Let the Machines Manage Your Stuff — Internet of Things, Blockchain and Asset Tagging
The problem of asset traceability and ownership for procurement services will be solved, like most challenges, with new ideas and reimagining how we use technology — specifically, connecting assets in the supply chain with the internet.
The analyst firm Gartner estimates that Internet of Things (IoT) will connect about 26 billion objects by 2020. The IoT is the network of devices implanted with software, sensors and internet connectivity for data exchange. We are talking about more than a smart refrigerator or a Ford Focus you can start with your iPhone — assets in your supply chain will soon be part of the IoT.
Experts estimate that the IoT’s global market value will reach $7.1 trillion by 2020. How will connecting assets in your supply chain to the internet make your life more wonderful?
First, we need to bring blockchain into the picture. Blockchain is a decentralized transaction record and storage technology with a distributed point-to-point network that can permanently store the transaction record. It was developed to make bitcoin possible and is allegedly very secure.
Now let’s add radio-frequency identification (RFID) into the mix. RFID can identify asset tags attached to objects on the IoT. With asset tags, we can track devices, control inventory, prevent theft and even track maintenance schedules of a physical asset.
To see how all this works together, let’s have a beer. A fresh, cold beer. We’ll need asset tags to make that happen though.
One famous beer brand was shipping about 50 million barrels a year at its peak in 1988. That number sank drastically to 16 million barrels by 2013. This could be due to many new players and craft beer gaining popularity. But a major factor may have been a decrease in quality and flavor. The beer, it is said, was sitting too long, in not-ideal temperatures, at every stage of the shipping and sales journey.
With the IoT, blockchain and RFID technologies, the quality of the beer can be assessed by monitoring the product’s age and temperature at each of the shipping and sales locations. The brewer can be sure the beer is fresh when it is poured into the consumer’s glass, assuming they use one!
Companies that don’t use the IoT, blockchain and asset tags to monitor and act on data may soon be at a major disadvantage.