Blockchain Technology Opens New Doors for ERP Innovation
Blockchain technology has recently emerged from the shadows of the deep web into the bright lights of enterprise IT. Thanks to its security advantages, blockchain provides ample use cases and easy integration with enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms. Dell and IBM, along with open-source groups like the Linux Foundation, are just a few of the many businesses developing enterprise use cases for blockchain.
Enterprise data and analytics advances have already given developers experience integrating new solutions into ERP platforms.
“We are using many of the same tools we did for XML, EDI and analytics to do integration,” said Paul Brody, global innovation leader for blockchain at EY, in a Computerworld interview. “So that seems like less of a huge challenge and more of a well-known and well-understood problem.”
The challenge is to up the ante for blockchain by making it secure enough for enterprise transactions.
“Building sophisticated tools for managing privacy and security while sharing information selectively is key for enterprise adoption at scale,” Brody told the source.
Benefits of Blockchain Technology
Filament, an Internet of Things startup, is currently using blockchain to facilitate secure communications between connected devices, while other businesses are developing blockchain as an easy-to-use alternative to the electronic health record (EHR).
Blockchain benefits ERP functions by recording transactions in chronological order as blocks on a thread that can be shared across networks among authorized users, notes Brian Behlendorf of Hyperledger, a Linux Foundation initiative to take blockchain beyond cryptocurrency, in Healthcare IT News. Because no one can alter or delete an existing block, this technology can provide crucial permanent records of transactions.
Blockchain is also less susceptible to fraud because everyone in the chain must authorize transactions before they’re added. As a distributed storage system, blockchain is also light on enterprise systems and resilient during periods of disruption. Plus, since there’s no single point of failure, IT hypothetically wouldn’t have to devote significant resources to securing blockchain databases.
In the case of health care, authorized doctors from multiple clinics could add transactions like new diagnoses, tests or prescriptions to a patient’s blockchain. Clinics could then share the blockchain record, with the patient’s consent, without worrying about the interoperability issues presented by EHRs.
Hyperledger recently announced a new project called Hyperledger Composer, which offers a modeling language to support data modeling and validation rules. Developers are currently faced with the difficulty of taking existing blockchain use cases and putting them into production code, notes Computer World. Businesses that share a blockchain ledger must share certain assets, identities, registries and transactions. Eventually, Hyperledger’s goal is to build blockchain business networks that involve smart contracts between different organizations for the creation of distributed ledgers.
At Walmart’s recent shareholder summit, IBM demonstrated a new Hyperledger-based tool for tracking produce shipments, Computer World reports. The blockchain technology integrated with Walmart’s ERP and recorded ledger information on mango shipments. This data included each shipment’s origins, which packing houses it went through, where it was kept in cold storage and which distributions centers handled it.
This kind of tool can make it much easier for companies to not only track shipments but also react decisively to foodborne illness. Instead of recalling all shipments of a faulty food product, companies like Walmart could instigate more targeted recalls, saving money and time for suppliers and retailers — and possibly saving lives.