SupplyLedger project: Designing an Efficient Smart Contract based Blockchain System from Multi-modal Supply Chain Systems
As the State of Qatar is moving towards a knowledge-based economy, having a good and reliable Supply Chain (SC) information processing and transfer infrastructure is mandatory. A modern SC is a very complex and distributed process. It consists of a networked architecture built to manage the transfer of physical and informational assets between suppliers and customers. New IT technologies driven by their increasing reliability and performance demonstrate the power and the effectiveness in digitizing the SC workflows. However, the current SC systems are often facing several types of risks such as downtime, security breaches, and forgery. Often, customers are in doubt when it comes to knowing the origin and the transfer cycle of the product they are getting, and whether it really complies with the international and local quality standards. Such transparency and traceability issues arise generally when the product is transferred by multiple carriers, freight forwarders, and other third-party actors in their SC activity. This is often catastrophic and induces losses of time and money in critical infrastructures. Such issues are complicated to solve due to the inaccessibility of the relevant information as it is usually handled by a single actor at a given time and not shared with other actors. As a result, consumers see their product or service delayed and suppliers receive their payments late. Establishing a system of trust that ensures integrity and the tamper-proof nature of the information manipulated by these SC services is very important. The aforementioned limitations of SC can be overcome by blockchain that is a new technology adapted for developing distributed and secure software applications. It consists of nodes attached to each other in a decentralized architecture. The nodes share information between them in a transactional way. The information transacted is stored by each node in an append-only database (the blockchain) and cannot be tampered. The validation of the transactions is based on a consensus system between the majority in the network without the need to trust a third party. The objective of the proposed research is to design an efficient blockchain-based SC system. The design of such systems has not yet been standardized. In fact, there is little understanding of the impact of using blockchain-based systems in SCs.
Our blockchain-based SC system aims at achieving the following outcomes: – Establish a full system requirement specification through collaborations with the project stakeholders (Qatar Rail and Ministry of Transport and Telecommunications) in the economic sector of Qatar. – Design a system of the shared ledger for the SC activities taking into account security, transparency, and privacy concerns to establish trust between all the actors. – Develop a proof-of-concept for the system which will address two use cases involving the logistics sector and the pharmaceutical industry. – Implement a smart contract template that serves as a replacement and an alternative for regular business rules (paper contracts). – Work on evaluating the impact of using the developed solution on the stakeholders in terms of adoption, integration with their existing systems, and effectiveness. The expected impact is twofold: – On the direct stakeholders of the project, in understanding the new blockchain concepts, testing and evaluating its added value in their SC applications. Qatar Rail is a direct collaborator in the proof of concept related to the logistics sector and will benefit from the implemented prototype. The Ministry is the regulator in the country and will use the outcome of the project to better issue its new regulations and policies for the emerging industries – On the industry and SC sector in general, in testing such emerging disruptive technology, and is ready for more comprehensive solutions dedicated to their specific sectors and contexts. Demonstration and brainstorming workshops will be organized within this project.