HANSEBLOC – Tamper-Proof Logistics with Blockchain

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Up until now, transport and logistics companies have exchanged shipping documents, waybills and customs documents in paper form, using e-mail, cloud services, or using web-based freight exchanges. However, none of these are tamper-proof, and, due to differing software solutions, they are also prone to errors. At present, the cooperative project HANSEBLOC with participation of KLU aims to solve these issues in a sustainable way using blockchain technology.

Despite a reliable flow of information being a crucial component of international movement of goods, there is still a lack of common standards in the field. In using a loose patchwork of individual software solutions and interfaces, freight transport becomes susceptible to errors and fraudulent activity. By contrast, a blockchain network allows for an incorruptible and consistent exchange of information. Unlike on a centrally managed IT platform, information is encrypted and stored on a decentralized database on different computers. Companies within a logistics chain can then gain access to a shared database that can only be altered by notifying and receiving consent from the entire network.

Headed by the Kühne Logistics University, the first work package focuses on the identification and development of real blockchain solutions for one or more applications.  KLU subproject manager, Dr. Moritz Petersen, explains, "Blockchain technology is only about ten years old. It is still quite young, and there is little experience of using it in the logistics industry. Therefore, we and our partners carefully analyze which issues should be addressed by our research to create new and also profitable options for companies." In addition, the KLU has taken on responsibility for the scientific evaluation of the project's results.

One idea within the HANSEBLOC project is to create a secure electronic exchange of waybills. Blockchain has the potential to improve this process in many ways. Firstly, data loss can be prevented in a most effective way in that there will be no need for it be repeatedly entered into different companies’ management systems. What is more, blockchain automates and accelerates inter-organizational processes and also impedes manipulation.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) has given its support to the joint project based in Hamburg, "HANSEBLOC - Hanseatic Blockchain Innovations for Logistics and Supply Chain Management" which is promoted by the "Strategic SME Innovation Networks in Networks and Clusters" (KMU-NetC). The project has received a total of 3.1 million euros in funding with the BMBF providing a share of 1.9 million euros and will run until September 2020.

Other participants include the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW Hamburg), four logistics service providers and four IT service providers and blockchain experts. The project is coordinated by the Logistik-Initiative Hamburg.