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It’s impossible to read an article today whether it is related to food safety and transportation, or even the drug supply chain, without seeing a mention of Block Chain somewhere on the page, or within the article. It is almost like a new era for the Internet and any other data “carrier” service, but we are assured by the “experts” that it will power the Internet of Things (IOT), and potentially will open doors to many other logistics services applications.

I by no means consider myself an expert, but like many of us I have been following BitCoin and its dependence upon Block Chain as do many others of the Crypto Currency realm.

Why is this – you may ask, as did I?

From my perspective it all comes down to security and a great way of combining this with secure tracking through known entities along the “chain” of transfer and/or communication. A standard block of data over the supposedly secure internet commonly has a 64, or 32, bit encryption and Block Chain has a 256-bit encryption coding structure, thus making it harder to hack into. Data transferred over the Block Chain infrastructure goes between known entities called Ledgers, or even Wallets, so those with authorized access are assured as to where the data originates from, and goes to, as opposed to the generally open architecture of the internet – albeit supposedly secure.

How does this then fit within the supply chain, or logistics applications?

In the drug and Life Sciences world the e-Pedigree requirements under drug serialization regulations could well look into using Block Chain as a great way of tracking the transfer of the products between known entities with a well-established secure way for recording chain of custody.

But what about in the world of produce tracking?

The new regulations under FSMA will require a method of tracking a way of storing, or recording data related to shipments and supply chain ownership. By tracking a chain of custody with Block Chain it will theoretically enable the FDA and retailers to quickly track the source of contamination of any food products as each part of the “farm to fork” supply route will be clearly traceable through each of the linked Ledgers.

Also with allowed access to Ledger Wallets a shipper, or grower, can get confirmation that the payment is available and ready to be transferred once the goods are received so cutting out any uncertainties related to the reliability of the buying source.

Early days yet for this new tool for logistics and the supply chain, and I am sure many other uses will be found for Block Chain as more knowledge is gained as to its viability in our daily activities.

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Peter Norton is a senior logistics and supply chain manager who is a consultant hired by clients in both the life science industry, and the food supply industry. Peter has extensive experience in both the domestic US and global markets specifically in the areas of cold chain management and security as this relates to the pharmaceutical industry to insure drugs that are supplied to the patient are at the required stability levels and peak efficacy.

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