The importance of integration in blockchain

(Photo: Shutterstock)

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Blockchain is a foundational technology, said Jason Kerner, vice president of sales engineering for Project44, that will allow the building of transformational technologies in the future.

“I was in Austin last week and I heard someone say they were going to skip APIs and go right to blockchain,” Kerner told nearly 150 members of the Blockchain in Transport Alliance group at a meeting last month in Atlanta. “Blockchains will be built upon APIs.

“APIs are a foundational technology; blockchain is a foundational technology. You can’t do blockchain without APIs,” he noted.

Kerner was the final speaker on a day and his presentation, The role of Integration in Blockchain, really pulled together the technology and the different aspects and components of it.

Kerner went through various components of a blockchain; They are:

  • Ledger. This contains the current state of the ledge and a blockchain of transaction invocations
  • Smart contract. This encapsulates business network transactions in code
  • Consensus network. A collection of network data and processing peers forming a blockchain network. The consensus network is responsible for maintaining a consistently replicated ledger
  • Membership. Manages identity and transaction certificates as well as other aspects of permissioned access
  • Events. Created notifications of significant operations on the blockchain as well as notifications related to smart contracts
  • Systems management. Provides the ability to create, change and monitor blockchain components
  • Wallet. Securely manages a user’s security credentials
  • Systems integration. Responsible for integrating blockchain bi-directionally with external systems. It is not part of the blockchain itself but is used with it.

The blockchain is becoming more critical to transportation because of the increasing ways businesses reach customers and the data that is being generated, Kerner said. Among the ways this is happening, he cited business partners, smartphones, internet TVs, tablets, connected appliances, game consoles, websites and connected cars.

LTL blockchain.jpg

“You are going to have a lot of data coming from a lot of places, how are you going to integrate all that data, even within your own organization,” he asked.

Kerner noted that many in the industry are still using EDI for management systems, having yet to move to API. Now comes blockchain, which will require API. “Integration is going to be very important,” he observed, “and not just with your own supply chain.”

Among the integration considerations that need to be addressed are external systems, bi-directional systems, security, performance and omni-channel.

In a less-than-truckload environment, blockchain can speed and simplify the process. For example, Kerner shared what he said was a basic example of how a blockchain could work. A shipper with a pallet to move requests a quote and transit time. Quotes are returned through the LTL blockchain and the shipper selects a quote. A dispatch request is initiated and dispatch is confirmed. Status updates are inputted into the blockchain and finally an invoice is generated upon delivery.

In this example, what happens if the LTL carrier weighs the pallet and determines additional charges are necessary because of size or weight considerations? If that happens, the changes are also recorded in the blockchain and accessorial charges are added as well, which would be reflected in the final invoice.

“In the blockchain, when something is added, you are notified of the change,” Kerner explained.

Project44 realizes that understanding blockchain can be confusing and examples can sometimes be abstract, that’s why Kerner concluded his presentation by telling the audience they can try out blockchain for free. The Hyperledger Composer Playground is a “web sandbox” that any business can deploy, edit and use to test business network functions on a blockchain.

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