Since not all companies are going to select the same technology partner to implement blockchain, standards are the invaluable common language that can streamline the transmission of detailed product data on a blockchain. A standard called EPCIS (Electronic Product Code Information Services) is already being leveraged in the healthcare industry to record complete product chain of custody. In such a heavily regulated business environment, the track and trace of pharmaceutical products throughout the supply chain has become a requirement by law—specifically the Drug Supply Chain Security Act or DSCSA. Under this law signed by President Barack Obama in 2013, pharma companies must identify individual transactions so that all parties involved know what happened to the product, where it happened, and when. The safety of our drugs and medicines depends on the recording of this detailed information.
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The food industry can learn from the implementation of EPCIS in healthcare. With the use of the same type of globally unique product identifiers, EPCIS can enable true product information transparency by providing everything about that product’s chain of custody on a blockchain. As conscientious consumers scrutinize products based on their origin, sustainability, socioeconomic impact, how they were made, and other concerns, EPCIS and blockchain tell the story of the products’ journey with a high degree of certainty and validity. Also, in more aspirational use cases, EPCIS and blockchain can support the Internet of Things by more efficiently transmitting data used in personalized marketing, in-home replenishment, or upselling or cross-selling beyond the sale of products.
Deciding to Collaborate Now
Even though we may not see blockchain being used in a mainstream capacity for years to come, discussion of its benefits has created a frenzy of renewed excitement around the topic of traceability. It’s important to look at the supply chain ecosystem holistically before jumping to adopt any new technology. Now is the time to lay a solid foundation for blockchain.
Nuce is the senior vice president, corporate development, at GS1 US, with more than 20 years of experience in retail technology. Reach her at email@example.com.