placement of cargo that can be stored in the distributed database. A blockchain solution may not be able to replace bills of lading in all circumstances but it will most likely add valuable information that all parties involved in the transaction can access in a timely fashion.

Second Hint that Your Travel or Transportation Company May Benefit from Blockchain: Loyalty Points Keep Building with No Where to Go

If your travel or transportation company rewards customers via a program to offer them points that can be used for future purchases, a blockchain solution may present a way to boost the bottom line. For example, if your company offers loyalty points and a good percentage of them are left unredeemed at the end of an accounting cycle, then these unredeemed points may lead to balance sheet issues. Thus, offering loyalty program members more outlets to redeem their cache of loyalty points is an option. Partnering with other companies’ products and services to coalesce a tantalizing brand bouquet to program members is an idea that blockchain can make into a reality. If certain loyalty program member data is shared on the distributed ledger, actions such as analyzing purchasing behavior can provide each loyalty program marketing team insight into what may provide the greatest enticement for individual or group loyalty program members, while at the same time giving them more choices, but ones that are tailored to them.

Third Hint that Your Travel or Transportation Company May Benefit from Blockchain: Antiquated Methods for Recording Maintenance Activity and Parts Purchased

If your company still preserves evidence of work done and parts bought for maintaining its assets through the seemingly antediluvian practice of creating paper trails and/or spreadsheets, then a blockchain solution may bring back some organizational sanity.

What can happen with a blockchain solution is that many, if not all, activities can be logged, including such things as:

  • parts purchased from a supplier
  • shipping information
  • invoices created
  • bills paid
  • returns made
  • installation details of those parts (such as when and where the parts were installed – very important in case of a recall)
  • if those parts are connected to the internet for monitoring purposes (a.k.a. IoT), then continual updates can be added into that blockchain

Furthermore, permissioned participants can be given access to view all or certain components of the blocks in the chain, where searches can be made in a painless fashion. One benefit of this is that duplication of paper documentation and the storing of those paper documents can be replaced with a secure, private, digital, distributed special database where potentially all participants in purchasing parts and maintaining assets have access to the same information in near-real time.

The three-hints discussed above are indeed an oversimplification of blockchain use-cases. However, they certainly present ideas to be looked into further if you your travel or transportation company is suffering from out-dated means for tracking information or operating in today’s dynamic, technology driven economy.

Share your thoughts on the above. Don’t be shy. Discussing blockchain solutions are of a growing interest across many different industries and will only continue to increase.

IBM Security SaaS Leader, IBM

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