Blockchain: Building a chain of trust

Blockchain may be a popular buzzword, but many people are still learning exactly what it means, how it works and why it matters for retail. To put it simply, “it's a single, immutable, unchangeable ledger that everyone uses,” says Scott Likens, new services and emerging tech leader at PwC. In this episode of Retail Gets Real, Likens helps simplify the technology and discusses current and future implications of blockchain on the retail industry.

The internet was invented to share information, and it has done that very well for decades. Once money and digital assets entered, however, it became clear the internet’s infrastructure was not equipped to handle monetary transactions. As technologies gradually digitize, companies need a better system for the secure and easy digital exchange of assets.

Businesses and individuals currently operate in a world with many ledgers — for example, a company’s internal ledger and those it shares with each business partner — which inherently creates complication and cost. Sharing a single ledger that’s also easily verifiable removes the intermediaries involved with the transfer of assets and opportunities for fraud.

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In talking about an early use case, Likens brought up a recent milk powder controversy in China. “Think about mom and dad ordering milk powder from New Zealand because they think that’s the best one,” he said. “How many people touched that product from the time they ordered online to the time it’s delivered to their door?” Going all the way back to the farmer and the cow that created the milk, he said, there are multiple players in the supply chain. If consumers can receive a product and do something as simple as scanning a QR code, he said, they can feel more comfortable.

“What’s the inherent value of that? I don’t know. It makes me feel good,” he said. Thinking as a parent, though, “I want to make sure that absolutely guaranteeing where that came from is possible. Blockchain is a big part of that.”

Listen to the full episode to learn more about why retailers should be excited about blockchain, how it works and examples of successful implementations. Read more about this emerging tech in STORES, NRF's magazine.

Want to learn more about emerging retail technologies like blockchain, AI and VR? Attend NRF 2019: Retail’s Big Show in New York City, January 13-15, 2019.

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