As part of a brief series, Enterprise Times will examine blockchain for supply chain vendors, as identified in a Research and Markets report. This has the long-winded (by title) “Blockchain Supply Chain Market by Application (Payment & Settlement, Counterfeit Detection, Smart Contracts, Risk & Compliance Management, and Product Traceability), Provider, Vertical, and Region – Global Forecast to 2023” report. This lists some 20+ blockchain vendors. Enterprise Times will first look at the US ones named.
Among those listed are the ‘four big US’ vendors – Amazon AWS, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. These, along with SAP from Germany, could be called the ‘big 5 blockchain beasts’. Enterprise Times has reflected on each of these elsewhere.
In addition, however, the report mentions four other vendors: TIBCO Software (TIBCO), Datex, Omnichain and OpenXcell.
Tibco and blockchain
TIBCO is one of the long term survivors of the messaging, integration and event processing middleware eras of the 1990s and 2000s. The company built its reputation in the finance sector before branching out.
It is, therefore, no great surprise to find TIBCO proclaiming “Blockchain – The Next Big Thing for Middleware” and then continuing to argue that integration, event processing and analytics are success factors for blockchain projects. It even offers a 30 minute video which sets out its view of the relationship between blockchain and middleware (and, unsurprisingly, how potential users can get started with TIBCO’s portfolio).
Yet, when you dig deeper in what TIBCO has readily available online, the depth does not seem to be not there. Pious words exist. For example: “TIBCO’s Hybrid Integration Platform can easily connect your systems to your blockchain and make them work efficiently together. TIBCO Mashery offers full API management to secure and manage blockchain APIs, making blockchain capabilities available across the enterprise at less cost.”
But the two impressions which come across, are that:
- TIBCO is another vendor attaching itself to blockchain’s appeal without having substance
- blockchain is an add-on to existing products, rather than possessing its own product (or service) within the company.
Datex and blockchain
When one contrasts Datex with TIBCO the latter looks positively energised. Datex’s principle interest in blockchain is narrower, and relates to supply chains – which makes sense.
But the deepest insights it provides come from a blockchain supply chain infographic accompanied by a long paragraph of text which says “… blockchain technology is making its way into supply chain and logistics industries. 67% of shippers and 62% of third party logistics (3PL) providers said they don’t know enough about blockchain to rate it at this time.
“Currently, majority of shippers and 3PLs are not yet talking about implementing blockchain into their supply chain but some see a potential application for it in the future:
- “11% of 3PLs believe that blockchain activities should run completely independently of 3PLs (they can participate, but shouldn’t bring programs forth) whereas 15% of shippers do
- “31% of 3PLs would like to see 3PLs owning or partnering in blockchain offerings as oppose to only 19% of shippers
- “33% of 3PLs have no interest in blockchain activities nor do 30% of shippers
- “31% of 3PLs would like 3PLs to bring potential blockchain initiatives to the table/conversation and 36% of shippers agree.
“Areas of interest for blockchain include traceability which is movement history and components, overall visibility and data sharing with partners, means to satisfy regulatory requirements, ensure ethical compliance, consumer use data, financial monitoring, security/safety of high-risk products, condition monitoring, ensure environmental sustainability and eliminate corruption within current institutions or regulatory groups.”
Fine words. But there is nothing overt (that Enterprise Times could find) stating what Datex proposes to offer regarding blockchain.
Omnichain and blockchain
Omnichain Solutions (Omnichain) claims to provides intelligent, end-to-end supply chain technology solutions. Its SaaS platform “enables full transparency, trust, accountability and operational excellence from source to shelf using Blockchain technology”.
Using intelligent planning algorithms and business rules applied to supply chains, it claims to take control of demand while leveraging blockchain technology to drive transparency and trust. It delivers through four modules or platforms:
- planning and forecasting: to maximise profitability via multi-faceted planning and a forecasting engine which optimise supply chain efficiencies
- retail space planning and inventory: optimisation of retail space planning with inventory replenishment to ensure the right amount of stock
- continuous replenishment model: this enables flexibility, visibility and control of multi-tier replenishment with the model analysing supply and demand at every tier along a supply chain.
- end to end analytics – the planning, measuring and monitoring of KPIs across all channels.
The commitment to improving supply chain management is present. The commitment to transparency, a major attraction of blockchains in complex supply chains is also there. How Omnichain will exploit blockchain technology is the missing element.
OpenXcell and blockchain
To OpenXcell, blockchain applies to a broad swathe of businesses – from retail and finance to insurance, automobiles and airlines. It sees a commercial environment where businesses are already exploring blockchain technology for benefits in day-to-day business operations, especially where there is a need for transparency and security. It highlights the attractions which come when every communication and transaction is immutable and decentralized on a blockchain.
The use cases it identifies for blockchain technology in an enterprise include:
- decentralized communication
- identity authentication
- transparent workflow
- efficient supply chain management
- secured workflow
- finance management/payment systems
- data security.
It dwells on two areas: its Krypto Keeper wallet app and on supply chain. For the latter it argues that blockchain supports supply chains through distributed ledgers and smart contract features. Tracking shipments, managing payments, location tracking as well as picking, delivery and inventory management are a selection of the functions OpenXcell sees as being a good fit for blockchain technology.
It goes on to describe, briefly, how it built an app on a blockchain lightening network, to enable high volume transactions delivered at speed. It claims the app “tackles all issues in retail supply chain management quickly and instantly. … For example, if your business is dealing with toys for kids, the Toy Shop App designed by OpenXcell can handle orders, delivery, payment, stock management etc easily, securely and quickly without any third person involvement.”
Enterprise Times: what does this mean
Leaving aside the big 4 US blockchain for supply chain vendors, and all are targetting the supply chain space, Datex, Omnichain and OpenXcell do not encourage confidence. Their supply chain credentials exist. Their blockchain ones seem either ethereal (Datex and Omnichain) or are mobile focused (OpenXcell).
That leaves TIBCO. From a technological excellence viewpoint, and from a longevity one, TIBCO should be up with the ‘big blockchain beasts’. Thus far it seems to lag. Whether it will catch up is the, thus far unanswered, question.