SF Express, the second-largest courier services provider in China, is exploring the use of blockchain to transport critical supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 30, the Global Times — an English-language newspaper within the CPC-owned People’s Daily Group — reported that the Shenzhen-based firm is finding the technology to be beneficial for tracking the provenance and checking the quality of medical goods.

While the extent and status of SF Express’ implementation of blockchain is not detailed, it has reportedly “already begun to establish the use of blockchain,” specifically for the transportation of medicines and foods, both of which necessitate high standards and reliability.

The report situates blockchain as one of the key emerging technologies — alongside big data and artificial intelligence — that are helping frontline medical workers and aid suppliers to provide relief efforts during the pandemic.

SF Express is said to be combining blockchain with big data to construct a logistics network that supports the tracking, verification and accurate recording of goods. The system will reportedly be able to identify supply priority levels as well as mitigate the risks of counterfeit or unlicensed products being distributed to regions.

Big-name Chinese technology firms such as Alibaba Group and Huawei are reportedly focusing their energies on providing artificial intelligence solutions that can enhance diagnostic solutions for the public health crisis. 

Blockchain in the time of COVID-19

As reported, academic researchers have previously argued that the widespread use of blockchain and AI technology by the likes of Alibaba, SF Express and Apple should be replicated by charitable organizations and government-led public health initiatives.

Castigating Beijing’s choice to funnel all public donations through five government-backed charity organizations, academic Syren Johnstone said that less centralized blockchain systems would provide more public visibility, accountability and reliability than current approaches to the crisis.

At a regional level, however, as many as 20 new blockchain-based applications designed to help fight the outbreak had reportedly been launched in China by mid-February, several in collaboration with provincial authorities.

This weekend, the World Health Organization partnered with major blockchain and tech companies to launch a distributed ledger technology-based platform for sharing data connected with the pandemic.