Blockchain in logistics and transportation: Transformation ahead
Fraud detection. Blockchain will also be useful for fraud detection. The example Fuller cited was the practice of “factoring” in trucking, or assigning unpaid freight bills to a third-party company for less than — perhaps 60% to 90% of — the value of the bill. Trucking companies use factoring to improve their cash flow since it gives them access to the money right away, but it costs them a percentage of the bill. “One of the reasons factoring companies charge so much [is because a significant portion of] factoring receivables end up getting duplicated, [when trucking companies] send multiple bills of lading to multiple factoring companies, or [a company might] create a false bill of lading.” Factoring companies charge a very high rate because a portion, which Fuller said was likely low, of transactions it engages in is fraudulent. With blockchain, as long as the sensor data itself is not falsified, the transactions represent what actually happened as opposed to what someone says happened. But perhaps more importantly, factoring itself would become less necessary since a blockchain system with smart contracts would govern the payment for transactions in an automated way.
Making all these use cases a reality, of course, will require the various stakeholders in the process to work together. “True implementation of blockchain involves both the shipper and carrier using this platform and so far what we have seen is a few shipping companies using it,” Kar said. “The real market pull, not push, will start … once the shippers start demanding carriers to start using this platform.”
When will that happen? At this point, it seems too soon to tell. Kar said, “I believe we’re at least two to five years out, or maybe sooner.”