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article imageInterview: Blockchain transforms distribution in emerging markets Special

By Tim Sandle     Apr 2, 2018 in Business
Hong Kong - OpenPort is a Hong-Kong based digital logistics platform that uses blockchain technology to transform domestic distribution in emerging markets. To discover the advantages of this technology, Digital Journal spoke with CEO Max Ward.
A report conducted by DNV GL, the global quality assurance and risk management company, indicated that only 20 percent of businesses have published information about their supply chain.
In order to improve transparency of the supply chain network, the model designed by OpenPort model aims to provide this together with security, while also reducing logistics costs. This is through the utilization of blockchain technology.
To discover more about blockhain for the supply chain and OpenPort’s functionality Digital Journal spoke with OpenPort CEO Max Ward.
Digital Journal: How is blockchain shaping businesses?
Max Ward: We are seeing a wave of cross-sectoral blockchain adoption at the moment, with a host of industries utilizing the technology as a means of increasing transparency, efficiency and security. While initially designed to verify digital currency transactions, businesses are now tapping into the power of blockchain technology to digitize and secure documents and product information, creating a secure, irrefutable record.
DJ: Is blockchain useful for all businesses?
Ward: The potential applications of blockchain are endless, and it has proven to be a great enabler of innovation so far. Relatively speaking, we are still in the infancy stage of blockchain technology. The coming years will bring a plethora of new use cases that will deliver heightened levels of transparency and security for businesses in a variety of sectors.
DJ: Are all blockchains similar?
Ward: The overarching values of blockchain technology are trust, transparency and security, and many companies are adopting the technology as a means of reinforcing these values in their platforms. While different models will have unique use cases, the common thread is the facilitation of irrefutable data records and transactions, with the authenticity of records verifiable by the entire blockchain community as opposed to a third party authority.
DJ: How do blockchains aid supply chain security specifically?
Ward: Blockchain technology has the potential to fundamentally change the supply chain landscape, delivering new levels of transparency and security. Blockchain enables the creation of a shared and irrefutable record of events and transactions within the logistics process, offering real-time status updates from tender through to the delivery stage while also mitigating against fraud and theft.
DJ: What is special about the OpenPort model?
Ward: OpenPort takes aim at the fragmentation and opacity in Emerging Asia in particular, now leverages that product to other markets. There are many new companies leveraging the power of Blockchain to solve similar problems, including international movements and the letter of credit problems, which typically involve large numbers of stakeholders. Domestic trade settlement usually involves approximately four (shipper, consignee/retailer, transporter, and driver/truck operator) all of which can interface with OpenPort’s system and platform which writes key events to the blockchain platform, and uses smart contracts for real practice.
DJ: How do you differ from your competitors?
Ward: OpenPort is, as far as I know, the Transport Management System solution that is making the most market use of Blockchain, and putting together ePOD and freight invoices which can be collateralized at better than market rates. This helps transporters to be paid faster, while giving shippers the tools and information they need to manage their shipments and improve their customer service, and ultimately improve top line cash collection.
DJ: How did you go about developing it?
Ward: We started with a complex and Proven Transport Management System (TMS) in 2015, acquired a company in the US that had 10 years’ development experience. We added mobile layer and APIs, starting in China and Indonesia, and further localizing for South Asia and more recently Philippines. Blockchain work started around one year ago, and we are now writing virtually all our shipment volumes to distributed ledger.
The Open Enterprise Logistics (OEL) foundation is in pre-sale and building a new protocol (Ethereum) sidechain that will further help us to achieve our goals of improving transparency and cash flow, with more controlled cost, speed and security that many established blockchain platforms.
DJ: Which companies do you work with?
Ward: Our primary customers are multi-national shippers who we connect with medium-sized transporters, while increasing engaging the large logistics companies themselves. We have a partnership with SweetBridge and Blockchain in Transport Alliance, plus new developments in the Blockchain space.
DJ: How do you ensure that OpenPort is future proof?
Ward: We continuously drive innovation, we are expanding OpenPort labs and the OpenSource Foundation for some pure, but targeted R&D on not just Blockchain but also A.I. So we make sure our current products are driving customer excitement and measurable value, plus planning for new solutions, always focused on increasing transparency in logistics and improving the lives and businesses of stakeholders in the logistics ecosystem.
DJ: What are your plans for future developments?
Ward: We will have a major marketing initiative around our liquidity product, which basically allows trucks to shorten their time to receive cash to days of freight invoice, instead of months. We are piloting this in the Philippines now and anticipate to expand regionally, including South Asia soon thereafter.
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