Retail giant Walmart is amping up efforts to harness the power of blockchain record-keeping in pharmaceutical tracking, while also hedging its bets as to the specific technology it’s committing to.
The big-box retail giant said Thursday it will participate in a drug-verification pilot with IBM, KPMG and drugmaker Merck. This is the second such pilot involving Walmart to be announced in as many weeks, and it adds yet another flavor of distributed ledger technology (DLT) to the drug-tracking use case.
Just last week, CoinDesk reported that Walmart was participating in the MediLedger consortium whose members already include pharmaceutical manufacturers such as Pfizer and the three largest pharmaceutical wholesalers, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health.
But whereas MediLedger builds upon a private version of ethereum called Parity, the IBM/Walmart project will use Hyperledger Fabric – a sign that Walmart isn’t yet committed to any single platform.
Big retailers broadly are clearly getting more comfortable with blockchain technology and exploring multiple options. Earlier this week, it emerged that Target is participating in a Hyperledger supply chain tracking project called Grid, while also pursuing its own blockchain project called ConsenSource.
Walmart was already one of the most prominent companies in the world to adopt distributed ledger technology (DLT), as a participant in IBM’s Food Trust. That system is now out of testing and is used in the wild to track the movement of fruits and vegetables from the farm to the grocery aisle.
But the Bentonville behemoth is still early in its explorations of the pharmaceutical use case.
“We are learning, which is the point of these pilots, but our ultimate goal through both is to create a safer, more transparent supply chain for our customers,” said Walmart spokeswoman Marilee McInnis.
Spurred by FDA
These pharmaceutical DLTs are coming to light at this moment in time because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is now completing its approval of platforms for inclusion in a government-mandated pilot program.
The Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) requires firms to be able to identify, track and trace prescription medicines and vaccines distributed within the U.S., down to a fairly granular level on the packaging of these products.
The new drug pilot will build on the work Big Blue has already done with Walmart, said Mark Treshock, IBM’s blockchain solutions Leader for healthcare and life sciences.
“The project with KPMG Merck and Walmart, even though it’s a pilot, is going to be leveraging the production blockchain platforms that we have developed for Walmart with FoodTrust and also with Maersk in TradeLens,” he said, adding:
“So, it’s not just a science experiment.”
While he clarified food and drugs would not co-exist on the same blockchain, Treshock said FoodTrust relies on the same sort of data standards such as GS1, as is commonly used in life sciences.
On the subject of Walmart participating in a Hyperledger pilot with IBM and at the same time working with Mediledger’s ethereum-based blockchain, Eric Garvin, co-lead at MediLedger, said it was not surprising since Walmart and IBM collaborate on FoodTrust.
“Many pharma companies are participating in multiple pilots,” he said. “The strength of the MediLedger pilot is that it includes a diverse mix of industry companies (all segments of the supply chain, large companies, small companies, brand manufacturers, generics) and has the greatest support with at least 20 companies involved.”
The FDA’s mandate for drug tracking lists “interoperability” as a key requirement and putative benefit of digitalizing the supply chain, raising the question of whether competing enterprise blockchain protocols can be made to communicate with each other – or if businesses will eventually have to consolidate platforms.
IBM’s Treshock took a philosophical view on this, telling CoinDesk:
“We feel it’s less about the technology, whether Hyperledger or ethereum – although that is certainly important – and more about interoperability at the business model level, by that I mean coming together and creating open networks.”source:coindesk.
Italian Banking Association Uses Blockchain to Test Data Reconciliation Successfully
The banks from the Italian Banking Association (ABI) have processed a reconciliation of data from an entire activity of the year using the blockchain technology. According to the group’s press release, the tests were successful and proved that the technology could be very useful to local banks.
During this first test, the group processed around 200 million data entries using the blockchain system, which is called Spunta Project. The success is proof that the platform can be used to verify the data quickly.
At the moment, the project has eighteen Italian banks participating and 35 nodes that process the transactions and operations. This means that 78% of the banks present in the country are a part of this project.
According to the reports, the system will be officially implemented on March 1, 2020. Most of the necessary tests were already made, so the technology is ready to be more widely used by the banks which are a part of the national association.
The Spunta Project is officially led by ABI Lab, a research team created by the ABI. It also has the participation of NTT Data, Sia network and the R3 network with its Corda technology.
This is far from the only case in which banks are using the blockchain to achieve better results when processing data. In fact, blockchain technology is impacting the banking sector more than almost any other sector and specialists believe that it will be responsible for huge changes in the upcoming years.
Swedish central bank now looking into plausibility of issuing ‘e-krona’ CBDC
According to the Head of the Swedish central bank, Facebook‘s Libra project has given incentive to central banks across the world to review and investigate the development of new financial technologies. Stefan Ingves, Governor of Sveriges Riksbank, told CNBC,
“It has been an incredibly important catalytic event to sort of shake the tree when Libra showed up out of the blue, and that forced us to think hard about what we do. Part of my job is to produce a good/service called the Swedish krona which is convenient to use for Swedish citizens, and if I’m good at that in a technical sense then I don’t have a problem. But if I were to start issuing 20-kilo copper coins the way we did in 1668, then we soon would be out of business.”
As the use of cash continues to fall in Sweden, the Swedish central bank has been looking into the possibility of issuing its own digital currency. Several local business in the country no longer accept physical currency, with some even putting up signs to warn customers before they enter the store. As of now, Sveriges Riksbank is looking to investigate the plausibility of an ‘e-krona’ digital currency, which it says could be introduced if it decides to do so. However, it isn’t the only central bank looking into this.
China has already announced that it is close to launching its own digital currency while just last week, the Swiss National Bank declared that it was looking into the use of digital currencies in trading.
With Libra having lost backing from more than a few companies recently, Ingves warned that Facebook would be faced with challenges as it moves forward with the project. He said,
“In this day and age we have to twist things in our heads and do things based on the assumption that nothing is on paper, and then when we talk about money everything is going to be digital in one form or the other. But the old issues — private sector money or public sector money — they are basically identical, and if history gives us any guidance at all then almost all private sector initiatives have collapsed sooner or later.”
Just yesterday, The Libra Association announced the appointment of members to the Board of Directors, with the Board including David Marcus, former PayPal executive and Head of Facebook’s blockchain strategy. Currently, the group has 21 members, 7 fewer than its original 28 after Mastercard, PayPal, Visa and four more members backed out.
CipherTrace’s Blockchain Forensics Service Now Covers 700 Crypto Assets
The transactions of over 700 cryptocurrencies are now searchable via the blockchain analytics offering from CipherTrace.
That means more than 87 percent of the top 100 cryptocurrencies by volume can now be traced through the API service, the company said Tuesday.
Backed by notable firms like Galaxy Digital, CipherTrace has most recently been involved in the push towards addressing regulatory guidance issued by the Financial Action Task Force in June.
With some 522 million data attribution points, CipherTrace says its platform is uniquely situated to tackle real-world applications like terrorist financing.
“Until now, large swaths of the cryptocurrency ecosystem have remained opaque to AML and CTF monitoring,” CipherTrace CEO Dave Jevans said in a statement.
Providing a view into this data is vital for the future of the industry, Jevans argued, saying:
“Only by helping virtual asset service providers rid their networks of criminals and terrorists will the industry achieve the level of trust required for widespread adoption and government acceptance.”
With the update, the complete financial transaction histories of top cryptocurrencies by market cap such as ethereum, litecoin, and bitcoin cash have become available. Support for ERC-20 tokens and smart contracts has also been added, including transaction and counterparty information, CipherTrace said.
Through features such as transaction alerts for flagged accounts, CipherTrace is marketing its product to government and law enforcement agencies, as well as crypto and blockchain firms that seek to align with increasingly tough international rules.