The Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) Standards Council Board approved its first official standard and its first official framework as part of the organization’s mission to provide a single answer to the question, “Where is my shipment?”
The BiTA Standard 120-2019 Location Component Specification is the organization’s first data format specification. The Tracking Data Framework Profile is the first foundation document of the council, providing a roadmap for future data component development.
The pace at which these accomplishments were achieved is remarkable among data standards organizations. It typically takes about two years for data standards to be created, reviewed, ratified and published. BiTA’s first standard took six months.
Scott Friesen, Vice President of Strategic Analytics at Echo Global Logistics and BiTA Standards Council Executive Committee member, commented, “New technology can move at such high speed, and excitement about new technology even faster. However, to produce standards, and the long-term efficiencies they will produce, is more like legislation than writing code. To get this first set of standards out with unanimous support in under a year is a great accomplishment. We look forward to growing, enhancing and supporting the available standards to support the supply chain and blockchain development communities.”
The first BiTA Working Groups were established in August 2018. Impressively, over the past six months, and through the talent and collaborative efforts of members spanning logistics, supply chain and technology companies from around the globe and across all transportation modes, BiTA has accomplished a major feat in its quest to create a data standard for the movement of goods. Following their submission at the end of January, a 30-day review period by the Data Formats Technical Committee commenced; the documents were scrutinized and then submitted to the BiTA Standards Council for ratification and publication.
Pratik Soni, CEO of Omnichain Solutions and the Chair of the Location Data Component Working Group, remarked, “The data standards published provide the initial framework for interoperability across a currently fragmented and siloed ecosystem that reaches across many different enterprises, systems and various protocols.”
While industry incumbents see promise in blockchain, up until now there has been no consensus on the framework over which the associated applications could be built. The absence of data standards generates chaos in the ecosystem, and has contributed to the rise of proprietary blockchain networks.
Creating a common framework for the global supply chain and transportation industries is a delicate proposition, as different companies have different perspectives on what tracking and visibility entails.
Ben Kothari, Chief Solutions Architect at Ampliflex and Chair of the BiTA Tracking Document Working Group, commented on the challenges associated with standards development, “Defining terms within the standards was a problem we had to solve – some things were quite obvious like defining location tracking, but some others, for example, defining the concept of a shipment, would be a bit more difficult. All these divergent views on definitions also posed a challenge while building standards. Since we are just starting out, and there are not many legacy standards to work with, the scope of these tasks also became an issue.”
“The BiTA Standards Council is focused on creating open source and royalty-free standards with a focus and emphasis on data formats and interoperability,” said Patrick Duffy, the director of engagement at BiTA. “While we are working with organizations that are sometimes competitive and run parallel with each other, together BiTA will create a common language or vernacular for global supply chain businesses – driving efficiencies by eliminating red-tape and increasing machine-to-machine processes.”
Soni added, “This achievement is largely due to the hard work, motivation and commitment of the BiTA team members. We have individuals from both small and large enterprises collaborating and working together to achieve something phenomenal. The Working Groups agreed to weekly hour-long meetings and hit key deliverables in addition to managing the deliverables for their day jobs. This dedication helped us reduce the typical timeline for standards publication.”
The past few weeks have seen an acceleration in production from BiTA and its Standards Council. At the February 27th meeting of its Board of Directors, BiTA also elected its first Standards Council Chair, Dale Chrystie of FedEx, who in conjunction with BiTA members, will seek to drive faster and more comprehensive publication of data standards throughout 2019.
Arlen Stark, BiTA Chief of Staff, commented, “I’m very proud of our membership, who in partnership with the BiTA team and IEEE/ISTO [a federation of member alliance programs that support accelerated technology standards development and market adoption], have accomplished in less than a year what normally takes two or three years.”
BiTA was founded in August 2017, and has quickly grown into the largest commercial blockchain alliance in the world. Its membership includes nearly 500 members in more than 25 countries that collectively generate over $1 trillion in revenue annually. BiTA members are primarily from the freight, transportation and logistics industries. The Alliance was formed by experienced technology, transportation and supply chain executives to create a forum for the development of blockchain standards and education for the freight industry. BiTA members share a common mission to develop a standards framework, educate the market on blockchain applications and encourage the use of those applications.