How Blockchain Can Power the Circular Economy

The convergence of consumer and industry concerns about sustainability in the manufacturing and re-use of materials is spurring industries such as textiles, jewelry, and automotive to trace every step in the supply chain.

With consumers increasingly asking for products that are produced ethically and sustainably, it’s a unique opportunity for blockchain firms to respond to this market dynamic.

How Blockchain Underpins Transparency and Traceability

There are already many technologies that are well-advanced and available in the market today—and have been available since the mid-90s—that play a role, for example, the ability to put a nano-tracer inside textiles. However, with IoT and AI, blockchain can drive more powerful applications to develop sustainable practices in industry.

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Blockchain is Powering Battery Industry Sustainability Practices

One example is the battery industry, where Everledger is one of 42 global organizations that have agreed on guiding principles to ensure sustainable practices. These companies make up what is known as the Global Battery Alliance. Ensuring the sustainability of batteries is key since they are used in the transportation and power industries and make up 40% of global carbon emissions annually.

That’s why the Global Battery Alliance has developed 10 guiding principles designed to foster the creation of a sustainable battery value chain by 2030. Key to achieving these goals is the ability to trace materials used in battery manufacturing back to their raw materials and production processes. Blockchain technology, combined with other technologies like IoT and AI, gives businesses and consumers this needed visibility.

This is all part of a transformation to sourcing materials and leaping into the circular economy—an ecosystem that reduces waste and promotes re-use and recycling.

While in the past industries have naturally relied upon natural resources, which are all finite, they now focusing on how to re-use and repurpose parts. Lithium and cobalt in batteries are a prime example.

Ford and Volvo Cars are using blockchain to trace cobalt in its electric vehicle batteries. Data captured on the blockchain will include details like the origin of the cobalt, attributes such as size and weight, the chain of custody and information ensuring that supply chain participant behavior is consistent with globally recognized supply chain guidelines.

This approach is being applied to other sectors as well, like apparel, wine and spirits, finance, and even advanced manufacturing, which can benefit greatly from increasing levels of transparency for their supply chains.

Blockchain for Verifying Diamonds and Precious Gems

Everledger also works in the diamond and colored gemstone space, using captured parts of supply chain data along with Internet of Things technologies to enable it to learn the identity of a diamond. Retailers like Fred Meyer Jewelers and Brilliant Earth are using Everledger’s blockchain solution to allow purchasers on its website to see each diamond’s provenance and characteristics like rough carat weight, rough diamond videos and planning images. This brings transparency to the jewelry industry on a scale never before seen, and supports higher customer engagement at the point of sale.

In much the same way that technology allows facial recognition of a person, it also can be applied to the recognition of an individual diamond or gemstone. Connecting those scanning points along the supply chain allows the ability to record a provenance event—powered by blockchain technology.

The incredible transformation journey that’s currently underway is the realization that enabling ever more transparency in supply chains is where value and the values of its participants can align.

The Democratization of Data and the Role of Blockchain

One of the great advantages of blockchain technology has been its ability to enable secure collaboration among multiple parties from a set of decentralized data.  Some have called this the “democratization” of data because everyone with the proper permissions has access to that data on a blockchain.

Blockchain’s unique characteristics include:
•    Decentralized trust via data transparency which enables collaboration
•    Verifiable identities of participants and goods to authentic items and prevent fraud
•    Business processes automated in virtually real-time
•    Highly-secure data that is tamper evident, meaning if a bad actor tampers with a set of data, then all blockchain participants will be aware of that.

Recently, I spoke with Dr. Sally Eaves about the benefits of Blockchain technology and where the tech is headed in the future. She shared some easy to understand insights about the state of the tech today, and where it is headed.

“In the early phases of blockchain, there was an awful lot of hype, a lot of conceptualization, but not much on the tangibles,” says Eaves. “But now, some of the early pilots have come to fruition, so we can actually talk about those real-world examples. There’s definitely a threshold that’s been crossed.”

“We’re in an extended global crisis of trust that affects all sectors, not just financial services,” explains Eaves. She believes the fact that blockchain actually embeds trust has been missed in many conversations, and the press tends to move to the darker side about what technology might take away rather than what it can enable.

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Protecting Our Most Sensitive Data
“I think there’s a lovely opportunity for a marriage between blockchain and AI technology. Healthcare is the one that most excites me,” notes Eaves.

She explains that our DNA is the most sensitive data we have in many respects, and we can use blockchain to share that data with complete security and control. There are many populations, particularly around ethnic groups, where there’s a real lack of data around certain medical conditions.

“With blockchain, we can encourage more people to feel safe donating their DNA data where it can then be mined using the advances in AI and machine learning to get nuanced data insights,” says Eaves. “It’s a powerful combination in terms of security, control, and then insight generation.”

Blockchain Takes a Leading Role in Ethical Supply Chains
Supply chain is one of the most advanced applications for blockchain technology. It’s a natural fit because of the ability to build transparency into the supply chain so that all participants across the chain can see where goods are at any given point in time.  With blockchain, even though supply chains are often complex, we can effectively track and trace goods from point A to point Z in real-time.

New Research Shows How Blockchain Boosts Growth

Every day, it seems as if there is a new technology innovation on the market. And while it’s easy to think that just a few companies are adopting them, think again: Innovations like blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and virtual reality (VR), among others aren’t part of some futuristic concept anymore. They are quickly becoming mainstream—and companies are already realizing their benefits.

New research from Enterprise Strategy Group and Oracle found that 84% of organizations reported using at least one emerging technology today. And they’re reaping the rewards through faster growth and strong return on investment (ROI). Among some of the report’s findings:

Revenue grows faster. Organizations which use the most emerging technologies have grown annual revenue 58% faster than those not investing in such technologies. Those forward-thinking organizations also saw profit grow 80% faster.

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Benefits are better than expected. The benefits of using these technologies are outpacing expectations by a wide margin. For example, in the finance sector, users of AI report an average 33% improvement in productivity and 37% reduction in errors, primarily from automating manual processes. The monthly financial close takes roughly four days less in organizations using emerging technologies than in those that don’t. Organizations that use financial digital assistants report an average 36% improvement in productivity and 38% faster analysis capabilities.

Applications in the supply chain yielded similarly impressive results. Adding blockchain to supply chain management (SCM) capabilities helped 87% of organizations meet or exceed their ROI expectations. More than three in four respondents (76%) said that AI-powered SCM increased employee productivity. Incorporating IoT data into supply chain systems and workflows shortened the time to produce and fulfill orders by an average of more than six business days. Eighty-three percent of organizations using IoT data to support SCM say the ROI has met or exceeded expectations.

5 steps to getting ahead with emerging tech now

If you’re ready to join your competition in reaping the benefits and advantages of emerging tech, take these five steps:

  1. Modernize critical systems by migrating to SaaS with Oracle’s complete, integrated cloud suite
  2. Analyze the best immediate investments to make now and prioritize those that will solve challenges or which offer the greatest ROI promise
  3. Select the prebuilt solutions with embedded emerging technologies that will best support your business
  4. Conduct a pilot project and ensure that it has a measurable goal and likely payoff
  5. Embrace an agile mindset. Sometimes, adoption of new processes and technology can come with people and behavioral challenges. By defining your goals and a clear path for change, along with regular communication and training, you can reduce some of the obstacles you may encounter.

Best Practices for Implementing a Permissioned Blockchain

Adoption of blockchain technology is still in the early phases.  At Oracle, we have found that our customers and partners are looking for best practices to guide them in setting up their blockchain projects. Recently, Oracle’s Baohua Yang spoke at Hyperledger Global Forum 2020 and shared 10 Practical Tips for Implementing a Permissioned Blockchain. 

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Baohua is a Principal Architect for Blockchain and Distributed System Technologies at Oracle. As his title suggests, he is an expert in understanding and explaining blockchain.  If you missed the Hyperledger Global Forum, you don’t have to miss the important best practices shared by Baohua Yang at the conference.

To learn more about best practices for Blockchain Implementations, read all of Baohua’s tips on the Hyperledger Blog 10 Practical Issues for Blockchain Implementations. Oracle Blockchain Platform is built on Hyperledger Fabric, an open-source blockchain platform.

To read customer stories about how Oracle Blockchain Platform customers are achieving success in production visit Oracle Blockchain on the web.

Cloud and Blockchain Transforming Higher Education Institutions

There’s no question that digitalization has a brought a massive change in redefining the way businesses run, and higher education institutions are no exception. Apart from technological and cultural changes, higher education institutions have experienced a radical shift in their customers’ attitude towards higher education due to high costs, lower earning potential for certain degrees, employers’ change of attitude towards absolute need for a formal degree, and the broad availability of self-paced learnings that are cost-effective and readily available through digital platforms on-demand. For students who go the formal academic route, they expect great value from their education dollars, and they want their learning experience to be carefully crafted, thorough, and well-designed, delivered through both in-person classes and via digital platforms.

Higher institutions have been investing a great deal to drive transformation in their organizations to make sure they are ready for a digital future, allowing greater participation and deeper student experience. Yes, complete digitization will be nirvana, but attainment of a completely transformed digital future is no easy feat. This is mainly due to constraints like legacy IT infrastructure, data silos, and old business processes and models. Like any other business, they also face inherent business challenges specific to their industry:

  • The future of work is changing – The nature and future of work are changing. How do you prepare the workers of tomorrow in wake of automation and AI?
  • Deliver secure digital customer experience – Deliver seamless digital user experience while making sure data access and exchange are secure.
  • Platform and partnerships – Build strong ties and drive collaboration not just in local institutional communities, but with institutions globally via use of the right technology platforms.

In addition to these business and technology challenges, there are some very specific issues that are routed deep into the very business fabric of educational institutions.

  • Verified credentials: Let’s face it — verifying credentials is still a manual and slow process. In the digital world, it is very easy to create a fake certificate or dishonest resume, and it can be a very cumbersome process for employers and schools to verify those credentials.
  • Paper-based certificates: These are still the norm, interrupting the seamless digital experience that institutions want to offer to their students
  • Track and protect intellectual property infringement: Lots of intellectual property is created in universities’ research units. Unfortunately, there is no good way to enforce rights when instances of infringement occur.
  • Fair allocation of financial grants and admission process: Even though higher education institutions have taken great efforts to put in place fair processes to grant admission and financial grants, the recent college admission scandal has highlighted that bad apples can purge loopholes within organizational processes to create unfair opportunities for the select few. This breaks trust and tarnishes the image of these reputed institutions.

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Cloud and Blockchain Technology to the Rescue

To succeed in today’s digital world, and to stay competitive, institutions need to invest in transformative technologies. It is quite clear to institutions that cloud is the way to go to bring agility to their business environments and transform the student journey. To further augment transformation through the cloud, emerging technologies like blockchain can play an instrumental role in addressing very specific issues that higher education institutions face.

Blockchain technology offers a way to reduce costs and improve efficiency, speed, and transparency among multiple parties by enabling them to exchange verifiable information swiftly and securely, without relying on a third-party authority. Using blockchain, universities can verify students’ credentials, certify ownership of intellectual property, and verify students’ eligibility for financial assistance, grants, and admissions, making these transactions immutable and transparent while reducing fraud and increasing trust within higher education value chains.

In addition, students can share their educational credentials and learnings with employers digitally, reducing the burden of the vetting process and helping bring deeper student and ecosystem engagement. China Distance Education Holdings Limited (CDEL), one of the early adopters of this technology, uses blockchain technology built on the Oracle Blockchain Platform to share educational records and professional certifications across multiple educational institutions, so that employers and recruiters can verify the educational credentials claimed by individuals.