Executive Briefings

Blockchain: A Better Way to Track Pork Chops, Bonds, Bad Peanut Butter?

Frank Yiannas has spent years looking in vain for a better way to track lettuce, steaks and snack cakes from farm and factory to the shelves of Walmart, where he is the vice president for food safety. When the company dealt with salmonella outbreaks, it often took weeks to trace where the bad ingredients came from.

Then, last year, IBM executives flew to Walmart's headquarters in Arkansas to propose a solution: the blockchain.

As Mr. Yiannas studied their pitch, he said, "I became increasingly convinced that maybe we were onto the holy grail."

The blockchain — the buzzy, bewildering technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin — is starting to be applied to real-world problems like tracking pork chops, shipping containers and footwear with a speed and security not currently possible. The IBM-Walmart partnership is one of the biggest practical tests to date.

At its heart, blockchain simply refers to a bookkeeping method that "chains" together entries so that they are very difficult to modify later. It provides a way for large groups of unrelated companies to jointly keep a secure and reliable record of their transactions.

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Then, last year, IBM executives flew to Walmart's headquarters in Arkansas to propose a solution: the blockchain.

As Mr. Yiannas studied their pitch, he said, "I became increasingly convinced that maybe we were onto the holy grail."

The blockchain — the buzzy, bewildering technology behind cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin — is starting to be applied to real-world problems like tracking pork chops, shipping containers and footwear with a speed and security not currently possible. The IBM-Walmart partnership is one of the biggest practical tests to date.

At its heart, blockchain simply refers to a bookkeeping method that "chains" together entries so that they are very difficult to modify later. It provides a way for large groups of unrelated companies to jointly keep a secure and reliable record of their transactions.

Read Full Article