In an interview with a local Chinese news service, Alibaba vice president Liu Song told a reporter that the company is looking into how its strong tech foundation based on big data, cloud computing, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and blockchain can be applied to industrial, especially manufacturing, applications. Alibaba is considering how to unify these technologies in the creation of an “industrial brain,” Song explained.
Alibaba is in the early stages with these developments, Song cautioned, shifting its focus from building out a platform and attracting users to that ecosystem last year, to investigating blockchain’s potential to strengthen cross-border supply chains using distributed ledger technology. As of now, Alibaba is performing planning work with preliminary ideas, though going forward, blockchain-linked supply chains will need the cooperation of local government, Song added.
China has established an early lead in blockchain innovation, filing more patents in 2017 than any other nation, though the government is reportedly interested in the technology as a means of further controlling information access in the country.
Elsewhere in the region, numerous ports banded together to implement a blockchain-based system that aims to streamline the clearance process and keeping cargo moving to its final destination.
Supply chain and logistics are among the most compelling use cases for blockchain, the distributed ledger technology that cryptographically secures multiple tamper-proof nodes of data. Blockchains can take public or private, permissioned form, with industry preferring the latter to ensure increased control over access to information.
Blockchain has attracted its advocates and detractors. Like any new technology, blockchain has fallen victim to the high expectations some people have that can be unrealistic for an innovation not yet in its maturity. Last fall, separate reports from PwC and Deloitte indicate that global interest in blockchain remains high as executives across the world are at different stage of exploration with distributed ledger technology.