Traceability and Blockchain: managing the cold chain


According to ISO 8402, traceability is the ‘ability to trace the history, application or location of an entity by means of recorded identifications’.

Traceability also means, potentially, creating transparency in supply chains

Current centralised traceability solutions are not ideal for the supply chain as they are exposed to many problems (data manipulation, single point of failure, etc.). 

On the other hand, blockchain, the technology based on distributed ledgers and cryptography, is gaining popularity with its wide applications in numerous fields, particularly in supply chain management. 

Technically, the blockchain is a decentralised and  distributed ledger where information can be securely recorded. Traceability solutions based on this technology can indeed help solve the shortcomings of centralised ones. For this reason, companies have already started to incorporate blockchain into their supply chain activities in order to improve transparency by monitoring and tracking events. 

One of the various areas where blockchain can be applied in a practical way is the medical sector.

SCAI Itec, for example, was involved in the implementation of solutions for cold chain management for the transportation of medicines. This case demonstrated how blockchain traceability solutions influence the visibility of various assets in supply chain distribution networks and how certain technologies – such as IoT and smart contracts – can combine effectively through the use of blockchain.

The cold chain network consists of a potentially unlimited and configurable number of actors (producer, buyer, transporters, warehousemen, etc.), all equally responsible for monitoring product quality

Certainly not out of a lack of trust in them, but for the sake of transparency, special precautions can be put in place to manage quality throughout the flow thanks to these new technologies.

For example, it is now possible to connect to the shipment IoT devices capable of measuring temperature and humidity in order to facilitate real-time monitoring of the environment in which the medicine is stored. Also in real time, data can be collected and transmitted to the blockchain network. The latter, thanks to the implemented monitoring work, will be able to report anomalies in product compliance and apply penalties through the use of smart contracts.

One of the most important examples showing the benefit of such a solution is the vaccine supply chain. However, their diffusion in developing and undeveloped countries is very limited due to the lack of proper cold chain management. 

In particular, SCAI Itec exploits the new possibilities offered by blockchain to implement a cold chain monitoring system centred on real-time data to continuously monitor the vaccine distribution and transport process. The proposed system provides the unique feature of creating and managing the individual steps in the transportation of the medicine, together with regular supervision of the carrier’s temperature and humidity. In addition to this, the hardware and software components are also able to track the position of the carrier. 

Traceability and IoT technologies thus make it possible to implement an effective system to increase the effectiveness of vaccine coverage in remote and hard-to-reach regions, thanks to remote monitoring of the entire process and total transparency in the distribution process.

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