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IBM, Microsoft to leverage GS1 blockchain standards

GS1 open standards to promote blockchain interoperability across supply chain networks


Technology giants IBM and Microsoft have announced plans to leverage GS1 standards in their enterprise blockchain applications for supply chain clients.

GS1 standards allow businesses to expand blockchain networks to suppliers, distributors and other ecosystem partners to ensure transparency, visibility, trust and a secure way of data sharing.

The announcement was made at the end of the sixth edition of GS1 Australia Supply Chain Week that concluded in Sydney and Melbourne recently.

GS1 Australia CEO Maria Palazzolo says it is important to establish data exchange and sharing technologies like blockchain on strong foundations and participants in a chain must agree on a common way to uniquely identify any item, location, shipment, consignment, asset or any other ‘thing’ that blockchain transactions relate to.

“Trading partners must also adhere to common data definitions to ensure all parties in the chain can correctly interpret, and integrate, the ‘meaning’ of data in the blockchain,” Palazzolo says.

“We look forward to close collaboration with Microsoft and IBM, and will also engage with other blockchain technology companies for the adoption of GS1 standards to enable interoperability and decrease adoption barriers.”

IBM has already successfully tested blockchain technology to improve traceability of goods transported through a supply chain.

“One of the key benefits to blockchain in the enterprise is the trust it delivers, which enables more efficient and complete sharing of the critical data that drives enterprise transactions,” IBM blockchain business development vice president Brigid McDermott says.

“By removing the barriers that can be caused from disparate entry systems, that trust is solidified even further,” McDermott says.

“That’s why we are working with clients like Walmart and collaborating with other industry leaders to implement GS1 open standards into the work that we do.”

Data stored or referenced by blockchain networks can be structured for shared communications and interoperability through the use of standards.

For example, the GS1 and ISO open standards of Electronic Product Code Information Services (EPCIS) and Core Business Vocabulary (CBV) enable standardised exchange of data and item-level tracking.

“Leveraging existing GS1 standards to structure event information will enable blockchain-based supply chain implementations to be more interoperable and will simplify the capture and description of events that are written against smart contracts,” Microsoft global business strategist blockchain Yorke Rhodes says.

“Collaborating with partners to implement solutions on blockchain using standards already in place for item-level tracking is the quickest path to production.”

Data61 (CSIRO) digital services team member Peter Carter says Data61 is currently analysing the use of GS1 EPCIS standards on blockchain, and exploring how to integrate smart sensors and packaging into the supply chain on blockchain.

“What attracts many organisations to blockchain technology is the possibility of sharing data across corporate boundaries while maintaining a high degree of rigour and accuracy,” GS1 vice president retail Robert Beideman says.

“We hope to make this possibility a reality for businesses by working with dedicated technology and industry partners—and together promoting a common business language.”

GS1 Australia Supply Chain Week 2017

Held over two locations, GS1 Australia Supply Chain Week provided interactive learning experience for supply chain professionals and business owners to explore the role GS1 standards can play to drive business efficiencies and reduce costs.

The event kicked off in Sydney and continued in Melbourne where delegates heard practical insights across different industries from representatives from various companies and industry bodies including, Australian Logistics Council, Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade APEC Branch, Australasian Railway Association (ARA), Australian Food & Grocery Council (AFGC), Coles, Johnson & Johnson, ACT Health, Liberty OneSteel, Telstra, Google, Alibaba Group, Myer, and Woolworths.

The Transport & Logistics Day saw discussions on industry responses to the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy, the need for end-to-end visibility in the supply chain, blockchain and GS1 EPCIS, supply chain improvements in the Asia Pacific region, and a glimpse into the future technology in the supply chain.

The Rail Day provided a platform for industry experts to share insights about the call to action to adopt GS1 standards for the identification and marking (barcoding and/or tagging) of parts and components to reduce costs, improve safety and reliability.

“This year’s program showcased a fantastic opportunity for industries to come together to shape supply chain solutions and understand the benefits of continuing to implement GS1 standards in the digital landscape of today,” GS1 Australia customer engagement & business development head Marcel Sieira says.

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