On the 19th July, KT (formerly Korea Telecom) announced a blockchain partnership with Nongshim Data System (NDS), the IT affiliate of food manufacturing group Nongshim. The project aims to introduce greater transparency and traceability to agricultural produce and processed foods, via a blockchain-based food safety platform.
The benefit of the platform will be twofold. Producers will cut costs by automating processing, contracts and verifying certifications on the platform rather than manually. Consumers will benefit through greater transparency in the supply chain. By scanning a product’s QR code in a supermarket, customers will have access to information about the product’s origin and its journey to the store.
The platform will leverage KT’s 5G blockchain network, GiGa Chain Blockchain as a Service (BaaS), as well as NDS’s experience in this field. NDS previously tested a blockchain-based system on the beef supply chain. It cut time to trace food from the slaughterhouse to store from six days to under ten minutes.
The KT and NDS project will be launched in the second half of this year. It comes amidst a broader trend of introducing blockchain to the food supply chain to increase transparency and traceability.
For instance, earlier this month Nestlé was the first major food manufacturer to sign up to OpenSC (open supply chain), a supply chain food provenance blockchain founded by the WWF and the Boston Consulting Group Digital Ventures. This would operate in the same way as KT and NDS’s system: the consumer would merely need to scan a QR code. The overriding purpose of OpenSC is to prove whether food is sustainably sourced.
IBM’s Food Trust, which aims to leverage blockchain technology to increase supply chain transparency, currently works with major suppliers and retailers including Walmart, Carrefour, Nestlé and Unilever. While transparency, traceability and automation are significant benefits, blockchain also enables focused recalls when there’s a food scare. That helps prevent wastage.
Through the immutability of the data uploaded to blockchain-powered food supply chains, consumers will be able to trust the quality and sustainability of the produce. This lack of trust is currently a serious issue. According to German start-up TE-FOOD, who provide blockchain traceability services to French retailer Auchan, 66% of consumers don’t believe the information displayed on food labels.
KT is currently undertaking several other blockchain projects. Their GiGa Stealth system helps prevent hacking of IoT devices by hiding their IP addresses. The system initially targeted cars and smart factories, but KT recently indicated they would shift GiGa Stealth’s focus to military applications.
In addition, KT has teamed up with SK Telecom and LG U+ to develop a blockchain-based self-sovereign identity (SSI) app to allow users to manage their own personal data.
They also operate a blockchain currency platform, allowing firms and regions to have their own currencies, thus enabling free transactions.