Walmart and Blockchain – Is Apparel Next?

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Blockchain hit the headlines with the launch of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Etherum, but blockchain technology has the potential to achieve a great deal more than simply serve as the basis for a virtual currency.

A recent NY Times article (referenced below) details how Walmart is using blockchain to track produce. But is blockchain on the horizon for our industry as well? The answer, I believe, is yes. Nike is already experimenting with it, as are a number of smaller companies. It will certainly be interesting to see how it develops and what it can really achieve. In the meantime though, enjoy this story about lettuce (it’s more interesting than it sounds)

Walmart’s Veggie-Tracking B.L.T.: Blockchain Lettuce Technology

NYTimes:
Sept. 24, 2018

When dozens of people across the country got sick from eating contaminated romaine lettuce this spring, Walmart did what many grocers would do: It cleared every shred off its shelves, just to be safe.

Walmart says it now has a better system for pinpointing which batches of leafy green vegetables might be contaminated. After a two-year pilot project, the retailer announced on Monday that it would be using a blockchain, the type of database technology behind Bitcoin, to keep track of every bag of spinach and head of lettuce.

By this time next year, more than 100 farms that supply Walmart with leafy green vegetables will be required to input detailed information about their food into a blockchain database developed by I.B.M. for Walmart and several other retailers exploring similar moves.

The burgeoning blockchain industry has generated a great deal of buzz, investment and experimentation. Central banks are exploring whether it would be good for tracking money flows. Eastman Kodak has explored a blockchain platform that could help photographers manage their collections and record ownership of their work, while a group of reporters and investors are using the technology to start a series of news publications.

But essentially the only real-world uses have come from cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which use their own blockchains to store transactions. Walmart is now trying to bring blockchain into the lexicon of everyday consumers.

“It is the first real instance of doing this at scale,” said Brigid McDermott, vice president of I.B.M. Blockchain.

For Walmart, the initiative fits squarely into two key strategies: bolstering its digital savvy and emphasizing the quality of its fresh food to customers. The blockchain could also save Walmart money. When another food-borne illness hits — like the E. coli outbreak affecting romaine — the retailer would only have to discard the food that was actually at risk. Read More 

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