Observation | To what extent has the blockchain traced its origins?

Source: Chinese and foreign management magazine , with cuts

Author: Zhu Dong


On December 24, 2019, a technology company Gandao Smart released "Chain No. 1", claiming to be able to maintain vaccine fidelity through traceability of the entire industrial chain from source to terminal. This is really good news for the masses who are still worried about the "fake life vaccine imitation".

Recently, ICBC also released a Pu'er tea with an exclusive custom "identity card". Due to the use of blockchain-based information technology such as identification, anti-counterfeiting, and traceability, this tea is traceable, unique, and destined Can be traced, quality can be checked, and responsibilities can be investigated.

Commodity traceability (including food traceability) has always been a hot area for the landing of blockchain technology by giants. As early as 2017, Tmall International has launched a global traceability program, using blockchain technology and big data to track imported product information, and used a "genuine traceability" function for each cross-border imported product.

"Tracing the source can be regarded as one of the most promising blockchain landing areas." Liang Xuedong, Executive Director of Dashuyourong (Beijing) Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd. (collectively referred to as Dashuyourong) opened the door to China and Foreign Management. Most of them were established in 2014. As an early enterprise in the industry that piloted domestic projects in the field of blockchain food traceability, it has embarked on a technological path for food traceability.

Although the "2018 China Blockchain (Non-Financial) Application Market Report" states that traceability is the area with the highest awareness of commercial applications of blockchain, bringing great hope for food safety, but this road is not smooth.

1. The initial landing of blockchain food traceability

Compared with the past, various anti-counterfeiting technologies that have also been used in the traceability of commodities (including food), even new Internet technologies, artificial intelligence, etc., or are managed and regulated through strict laws and regulations, but the results are always different. Satisfactory.

The use of blockchain technology for traceability, through the in-depth combination of logistics management, product anti-counterfeiting, product traceability, manufacturing management, industry collaboration and other fields, has increased the traceability and security of goods.

"The main technical characteristics of the blockchain can indeed bring restrictions and management to the disadvantages of the physical world, which is why traceability is considered to be one of the most promising areas of the blockchain." Liang Xuedong introduced, Taishu Yourong has been committed to the application of big data and artificial intelligence for many years. From 2017, they judged that the blockchain technology has reached a high level of maturity, so they invested resources in two areas: food traceability and copyright distribution management. Piloted. Today, Liang Xuedong already has a say in the industry on the application of blockchain technology in food traceability.

Liang Xuedong also told the "Chinese and Foreign Management" that the blockchain source tracing project can be welcomed. Because blockchain technology has technical characteristics such as irreversible timing and data tampering, first of all, the technical logic can guarantee the security of the traceability system in chronological order. Reliable recording, which naturally coincides with the timing requirements of the traceability information in the physical world, and can trace and locate each tracepoint in real time, thereby locking the responsible party; second, the distributed storage and decentralization of the blockchain The voting mechanism also technically ensures that the records on the entire traceability chain cannot be tampered with, thereby avoiding illegal operations in the future when a real security incident or traceability requirements are required.

As one of the real-world blockchain-based food traceability cases in China, the "Smart Food and Drug Supervision Platform" has a first-mover advantage in the field of food traceability with meat and vegetables as its target, and will soon be at the prefecture level in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region. The city level carried out the construction and deployment of the platform system.

2Blockchain traceability also has weaknesses

According to the above-mentioned concept of blockchain traceability technology, if foods around people have their own IDs, they can be traced back to the source, which will greatly reduce the number of fake eggs, fake lean meat, fake wine, etc. The "food safety" issue that has frequently been pushed to the forefront has been a major benefit to consumers, manufacturers and regulators. But the reality is that traceability is one of the more difficult scenarios for blockchain technology.

Some insiders said that there is a doubt about the anti-counterfeiting traceability based on blockchain technology, that is, if a manufacturer (node) on the chain uploads false information, the traceability will lose its meaning.

As an in-person participant in the blockchain food traceability project, Liang Xuedong also expressed regret: due to the limitations of various single-point technologies, the application has not been deep and popular for many years. Although there are laws and regulations, the concepts and There is still some distance in execution.

He explained specifically:

First, the food traceability system based on the blockchain only manages production, distribution, and consumption behaviors, and authenticates and traces these behaviors and time nodes. However, it does not guarantee the authenticity and quality of meat and vegetables. These, The work should also be completed by the supporting rapid sampling system;

Second, the establishment of a smart food and drug supervision platform uses the management concept of "full traceability, global traceability", which is based on the inter-city management boundary. It does not guarantee traceability across the industry or across the country.

Third, not only based on blockchain technology, but also combined with artificial intelligence vision technology and big data collection and analysis technology to build a complete traceability.

A typical case is the Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs, which are highly related to traceability. It has been repeatedly disclosed on the Internet that Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs can be faked even with the certificate of origin. Moreover, survey data show that the Yangcheng Lake hairy crabs bought by netizens are actually produced in less than 20% of Yangcheng Lake. For another example: consumers can buy pork in the supermarket, scan the QR code, you can trace the source of the product supply, logistics time process, product inspection reports and other detailed information. However, in many cases, the source address may only go to a processing plant in a certain village and town, and it cannot guarantee that all pork is delivered to the processing plant but all pork is safe.

"Investigate its root cause, the key subjects on the traceability chain-regulators, producers, and consumers cannot uniformly manage and access information, which has led to the current unavailability and credibility in the field of traceability management." .

3From passive supervision to credit supervision, it is a breakthrough for the traceability of blockchain

Therefore, strictly speaking, it is not easy to achieve the true traceability of the current blockchain technology! So how to understand the true value of blockchain traceability?

Liang Xuedong's view is that the blockchain is not so much a technological innovation as it is a brand-new concept in the ideological and business models. Blockchain transforms management thinking through the use of technology, uses lower costs to achieve effects that could not be achieved in the past with scattered technical means, and manages the entire chain's span from a global perspective.

"The most important thing is that the blockchain has truly upgraded and transformed from passive supervision to active credit supervision for various participants on the entire traceability chain. This is the real disruption brought by blockchain technology to the industry. Liang Xuedong further mentioned that building a credit mechanism in the regulatory and commercial fields is the most economical and effective management mechanism. Nowadays, Chinese society is also entering the management stage of the credit society. Therefore, applying blockchain in credit tracing in the field of traceability is exactly the trend.

In addition, the industry must recognize that the blockchain can only solve the traceability of electronic data and the construction of trust mechanisms. It cannot guarantee the identity confirmation of items in the physical world, that is, it cannot guarantee the authenticity of items. . To build an effective traceability mechanism, we cannot rely solely on blockchain technology. We must also comprehensively apply various advanced scientific and technological means. For example, in the diamond and jewelry industry where there is a huge crisis of trust, the traceability of its products must be the participation of all parties in the industry chain, from mining areas, factories, jewelry processors, to jewelry appraisal agencies, logistics companies, stores, etc. And information sharing. At the same time, it must be a comprehensive application of blockchain technology and artificial intelligence technology, as well as the Internet of Things technology.

4 Next, the capability boundary to be challenged by blockchain traceability

When it comes to technology, although the blockchain technology is rapidly gaining great attention from high-level national and social circles in 2019, it is precisely at this time that the capability boundary of the blockchain technology must be clearly understood.

Liang Xuedong believes that there is still room for breakthroughs in blockchain technology:

First, the construction of the entire blockchain must ensure the security and stability of the data from the concept and actual algorithms. Generally speaking, the data must be built and stable.

Second, the computing efficiency of the blockchain, such as "transaction processing per second", still needs to be improved, otherwise it cannot meet the needs of application scenarios.

Third, breakthroughs in "cross-chain technology" are needed to support the sharing and exchange of blockchain data from a wider range of fields, to break the boundaries of industry chains, and to support the construction of a socialized credit system.

Regarding the field of traceability itself, Liang Xuedong emphasized that in the future, the interconnected world of everything, after all, the problem of data interconnection of all things must be solved first, and on this basis, the blockchain can exert its powerful power.

"We have confidence in the practical impetus for the promotion of new technologies and overtaking in corners, so I believe that the field of blockchain tracing in China will present a scene of blossoming flowers." Liang Xuedong said.