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Spotlight on AT&T: Blockchain for the supply chain

Manufacturing, transportation, retail—that’s the supply chain

Blockchain is largely associated with the mysterious world of cryptocurrency, but AT&T sees significant value in applying the generalized ledger that supports blockchain to other use cases, particularly supply chain management. During the AT&T Business Summit in Dallas, Texas, AVP of Product Marketing and Managment Mobeen Khan explained to Enterprise IoT Insights how blockchain can act as a link between several of AT&T’s focus verticals and improve efficiencies for supply chain stakeholders.

Khan, noting demonstrations taking place in the Summit’s exhibition areas, said many of the operator’s vertical solutions focus on manufacturing, transportation and retail. “If you look at it, that’s the supply chain. You have a manufacturer that buildings things, which go through many modes of transportation—whether it’s a ship, trains, automobiles, plans—crosses borders, so goes through some government, then ends up at some distributor warehouse and eventually on a shelf. If you look at the lifecycle of the journey, what is happening in this IoT world is we, as AT&T, are providing solutions to each of the players across that value chain. We’re providing some services to the manufacturers, their outbound logistics, we’re providing services to the transportation, tracking where the truck is, did somebody drop a package, the pallet company that puts packages on top of pallets, we connect that. The packages themselves are being tracked and then the retailers on a connected shelf. Each of that data is very siloed. It’s being tracked and used for very specific purposes within that particular enterprise and within that [company] in the value chain.”

Over time, blockchain could be used to take the data out of the silo and relevant information could be provided to stakeholders that can use it to increase efficiency. “If that data is coming from the source that it is coming from the source that I say it’s coming from, if that data can have a wrapper around what can be shared and what cannot be shared with whom, under what conditions, I can trust that if I give you that data, you’re getting the right data at the right time.” And there’s also the ability for each player to audit what’s meaningful to their piece of the larger business, Khan said.

“Blockchain addresses a lot of these problems. Applying this technology makes a lot of sense. This is not something where things get adopted right away. We are at a very early stage.” He said the initial focus is on very specific use cases, including food safety, pharmaceuticals and other high-value items.

In terms of go-to-market, AT&T has partnered up with IBM and Microsoft Azure to provide the fabric of the ledger and the platform technology.

“We are having some early deployments and trials, looking at what’s the real value prop and what’s the right economic model and what is the adoption curve for this technology over the lifecycle of this product. Also, the most value you get out of this is not when one person adopts it but when the value chain adopts it. That’s another part of the journey we’ll go through,” Khan said. He explained AT&T’s role as solution integrator.



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