Blockchain – What potential for the supply chain?

ECR France blockchain-blogThe blockchain is an information storage and transmission technology that is transparent, secured, immutable and unalterable. It operates without central control. Its impact on our lives can be as revolutionary as the creation of Internet in the 90’s.

Let’s have a look at what it is and imagine how it can transform the supply chain.

A blockchain is a database that contains the history of all exchanges between its users since its creation. This database called ledger, is secure and distributed: it is shared by its various users, without any intermediary, which allows each one to check the validity of the chain and to prevent a user from falsifying it. In a public blockchain, everyone can download this registry, it becomes a nod of the network.


There are public blockchains (bitcoin, ethereum, …) open to all, and private blockchains also called distributed ledger (such as those offered by IBM), whose access and use are limited to a certain number of actors.

A blockchain can therefore be assimilated to a public, anonymous and unfalsifiable public accounting book. As the mathematician Jean-Paul Delahaye writes, we must imagine “a very large notebook that everyone can read freely and free of charge, on which everyone can write, but which is impossible to erase and indestructible.

3 categories of applications are emerging:

  • The transfer of tangible or intangible assets: monetary and fiduciary (securities, votes, stocks, bonds), Supply Chain (goods, assets, etc.)
  • A register: this ensures better traceability of products and assets (« from farm to fork »). This can considerably improve the time required to identify the products concerned by a health-related crisis.
  • Smart contracts *: These are self-executable contracts that can automatically execute the terms and conditions of a contract without requiring human intervention once started. The format is usually of the following form: if {condition} then {statement}. This obvious advantage is to avoid useless and time – and money-consuming frictions between partners,

The fields of exploitation are large: banking, insurance, real estate, health, energy, transport, online voting … In general, blockchains could replace most centralized “trusted third parties” (banks, notaries, cadastre, …) by distributed computer systems. Obviously, these promises are not without challenges and limits, be they economic, legal, governance or ecological.

In France, members of the Institut du Commerce are launching application tests to simplify the transfer of ownership of pallets.

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