Blockchain 101: What You Need to Know

Companies need to know what goes on beyond the four walls of their businesses in order to gain greater insight to their full supply chain. They need technology that will enable them to understand the total process that runs their supply chains. Thus, Blockchain becomes a very interesting idea for organizations. It promotes trust among companies by bringing transparency into the supply chains, therefore making it “trustless”.

What is a Blockchain?
First, let us define what a Blockchain is. It is a transaction database that contains a continuously growing list of data shared by all nodes participating in the system. Every block contains a hash of previous blocks, creating a chain of blocks. Each block is guaranteed to come chronologically after the previous block and is computationally impossible to modify as every block after it would have to be regenerated.

Blockchain is the main innovation and technology behind Bitcoin. It is most widely used in the currency’s public ledger of cryptocurrencies. Based on a Bitcoin protocol, it contains every transaction executed in the currency. It contains all information about the addresses and their balances. That is because every computer connected to the Bitcoin system gets a copy of the blockchain. It is automatically downloaded upon signing up to the network.      

Decentralization
A block chain is open but secure. It is auditable and runs without a centralized operator. It is the only place that Bitcoins can exist in the form of unspent outputs of transaction. Unlike traditional payment systems like PayPal, it does not require a centralized database.  Since transactions are made by software applications, the nodes validate the transactions, add them to their copy of the ledger and broadcast them to other nodes.

The blockchain provides transparency a traditional centralized approach cannot. It can allow companies to make informed purchases by increasing visibility. It makes the authenticity and transparency of products and services less difficult by ensuring safe and verifiable transfer of digital property across expansive networks. In a word, blockchains may very well change the game of the complex global supply chains.

Time will tell.  Organizations are conservative, but we are already seeing adoption of the technology across the financial sectors worldwide.   Supply chain professionals should start considering the value of an open public ledger when considering new b2b commerce networks.