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IBM partners with Unilever, Walmart and others for food safety

IBM has been one of the earliest corporate adopters of blockchain, using the technology to manage data for its Watson internet of things platform. Now the company plans to use blockchain to track food safety, and it is partnering with some of the biggest names in the food industry to do it.

DoleDriscoll’sGolden State FoodsKrogerMcCormick and CompanyMcLane CompanyNestléTyson FoodsUnilever and Walmart will all join IBM in exploring ways to apply blockchain to the food supply chain. IBM said growers, suppliers, processors, distributors, retailers, regulators and consumers will all be able to access reliable information regarding the origin and state of food. The goal is to reduce the number of people impacted by food contamination, a problem IBM says impacts 10% of the global population each year.

A blockchain is a digital ledger that records transactions in a database that can be accessed by multiple parties. Transactions cannot be recorded or changed unless all the parties involved agree. IBM’s Watson IoT platform enables IoT devices to send data to private blockchain ledgers for inclusion in shared transactions with tamper-resistant records. Because all business partners can verify each transaction, each partner can be held accountable for their individual roles in the overall transaction, without the need for a dedicated resource to manage the database.

IBM hopes blockchain will enable food providers and distributors to trace contaminated product to its source in a short amount of time so that it can be disposed of quickly and the source of contamination can be monitored, or removed from the supply chain.

“Unlike any technology before it, blockchain is transforming the way like-minded organizations come together and enabling a new level of trust based on a single view of the truth,” said Marie Wieck, general manager, IBM Blockchain. “Our work with organizations across the food ecosystem, as well as IBM’s new platform, will further unleash the vast potential of this exciting technology, making it faster for organizations of all sizes and in all industries to move from concept to production to improve the way business gets done.”

New blockchain platform
IBM said that after helping more than 400 organizations use blockchain, it is now launching its own blockchain platform, available through the IBM cloud. For developers, the platform will include network tools designed to bring blockchain networks up to speed in minutes, the company said.

IBM is also introducing what is calls a “democratic governance” system for its blockchain platform. The company said a voting process will collect signatures from members to govern member invitation distribution of smart contracts and creation of transactions channels.

The IBM blockchain platform was developed through open source collaboration in the Hyperledger community, including the Hyperledger Fabric v1.0 framework and Hyperledger Composer blockchain tool, both hosted by the Linux Foundation.

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