The Buzzword of the Year: Blockchain

Blockchain has been named the Buzzword of the Year by Supply Chain Dive. ( Photo: Shutterstock )

Supply Chain Dive has announced its list of awards for 2017 and one award that garnered some interesting attention is the Buzzword of the Year: blockchain. A term that has been used more often than expected, it has earned considerable second looks based on a plethora of feedback that Quartz has collected.

Walmart’s executive vice president, John Furner, was quoted describing blockchain as “it allows someone to track a product from the farm all the way to the shelf and then have a record of it each and every step along the way.” The rising prominence of blockchain use in China, where some of Walmart’s stock comes from, has influenced the traditional retailing giant to adapt the technology as well.

Blockchain’s association with Bitcoin (Bitcoin travels on a blockchain network) almost dampened the interest in the currency. The skepticism in Bitcoin is still looming over enterprises with a supply chain to watch over, but the same can’t be said for blockchain.

Managing the supply chain is complicated, but IBM Blockchain’s Vice President Ingrid McDermott was quoted in the same report describing the main benefit behind the rise of blockchain use. “Everyone in supply chain is frustrated about data visibility or their inability to optimize processes or to truly manage customer demand.”

Technology has never run out of problems that need solving, and visibility among parties is one of those. “The problem is not how do you solve visibility within one company that has total trust and transparency and a hierarchy,” McDermott added. “You have the ability to solve data visibility, but in practice you can’t actually achieve data visibility across the ecosystem, the same with optimization and demand management.”

McDermott made sure to insert a disclaimer though. “Blockchain isn’t this pill that solves all problems, it solves the major problem that still really remains for data visibility: how do I get all the parties involved to trust enough to share their information so I can use the digitization tools, the demand management tools, data sharing tools, and use them efficiently and effectively?”

It was a sentiment echoed by a statement that Quartz got from an earnings report from Webjet’s managing director, John Guscic. “It would be fair to say, we have some very interesting dialog with a broad range of partners outside of our normal sphere of influence, who have the intellectual curiosity to ask the question about what is this blockchain going to do for their business, and is there something that exists in the IP that we’ve developed so far, that is transportable.”

While Quartz managed to collect a plethora of comments and keynote speech quotes from enterprise executives, Supply Chain Dive has gathered information from Google Trends on how interest in blockchain has increased in a span of 5 years. And it basically shattered the proverbial glass ceiling, with increased spiking 100% by January 2017.

At the end of the day, business establishments with a considerable presence online have one concern that keeps them interested in viable solutions like blockchain – trust. McDermott summed it up best in claiming how this technology tells customers “I’m going to make sure the data that you have is something you can trust.”

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