Blockchain technology is transforming the way we think about security and accountability. From finance to online shopping, it’s quickly breaking into a wide range industries. Air cargo is no different. In fact, the ability for blockchains to leave a permanent record of all activity across different variables makes it the perfect fit for air cargo.

Companies and airlines alike have caught on. Both are making concerted efforts to revamp the air cargo perishables market. Let’s see how.

Today’s Truth About Perishables and Air Cargo

Despite the sophistication of air cargo today, the industry still has a long way to go. According to a recent study by nonprofit group Oceana, thirty percent of seafood shipped around the world is mislabeled. In some regions, mislabeling can exceed eighty percent. Much of the issue can be traced back to simple manual error. Air cargo still relies heavily on paper air waybills and manual processing. Both leave plenty of room for mistakes.

Blockchain by its very nature addresses these issues. Blockchain technology allows companies to keep shipments records that include many data points, from shipment location to size and weight. Each shipment, or even each item within a shipment, could be tracked at this level of detail.

Blockchain technology also means decentralized data. The information is stored across multiple locations, making it impossible for a single person to tamper with records. This ensures enhanced security and accountability along the entire supply chain.

Temperature-Sensitive Goods

Among the goods that stand to benefit the most from blockchain technology are perishables, like food and pharmaceuticals. These items need to be packed and shipped in temperature-controlled spaces white they fly across the world. Any exposure to conditions outside these parameters could lead to spoiling. This could mean the loss of millions in revenue, or worse, the loss of human life. 

Blockchain organization Hyperledger Foundation is hoping to use the technology’s potential to make temperature-control easier than ever for air cargo. Using the blockchain framework Hyperledger Sawtooth, sensors could be set up around a plane’s holding area to monitor internal conditions.

In fact, these sensors could monitor much more than temperature. Humidity, location, motion, shock, all of which could affect the integrity of perishables, could be tracked with these sensors. Of course, the Internet of Things (IoT) isn’t all that new. There are already companies that use product sensor tags to track shipping conditions. What makes blockchain different?

The answer lies in record-keeping. Blockchain technology is known for producing an unalterable record of whatever’s recorded. Conditions recorded on the Hyperledger Sawtooth framework, therefore, are permanent and accurate.

Air cargo carriers can investigate incidents with full confidence in the data they’re reviewing. This reliability is just as important when analyzing air shipment data for ways to improve packing/shipment methods and route efficiency. Finally, recordkeeping on the blockchain would eliminate human error and fraud.

Wal-Mart and the Blockchain

Today’s air cargo industry directly involves the world’s largest companies, so their presence on the innovation front should be no surprise. Wal-Mart, for example, launched trials last year that use blockchain technology to monitor produce shipped to its stores.

The chain store company aims to consolidate all information about a particular order into a single receipt. Data would include shipment information, where the food was grown, and who inspected it.

Furthermore, this data would be accessible at the pallet and item level, giving Wal-Mart more capability than ever to inspect causes of food recalls and shipment issues. Currently, it’s hard for companies to trace the source of food issues, leaving them no choice but to recall massive amounts of food across all locations to be on the safe side. This can lead to larger food and produce losses than actually necessary.

Wal-Mart’s test involved two products: an unnamed packaged product item in the United States and pork in China. If these tests prove to be successful, Wal-Mart will consider expanding the technology to additional items in both countries.

Blockchain: The Future of Air Cargo?

Wal-Mart is just one example of how companies are turning to blockchain technology as a way to improve efficiencies and reduce risk with the shipping of perishable goods. Air cargo is a perfect fit for the benefits a blockchain can bring. In an industry where manual processes are still the norm, companies need to consider the right technology to take them into the future. With the blockchain, the future is now.


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