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View from India: Blockchain adds flavour to coffee

Blockchain and 5G are among the technologies that have a transformative impact across industries.

Blockchain and 5G are among the technologies that have a transformative impact across industries.

As a beverage, coffee comes across as a peppy, frothy drink. As a technology, blockchain is the underlying core of the global Bitcoin trade. Coffee and blockchain seem to have nothing in common, but the brew has just got more flavourful when blockchain has been interspersed with the journey of the coffee bean to cup.

“Around 98 per cent of the coffee produced in India comes from smallholding farmers who own less than two hectares of land. The coffee that they grow fetches them about 90 rupees per kilogram, whereas its market price is approximately 300 rupees per kg. There’s a huge disparity between the income levels of farmers and the market price of coffee,” said Nataraj Kuntagod, vice president open innovation at Accenture Labs, speaking at the IoTNext2018 Global Summit.

Having realised that, he said, the next logical step is to look for measures to increase the income levels of farmers. “It has become crucial to track the journey of coffee that begins with the raw coffee bean in the farms and ends with the consumer. It’s a long journey with several intermediaries along the supply chain, whose presence has led to escalating costs. The metadata of coffee indicates that as coffee moves along the value chain, its physical characteristics begin to change,” explained Kuntagod.

Tracking the various steps of the coffee bean till it reaches its culmination at the retail space is manually tedious and prone to errors. This is where blockchain technology has come into the picture as it helps track the various movements of coffee along the supply chain.

The farmers along with the roasters and other intermediaries get access to the data across the supply chain. This insight reveals any shortcomings in the supply chain. Also, farmers get updates on the data through mobile apps. All this helps them track the movement of coffee along the supply chain. And the process happens in a quick, error-free and streamlined manner.

Blockchain has brought in transparency and precision along the value chain, which irons out the loopholes in the supply chain and takes into account the intermediaries. It connects the two ends of the supply chain and hence farmers can reap what they have sown.

Being a decentralised ledger technology (DLT), blockchain can record transactions on digital assets between two parties, and the process is not time-consuming. “Blockchain is cryptographically secure and is a transactional singleton machine with a shared state. The data is kept in many places, but the software is in one place. In case of payments, consumers pay in fractional digital currency, which technically is known as server per data without intermediary costs,” added Arvind Tiwary, chair of the TiE IoT Forum.

Coming to 5G, every computable device of the future will be connected. 5G will be the network of the future that will go beyond bandwidth to include wearables, connected cars and intelligent transport. “5G encompasses mass sensoring and mass bandwidth. It also finds applications in smart mobility, smart parking, traffic priority and security issues,” highlighted Dr Ashutosh Dutta, IEEE 5G Initiative founding co-chair, IEEE Communications Society Distinguished Lecturer.

With multiple device connections, security is paramount, so 5G has also given rise to security as a service. “5G has promised us ultra low latency and record-breaking data speed. 5G-specific applications add new security requirements. Designing security and data as a service are among the emerging opportunities,” Dr Dutta pointed out.

A security attack affects various dimensions of the system, its direct influence results in loss of revenue, productivity and even personnel. In an indirect manner, it can damage the brand and lead to a dwindling customer base.

“Security is top priority in our company” said Khor Hwai Lin, head of sales and business development at Infineon Technologies APAC. “Products need to be differentiated with anti-counterfeiting measures and intellectual property (IP) to benchmark them,” she reasoned. “Security breach can happen at any layer, caused by a bad server, bad device and sometimes eavesdroppers too. Hardware security forms the root of the trust.”

Tamper-proof protection and robust security bring a suite of benefits. These include improved performance levels, accuracy along the logistics chain and better business outcomes, she added.

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