Target Eyes Blockchain – US Retail Giant Adopting the Tech

U.S. retail giant, Target, is seemingly another company that is now realizing the benefits and prospects offered by the nascent but extremely promising blockchain technology. In a recent blog post made by the Vice President of Architecture at Target, Joel Crabb, it is stated:

Blockchains and distributed ledger technology have been big buzzwords in recent years, but when you look closely at this technology, you can see that it is really just a new tool to solve a long-standing challenge: ensuring multiparty trust across enterprises doing business together.

The blog post explores the benefits offered by blockchain alongside the challenges that it brings with its usage. Open source blockchain gets special attention in the post as in open source projects all the participating parties determine the governance model of the software and thus the companies using it can focus on building the solutions.

The post states that in the mid of 2018, the retail giant started experimenting with a blockchain proof-of-concept to help manage the certification of suppliers in the company’s branded paper product manufacturing ecosystem. It is highlighted that although setting up a blockchain is easy, the difficulty lies in deciding what data will lie on it. The work that was done on a certification blockchain has been now open sourced as ConsenSource. The post states:

“As ConsenSource progressed, Cargill’s [a major food supplier of the company] work in creating supply chain middleware to store data and transactions on a blockchain came to our attention. As we learned more about the effort, Cargill and Intel took the project to Hyperledger, an open source collaborative hosted by Linux Foundation, and it became Hyperledger Grid! I’m proud that Target will support the Hyperledger Grid project, and that we’re committing dedicated engineering resources to build out components in the Grid architecture!”

Hyperledger Grid focuses on reforming the supply-chain framework by utilizing blockchain and solving issues such as food safety, trade settlement, traceability etc. in the area of food retail.

This news of using blockchain in the industrial arena does not come off as new. In the past, we have seen big giants like Pepsi, BMW, Walmart, LVMH, Intel and many others get interested in the prospects offered by blockchain. While Pepsi is looking into using blockchain to improve its supply-chain efficiency, the luxury brand LVMH is using this technology in order to authenticate high-end luxury goods. Besides, use-cases of this nascent tech are also being found in industries like pharmaceutical, content-creation, music and much more. In short, blockchain technology is slowly but surely taking hold across various industries.

READ ALSO: Blockchain Revolution Incoming: Technology Proving Use Cases in Every Industry

But why does blockchain carry so much importance? The answer lies in its decentralized nature. Unlike centralized networks, blockchain networks have nodes controlling and maintaining the network instead of a single governing party. The transactions that are taking place on the network are registered by all the nodes participating in the network as the record is distributed. As a result of this distributed-ledger technology, a trustless and transparent system of operation is established making sure no unfair policies or bias is introduced by the centrally controlling party. The record is also immutable meaning it cannot be changed once the transactions are put in the ledger.

READ ALSO:Siberia Proposed Blockchain Tourism Platform Ahead of Putin 2024 Mission

In supply-chain specifically, blockchain finds its prime usage in tracking goods. The amount of complexity that is currently present in industries is extremely high. Extraction of raw materials, transfer across borders and movements across various units are just some examples of how the supply-chain framework of big conglomerates work. In between these steps, a lot of mishaps or accidents are bound to happen. With blockchain, the issue of authenticating items is resolved by putting their record on a blockchain (which is immutable) and tracking them from raw materials to the finished products. Besides this, blockchain also finds its use-cases in other areas such as logistics. All in all, each process which requires transparency can benefit from blockchain technology.

READ ALSO:U.S. Blockchain Adoption – Report Tips Govt to Embrace the Tech

With the pace at which blockchain is advancing on both the technological and legislative fronts, it is expected that it will become an integral part of industry 4.0, which essentially involves incorporating revolutionary technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, internet of things, big data in industrial frameworks to improve the efficiencies overall. With big names like Pepsi, BMW, Walmart etc. exploring this tech, it is likely more and more companies will realize the potential carried by blockchain and will adopt it to improve their own frameworks in the future.

READ ALSO: Pharma Meets Blockchain – Solution to $450 Billion U.S. Industry

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Target explores blockchain for supply chain tracking

Target began a blockchain proof of concept in mid-2018

Target began a blockchain proof of concept in mid-2018

US department store retailer Target Corp has revealed details of an open source blockchain project it has been working on since mid-2018 to help track its supply chain.

The Minneapolis-based company begun work on blockchain proof of concept to help manage the certification of suppliers in its own branded paper product manufacturing last year.

In working directly with forest managers and certification boards, it learned that standing up a blockchain is simple from a technology standpoint, but difficult in deciding what data should live on the distributed ledger, according to the retailer’s vice president of architecture, Joel Crabb.

In a blog post, Crabb explains Target’s work on a certification blockchain was recently open sourced as ConsenSource – certificate registry blockchain application. As ConsenSource progressed, Target became aware of work by privately held global corporation Cargill in creating supply chain middleware to store data and transactions on a blockchain.

“As Target learned more about the work, Ceffort, Cargill and Intel took the project to Hyperledger, an open source collaborative hosted by Linux Foundation, and it became Hyperledger Grid,” Crabb says.

A new project designed to help build and deliver supply chain solutions, Hyperledger Grid is an ecosystem of technologies, frameworks, and libraries that work together, letting application developers make the choice as to which components are most appropriate for their industry or market model.

According to a separate blog by Hyperledger, Grid intends to:

  • Provide reference implementations of supply chain-centric data types, data models, and smart contract based business logic – all anchored on existing, open standards and industry best practices.
  • Showcase in authentic and practical ways how to combine components from the Hyperledger stack into a single, effective business solution.

Target is now working directly with one of its largest food suppliers to learn and determine which data to share and how to govern a multi-enterprise, blockchain-backed distributed ledger.

“Solving distributed transactions within our own ecosystems was a hard task; imagine solving distributed transactions with several companies at once,” Crabb says.

Crabb believes distributed ledgers will bring a “new form of transactional ability and data storage” to corporate enterprises – one in which the transactions are trusted and the data is verified by a group of companies working to solve problems that extend beyond their own borders.

While he acknowledges maturity in this space will take time, he says “we’ll only get there when enterprise partners like Target and Cargill dive in together.”

Writing in his blog, Crabb says distributed ledgers backed by a blockchain can help partners achieve consensus on multiparty transactions while adding transparency and speeding up transactions.

But he also points out the largest obstacle to implementing a distributed ledger is getting multiple companies to agree on which data are stored in the blockchain and how the system will be operated and governed.

This is why many companies – including Target – see the most potential for enterprise blockchain initiatives as open source, which requires all participants to define the governance model collectively from the outset, so companies then can focus their time working on blockchain-based solutions that will lead to greater speed, transparency and cost savings.

See also: Can blockchain transform the apparel supply chain?

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New Enterprise Blockchain Service On The Block: Can Hewlett Packard Enterprise Compete?

Antonio Neri, president and chief executive officer of Hewitt Packerd Enterprise (HPE). Photographer: Bridget Bennett/Bloomberg

© 2018 Bloomberg Finance LP

The rush to join the enterprise blockchain era has taken off significantly in 2019. Fifty companies worth over a billion dollars are pioneering the space and have been profiled on Forbes with hundreds more waiting in the wings. But in this ecosystem, the demand for blockchain services is high, while the supply is slightly monopolized.

Offering viable and workable blockchain services have come into the wheelhouse of players such as IBM and the Linux Foundation with HyperLedger – which accounts for over 50 percent of the blockchain services used by those on Forbes’ Blockchain 50 list. There are also others like Amazon, with its Amazon Web Services blockchain, as well as the R3 consortium, Microsoft, and Oracle.

Another, less spoken about enterprise-grade blockchain solution offerer is Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). HPE is the enterprise Lab of the 80-year-old information technology company that was founded in November of 2015.

HPE’s blockchain offerings include their Mission Critical Distributed Ledger Technology, allowing customers to execute distributed ledger workloads in environments that demand 100 percent fault tolerance, and are fully scalable. Also included is HPE Pointnext, a workshop, proof of value, and implementation services for blockchain aimed at helping businesses define their use cases, as well as design and test potential solutions in order to maintain ‘operational excellence.’

HPE has already partnered with automotive manufacturing company Continental to put vehicle data on the blockchain in a Data Monetization Platform (DMP), but will they be able to go further to become a real force in the growing world of enterprise blockchain services?

Entering the race

HPE’s blockchain offerings have been aimed at many sectors, including financial customers, automakers, and airlines. Their Mission Critical Distributed Ledger Technology is based on R3 Corda and can be deployed on-premises as well as in the cloud or a hybrid environment.

Their DLT only came available in early 2018, at a time where cryptocurrency markets were in decline, but enterprise blockchain interest was piquing. However, as a report from 451 Research outlines, HPE was already behind the pack of IBM, Oracle, and Microsoft by this time.

HPE is, however, embracing the open source and collaborative feeling of this space by partnering with strategic partners including Intel, Microsoft, and R3, to provide a blockchain solution. They are also working with Accenture and PwC to help customers understand the benefits and challenges of blockchain.

HPE is a member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance and is even talking with Hyperledger to learn how it can help customers that use those platforms. Under the Pointnext umbrella, HPE offers hackathons where developers work with HPE experts on use cases and proofs of concept.

Most of the focus with this enterprise offering from HPE is therefore B2B transactions, but they are also looking ahead with the combining of AI, blockchain, and IoT.

A competitive space

There has been enough interest from enterprises and major businesses for a bevy of information technology companies to try and lead the way with packageable enterprise blockchain solutions.

The technology may be very nascent, but some well-regarded names in the space; pioneers of computing; are doing their best to be at the forefront of a new era of technology. Microsoft and IBM are old foes in the emerging technology game, and these are just a few of the companies HPE is up against.

IBM’s Blockchain Platform, along with a series of consulting services, enables organizations to quickly activate, develop, operate, govern, and secure their own blockchain-enabled business networks. It is based on the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric framework and Hyperledger Composer blockchain application development tool and runs in the IBM Cloud.

The permeation of Hyperledger and IBM’s blockchain offering is highly evident across some of the most prominent enterprises currently. The reputation of the company and the power of Hyperledger offers a secure and flexible solution that many are already flocking to.

Then there is Microsoft, another pioneer of the technology age. It is a founding member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, and its blockchain-as-a-service offering was designed to work with the Ethereum blockchain, the original smart contract chain

Microsoft’s Confidential Consortium (Coco) Framework is intended to reduce the complicated development techniques needed to meet the operational and security needs of enterprises. Coco reevaluates existing assumptions of public blockchains in the context

of a permissioned consortium where participants are known.

With Coco, Microsoft expects to offer a foundation with which existing blockchain protocols can be integrated to deliver enterprise-ready solutions.

Newer companies that are also trying to get their slice of the merging pie include Amazon, Oracle, and Chain Inc with all of their offerings also aimed at being enterprise-grade.

HPE has the benefit of a reliable and trustworthy brand, as well as the right business links and partnerships already in the space. It now has to be seen if they can make a big enough splash in the industry to disrupt the monopoly that is building from IBM, Microsoft, and the rest.

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Target Announces Secretly Developed Blockchain-Powered Supply Chain Management Solution

Major US retailer Target has recently revealed that it has been developing a blockchain project and is intending to step up its blockchain support.

Target’s blockchain project has been dubbed “ConsenSource”, and is described as a blockchain-powered solution for the management of the company’s supply chain. It appears that the company has been secretly working on this project since mid-2018 but has only recently come forward publicly to address what they have been working on.

It seems that they achieved a lot during the secret development time and have managed to even create a supply chain solution for their own paper manufacturer suppliers. It seems that they are taking things further by doubling down on blockchain and hiring new specialised engineers.

Doubling down on blockchain technologies

Target has recently decided to double down on blockchain after announcing their support for the HyperLedger Grid Framework. The HyperLedger Grid Framework is a joint initiative developed to accelerate the development of ledger based solutions for cross-industry supply chains.

Joel Crabb, Target’s vice president of architecture stated the following about joining HyperLedger:

“I’m proud that Target will support the Hyperledger Grid project, and that we’re committing dedicated engineering resources to build out components in the Grid architecture.”

What about ConsenSource?

As they have been working since mid-2018, it seems that ConsenSource has already managed to achieve a lot in developing its supply chain management solution. The project has primarily been focused on providing certification for the suppliers of the company’s paper manufacturers.

ConsenSource has been directly communicating with forest managers and certification boards to figure out what data along the supply chain should be recorded and logged within the blockchain. This has helped a great deal in ironing out the initial creases when trying to log an entire supply chain. Crabb has even stated that deciding which data to store and how it is governed is one of the largest obstacles to achieving a decentralised supply chain management system.

“The largest obstacle to implementing a distributed ledger is getting multiple companies to agree on which data are stored in the blockchain and how the system will be operated and governed.”

Making everything open source

Being open source is a very important characteristic of trust within the cryptocurrency industry. Bitcoin is open source, that tells you everything about its importance. It allows everybody to read the code and reach a consensus that it is reliable and accurate. It also allows other users to come and build on top of the code and improve the protocol from its initial stages which in turn speeds up development milestones.

The team at ConsenSource have taken the decision to make their project entirely open-source. The solution that they have developed as they created their paper supply chain solution is now fully open source as ConsenSource. They believe that being open-source will help a consensus to develop from the outset so all parties involved can agree.

“To achieve this close interaction among corporate entities, many companies – including Target – see the most potential for enterprise blockchain initiatives as open source. Open-source projects require all participating parties to define the governance model collectively from the outset, so companies then can focus their time working on blockchain-based solutions that will lead to greater speed, transparency and cost savings.”

Yaz Sheikh

Yaz is a cryptocurrency technical analyst with over seven years of technical analysis trading experience. As an Economics graduate, he has taken a keen interest in the future potential of blockchain in the financial industry. Removing crypto from the equation, Yaz loves to watch his favorite football team and keep up-to-date with the latest fights within the UFC.

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