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Blockchain and Electronic Manufacturing: In Pursuit of the Internet of Things

Companies and organizations of all kinds and industries are increasingly looking to the Internet of Things (IoT) to increase efficiency, improve decision making and strengthen customer service.

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Companies and organizations of all kinds and industries are increasingly looking to the Internet of Things (IoT) to increase efficiency, improve decision making and strengthen customer service.

This article was originally posted on the U.S. Tech website and can be viewed by clicking here.

Companies and organizations of all kinds and industries are increasingly looking to the Internet of Things (IoT) to increase efficiency, improve decision making and strengthen customer service. Machine-generated data is helping businesses to better understand their customers, their needs and their data.

The manufacturing industry is leading the charge. The combination of blockchain ledger technology and RFID/IoT device technology is revolutionizing the manufacturing industry’s supply chain management process, as well as the customer purchasing paradigm, as consumers are now more informed than ever prior to making a decision.

Impact on Manufacturers

Manufacturers who use RFID, IoT and blockchain technology can now better track and monitor their products all along the supply chain. This includes individual parts, histories, timelines, etc. This allows them to make smarter decisions, reduce processing times, reduce errors, avoid product and financial reconciliations, and decrease overall costs.

With consumers now being more informed than ever, their ability to be more selective with their purchasing is skyrocketing. The demand for detailed information regarding the to-be-purchased products will now be expected from manufacturers.

According to data from Juniper Research, the total number of IoT sensors and devices is expected to leap from 21 billion this year to 50 billion by 2022. An IoT device is defined as anything with a sensor attached that can transmit data from one object or person to another with the help of the internet.

IoT devices vary considerably. “Wearables,” such as Fitbits and smart watches, smart homes — which employ remotely controlled lights, temperature and security systems — health monitors, smart children’s toys, driverless cars, and many others rely on the IoT. These types of devices transfer data using the internet and unique identifiers, UIDs. One of the most common unique identifiers we see today is RFID technology.

RFID and Blockchain

RFID, radio frequency identification, provides a way to uniquely identify IoT devices in the real world. IoT devices commonly use an RFID tag, or chip, usually embedded in the device. This is the “thing’s” username and password. RFID readers read the tag in order to detect the “thing” and receive data.

RFID is an automated, wireless technology that allows machines to identify computers or objects and record details and data about those objects through radio waves.

RFID devices can be identified, tracked and monitored with “tags” and their specific UIDs in real time. RFID consists of two key components — a tag, or chip, and a reader.

Blockchain is a new kind of database for the digital age. Blockchain is optimized for multiparty transactions, best applied whenever all parties are not well known. IoT is one such case. IoT devices are not people or companies, they are things.

Blockchain ledgers automate the logging of the IoT device information exchange. They act as an automated historical data log, where all of the back-and-forth RFID communications are quickly accessible and immutably stored (meaning they cannot be changed once recorded).

The blockchain ledger allows companies to check product status and histories in near real time. This ability is transforming modern-day manufacturing, and impacts suppliers and consumers.

For the Supplier. Suppliers will know more about their ongoing processes in real time. For example, consider the produce industry. A produce supplier using blockchain ledger technology along with RFID and IoT technology will be able to track and monitor produce growth, shipment times and locations, status, ripeness, and quality, and any other desired information.

For the Consumer. Using the RFID technology embedded in a product, the consumer can now make highly informed decisions. Consider the consumer of produce. By scanning a QR code on an orange, for example, the consumer can now read the history of that fruit (where it came from, how it was grown, quality, etc.) If the consumer is curious about if that orange is truly organic, RFID technology will provide the validity of the consumer’s request.

The future of manufacturing is upon us. Soon, consumers will be able to view an entire product history before they make a purchase decision with a quick scan of the product from a smartphone. Full transparency between supplier and consumer is going to be expected. Consumers will be completely empowered with the details of their purchase before they decide. Manufacturers can use IoT devices and RFID technology to better understand the sales of their products, customer preferences, control product issues or concerns, as well as better understand logistics and quality.

Manufacturers’ accountability and transparency demands are certainly rising with the power of technology, but companies can also use these tools to transform their businesses and gain an early competitive advantage. 

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