To date, the ever-evolving DLT landscape has brought about dramatic changes to the world of finance and businesses in multiple industries. While blockchain is a type of distributed ledger technology, there are various other applications that have emerged since the advent of Bitcoin (BTC) over a decade ago.
What makes DLTs special is their capacity to cut out intermediaries in most supply chains while making it possible for stakeholders to collaborate autonomously without the need for a centralized authority figure. As the world continues to digitize its traditional workflow processes, the significance of DLTs increases.
Now, DLTs, in combination with other technologies, including the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence, are attempting to change the way trust and accountability are perceived while making it easy to track operations and achieve efficiency.
A recent study published by the World Trade Organization in conjunction with Trade Finance Global highlights how expansive the use cases of DLT can be. The study looks at how companies and organizations spanning across different industries, such as finance, supply chain logistics and insurance, are using DLTs to increase efficiency in their business operation.
Know Your Customer
One sector that has benefited from the adoption of blockchain and DLTs is the Know Your Customer solutions market. Given the challenges faced by financial services during verification and identification of customers in the fight against financial crime and money laundering, the traceability and immutability of DLTs make these two a perfect fit.
Clipeum is a consortium of banks, asset managers and insurance companies (including Société Générale, Natixis, Commerzbank, Tikehau Capital and R3), and a European-based entity that are striving to solve inherent inefficiencies in the sector through the use of an open-source pooling and collection protocol for KYC-related documents. The platform allows corporate treasurers to manage and grant access to requested documents.
The platform offers free access to corporate data providers, while financial institutions that consume the data pay a fixed license fee and a variable cost depending on the volume of data consumed.
This Singapore-based company has created a platform called vCargo that connects supply chain stakeholders digitizing the entire end-to-end process through the creation of organizations and institutions. So far, the platform offers up to 12 trade finance products, including access to letters of credit, import services and other trade products. The CamelOne platform is currently in use among logistic and collection companies as well as banks, not to mention the Singapore International Chamber of Commerce.
The company hopes to streamline the onboarding of the KYC process by allowing users to securely manage their digital identity while giving businesses and financial institutions access to tools to manage customer data.
At its core, KYC-Chain is a workflow solution built using DLT security features. For most businesses and financial institutions, such as Solex, BlockReal and Maxonrow, the platform goes beyond verifying customer identities to include a suite of solutions that manages the entire customer lifecycle in a reliable manner. So far, the project has completed over 500,000 successful onboardings with participants across the globe, according to a WTO report.
Insurwave offers a software-as-a-service solution for marine insurance companies that want to connect with clients (individual people and companies). Its DLT platform is a private blockchain that eliminates challenges such as high transactional costs and risk management, among other challenges surrounding the marine insurance industry workflow. With about 20 clients onboard, including Moller, Willis Towers Watson and Gard Insurance, Insurwave is able to generate revenue through annual license fees and on a charge-per-use model.
As more businesses continue to digitize their workflow processes, the need for legally digitized, enforceable documents increases. While smart contracts can be used in some instances as the digital equivalent of physical paper contracts in trade, they do not possess the flexibility and convenience of legal paper documents.
Through the use of a DLT on the Amazon Quantum Ledger Database, or AWS QLDB, CargoDocs offers an immutable and cryptographically verifiable transaction log of final documents and titles while also maintaining a verifiable history of changes to those documents.
Although the AWS QLDB is not a blockchain in the traditional sense, it shares attributes that make it similar to a DLT enabling the integration of CargoDocs across several DLT solutions. On a charge-per-use basis, the platform enables its users to create a number of digital trade documents, including electronic bills of lading for financial institutions and letters of credit.
Enigio is a digital document service provider based in Sweden that focuses on creating and managing digital original documents — invoices, medical journals, mortgages, promissory notes, wills, testaments, etc. — that are freely transferable on digital networks.
The company’s Trace:original product combines blockchain technology with Ricardian contracts to establish a DLT-based notary service that allows verification of digital documents without the need to store users’ or business data outside of the digital document. The tool turns documents into digital assets that can be stored locally by a holder, and the solution can be used to digitize all kinds of documents.
Enigio charges a fee for the creation of the document, but once created, it can be owned, managed and shared freely without anyone having to be an Enigio customer.
CargoX has created an open-source Blockchain Document Transaction System that supplies bills of lading on the Ethereum network. The BDTS is able to tokenize, encrypt and transfer the bill of lading documents, as well as other trade documents through an API system, which is interoperable with other blockchains.
So far, the platform has received accolades and recognition with awards such as the Blockchain Innovation of the Year in 2019 from the Transport and Logistics Middle East Excellence Awards. With current partners including the likes of Global Value Network, Maker, Mana and CargoX plans to have launched a possible KYC solution by 2021.
Dltledgers is an Asia-Pacific and Middle East-based DLT platform that digitizes trade documents and contracts, thus allowing commodity traders and large manufacturers to trade across borders. Some of its core services include the digitization of documents in account-payable financing, supplier financing networks, and provenance and sustainability processes. Built on a Hyperledger Fabric-based network, dltledgers aims to compete with the likes of We.trade and Komgo.
Based in Asia, eCom is a business-to-business data integration company that offers a DLT-based solution to securely share and exchange trusted data. Since the company mainly serves institutions in trade and finance, control and ownership of these documents are crucial. For cross border trade connectivity between countries, eCom uses a bi-directional exchange registry.
In the future, eCom plans to launch the second phase of its project in the hopes of implementing the transfer of trusted data through its registry as a solution for digitizing trade documents. Thus far, the eCom registry has shared over 320,000 documents from over 3,100 organizations, including IBM, Accenture and MuleSoft, to mention a few.
EdoxOnline is a ready-to-go DLT platform built on the Ethereum network for digitizing international trade documents. By linking and interconnecting the different stakeholders in international trade transactions, edoxOnline streamlines the document issuance process to speed up international trade, mitigate human errors and eliminate fraud, which are all challenges inherent in the industry. The platform has a number of users, including shippers, surveyors and trading companies, such as The Russell Marine Group and Alex Stewart International.
The platform is capable of handling electronic bills of lading and other documents while enabling real-time collaboration and privacy.
Bolero provides secure communication between various stakeholders in the trade and shipping process. Although it has a blockchain-agnostic platform, Bolero aims to enable interoperability between different DLT platforms and non-DLT platforms through the use of APIs.
At its core, the company’s technology aims to ensure secure and efficient communication by offering enterprise-level tools necessary for the secure sharing of information across different blockchains.
Based in the Asia-Pacific region, TradeWindow is the company behind Cube, a DLT platform for trade administration that allows importers and freight forwarders to share shipping documents and supply chain data with permissioned partners. The platform operates as a single source of truth system capable of digitizing compliance, risk management, export documentation and trade finance.
With Cube, importers and exporters have access to an immutable audit trail with every B2B or business-to-government exchange. TradeWindow claims to have over 700 customers with an array of supply chain participants, such as Western Union, Mastercard and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
The Trusple platform is a creation of AntChain, a blockchain-based solutions provider for cross-border trade. The platform operates as a financial service provider generating smart contracts that dictate shipping and payment terms so as to automate and process payments when conditions are met.
Through the use of smart contracts on the blockchain, Trusple is able to digitize traditional, manual, paper-based international trade value chain while making each contract tamper-proof. Some of its main use cases include banks and small and medium-sized enterprises, such as Citi, DBS Bank, Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered.
Vakt is currently only available in the oil markets and serves to enable various traders, terminals, brokers and trade finance banks the capacity to securely and seamlessly exchange data and trade documents directly from their internal systems. The platform is built via the collaboration and partnerships of companies with the same goal such as BP, Equinor, Gunvor, Koch Supply & Trading, Mercuria and Shell.
The blockchain-built platform allows users to manage physical transactions, and confirm trade and invoice settlements without the inefficiencies of paper-based processes. Like most DLT platforms in the sector, Vakt operates as a single source of truth for participants in its ecosystem with a distributed audit trail that safeguards data privacy.
Since it was first founded in 2015, Wave has claimed to be the world’s first live document exchange application. To test and roll out its platform, the company has partnered with the likes of Barclays Bank, the Israel Shipping Company and Sparx Logistics, a China-based logistics firm.
WaveBL is designed to enable its users the ability to exchange and digitally sign documents such as bills of lading in a cryptographically encrypted peer-to-peer network. Therefore, without a central registry, Wave’s users can manage their trade documents with every transaction.
Aero Blockchain Alliance
The air travel industry has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. However, Sita, a solutions and service provider to airlines and airports, has created the Aero Blockchain Alliance as a solution to some of the key business pain points in the sector by applying DLT.
Apart from blockchain technology, the platform will aggregate electronic data for freight forwarders and shippers, not to mention airlines and ground handlers that use IoT. By enhancing cargo with IoT sensors, the platform will be able to perform advanced tracking of shipments. Other import and export transportation documents will also be digitized through the platform automating key processes.
Calista is a U.S.-based automated export services company that verifies logistic documents and compliance activities while also providing track-and-trace solutions. With a global reach of participating entities on its platform, Calista uses a fee and subscription model for its services. Some of its most prominent participants include Astana International Finacial Centre, Trade-Van, China-ASEAN Information Harbor and Thailand’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.
Officially launched on Oct. 23, the China–Europe e-Single integrates several administrative services on its platform. These services include monitoring of the logistics supply chains, facilitating intermodality and traceability of cargo across the value chain, as well as integrating several supply chain management services on one platform. Therefore, participating companies can monitor their logistics supply chain, thus making it possible to respond in record time especially during periods of constraints such as the current global pandemic.
Although this platform is built with a decentralized architecture that optimizes the flow of information in international trade, it has features that support asset notarization, user verification and asset registration. Therefore, any document or even an event required in international trade can be digitized through the platform to increase its level of trust.
Currently, the platform is focused in Singapore, the Netherlands and South Korea with participants such as Samsung SDS (a shareholder in the company), Rotterdam Authority, as well as a collection of shippers, exporters and buyers in the supply chain.
Based in Dubai, DP World is working on a permissioned blockchain system that aims to become the next global and universal trading platform. The company is working with freight forwarders, financial institutions, and a group of public and private entities in the United Arab Emirates to promote the adoption of its DLT platform.
A couple of its main agendas is to digitize exit and entry certificates required at the port and certificates of origin. By improving trust among participants in the logistics community, DP World aims to eliminate waste and improve efficiency.
Since the global shipping industry requires collaborative efforts between participants, the Global Shipping Business Network has built up CargoSmart, a Hyperledger Fabric DLT framework for the shipping and logistics industry. At its core, CargoSmart comes with three layers: a business API layer, a blockchain persistence layer and a platform service layer. All three layers work together to offer encryption and digitalize the business model of companies in the supply chain industry while remaining compliant with government rules.
The collaboration between IBM and Maersk resulted in the creation of TradeLens, which is a trading platform for the supply chain. Users can share end-to-end supply chain documents and information, and they can store that information with guaranteed privacy and security. Built on the Hyberledger Fabric, TradeLens also offers a software-as-a-service solution to 200 members, most of which are corporates, banks, customs authorities and regional freight forwarders. Some of these 200 members include Agility, Southway Group and Namsung.
Security levels on TradeLens are such that entities know who they are dealing with. Smart contracts are deployed to automate the business process and increase trust, while cryptographic hashes are used to create original digital documents that cannot be duplicated.
Adoption is coming along
Emmanuelle Ganne, senior analyst at the World Trade Organization, told Cointelegraph: “DLT could bring global trade from the labor-intensive steam train age into the magnetic levitation train age that moves at high speed without friction,” adding:
“DLT has the power to break existing siloes and to replace the many handshakes needed to complete an international trade transaction by one single handshake, thereby removing inefficiencies and slashing costs.”
From a technical standpoint, and as seen through the examples mentioned above, DLT is ready to replace traditional transactional systems with efficient and transparent tools. However, regulation is still standing in the way, creating a major bottleneck in the adoption process.
Deepesh Patel, editorial director at Trade Finance Global — a trade finance platform — told Cointelegraph: “Most banks have not yet seen meaningful support from authorities to facilitate trade on digital terms, and we urge governmental authorities and policymakers around the world to address these historic and wildly outdated laws.”