According to Statista, there are currently more than 10 billion IoT devices, although this figure is expected to increase exponentially and could reach over 100 billion by 2030, as forecast by Gartner analysts. This would imply having to manage and protect an extremely high amount of information.
Information management affects both manufacturers, who want to protect their brand, product and market, as well as end consumers, who are becoming increasingly more demanding as regards the availability and origin of products.
We are starting to notice a change in society’s consumer habits. Apart from wanting to receive a product immediately, it appears that society is becoming aware of social and environmental issues, a trend that is made evident with the boom in eco fashion, electric cars and the veggie movement. This means that greater knowledge of product traceability is necessary, to obtain information about who has made the product, the methods they use, their environmental policies or their employment conditions.
RFID technology, explained in the article What is RFID? has helped solve traceability problems in supply chains by collecting data of identified products, although it has still to reach end users. One of the reasons is due to the fact that companies have no way to protect the authenticity of the information that reaches consumers, making it financially unappealing for brands.
A possible solution could be found in blockchain technology, better known to people today thanks to the rising popularity of bitcoin. As it functions on a mathematical basis and blocks are created to transmit information, transactions need to be validated by multiple users, which provides the necessary security to protect data transactions.
The combination of RFID technology and blockchain can generate extraordinary value for companies. RFID transports and captures product information, which is protected by the blockchain.
An applicable example could be explained with the protection of vaccine authenticity. We could avoid buying fake vaccines by reading a RFID tag verified by blockchain, which would enable us to detect any anomaly.
When we identify our products with RFID, we are able to track them and know their position in the supply chain, although this information is only at internal level. As the use of RFID spreads, we can see the utility of the technology being shared with intermediaries, whether they are governmental or private.
With blockchain we can build Smart Contracts that speed up all the procedures of the supply chain stages. These contracts would verify the authenticity of products, so that by reviewing the established conditions, transactions would be carried out without requiring the approval of a third party. For example, RFID registration at any point of the goods’ journey and their real-time validation could automatically generate customs payments, invoices and other documentation.
The adoption of this technology’s new paradigm implies yet another challenge in companies’ digital transformation. This transformation may only be achieved by increasing the use of Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) that, together with the security offered by blockchain, will lead to sharing relevant information that will enable us to streamline procedures and increase productivity.
As normally occurs, the most agile organisations, which allocate the most resources to innovation, will lead the necessary change so that they perceive the combination of RFID and blockchain as a real proposal, eventually considering it to be an indispensable feature to increase their social and economic benefits.
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