This article discusses one of the major challenges facing blockchain technology projects. Projects involving blockchain technology face unique challenges due to how business networks come together. As you read this article, you will discover how early adopters managed this challenge to achieve success.
A common data standard must be agreed upon by all participants in the business network working together on blockchain technology. A common standard is essential for the success of blockchain technology since it is primarily a data technology, and data will need to be shared amongst partners. The need for data standards at this scale does not show up in other enterprise technology projects. Considering data standards at the outset is something that everyone overlooks but is crucial.
Vinturas and challenge of data standards
Data standards will play a significant role in how the project will move forward toward success. If there are existing industry standards, it’s better to adopt those instead of reinventing the wheel. For Jon Kuiper and Vinturas in the FVL space, the industry has a history of multiple costly EDI connections spread around, which leads to a lack of standards in transactional processes.
They focused on the proof of delivery document (CMR), which is the document used to hand over the vehicle, e.g., from a transport company to the dealer, and is ordinarily paper-based and handwritten. They relied on the Electronic CMR protocol approved by most European countries and created by regulatory bodies. Providing this document on the blockchain becomes essential from a fraud perspective.
As Jon Kuiper explains, “We are providing our infrastructure for these electronic CMR documents. And of course, it’s blockchain, it is immutable, it’s a legal document, and we can provide it to the industry stakeholders because the standard has been defined from a governmental and regulatory perspective and will be implemented in the coming years in all countries of Europe. . . . We think it’s very powerful, because an electronic CMR, coming back to the fraud discussion again, for people who are shipping, it’s very important that it is legal and yet not a paper-based, but electronic document.”
Heifer international and data standards
As I was talking to Jesús Pizarro about standards, he commented, “The reason I like working with IBM Food Trust is that IBM is using international standards.” Jesús is the VP of financial innovation at Heifer International. He is leading strategy at Heifer Lab’s blockchain offerings for agricultural development and financial inclusion. Heifer International is an international NGO with a mission to end world hunger and poverty while taking care of the Earth.
Heifer is using blockchain to accelerate its mission, which is ending hunger and poverty while they take care of the Earth. As they started working with blockchain, they stipulated their vision to create a blockchain network in the agricultural sector where a farmer can access working capital, technical assistance, and fair markets. Their approach is one of partnership with government, universities, and other organizations.
Heifer partners with others to use blockchain to fast-track their mission. They are involved with three different projects in the supply chain: poultry, cocoa, and coffee. In poultry, they are working on the Ethereum blockchain. For coffee and cocoa, they are partnering with IBM Food Trust and the International Development Bank (IDB) on various other projects.
Heifer wants to use blockchain to improve market transparency. In agriculture, the small farmer is invisible, and the consumer is blind. The consumer doesn’t know where their food came from, nor do they know how it was prepared. And we, as consumers, of course, do not know anything about the small farmer. It is the same situation with the small farmer as far as their visibility into their product’s consumption is concerned. For Heifer, blockchain gives the possibility of transparency, which, in the end, will improve the markets.
As Heifer worked through the various blockchain projects, amongst other things, one of the important lessons they learned has been about the standardization process. As Jesus explained to me, “One of the problems is that we also need to do the standardization of standards. Even if you use GS1, you will find that GS1 is also very flexible. There are different ways to do the implementation of the standard. For blockchain projects to be successful, we need to be using the same standards. I would say this is the top lesson learned.”
Of course, much more goes into making a blockchain journey successful. A few things are unique to blockchain due to its nature and because it is in the initial stages of its development. This chapter helped us look at some of those peculiarities.
In the short term, getting clarity on data standards may appear to be a very small thing with very little impact, but it can have an enormous impact in the long run. We must act now or there will be many more obstacles to resolve when the project is already in progress later on. The future will be easier for everyone because of it. By starting data standard conversations early, leaders can increase the likelihood of blockchain technology project success.
It is essential for leaders to start early conversation about data standards. This will help avoid getting caught in a bind this way. And be on a path to a successful project.
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