Last week in blockchain – 2019, week 4

Welcome to Last week in blockchain. My name is Wim Pelgrim, a blockchain realist and with this weekly podcast you’ll stay up to speed about all the major developments on the blockchain. And please leave a review on iTunes so my podcast will get higher in the search results, share it with your friends and if you listen to this podcast for the first time: subscribe using your podcast app.

This week no big technological news, no backgrounds or research, no big government news, just press releases of new applications. But compared to a year ago these seem to be more thought through and aren’t just hollow startups, but big companies, organizations and governments take part and work together. I’ll dive deep into three applications and talk about the general developments I see in the field. Let’s go!



Background articles and research

Companies en applications

The three applications of blockchain or DLT I’d like to discuss are the cobalt tracking application by Ford, LG Chem, Huayou Cobalt and IBM, BlockCerts working on education in Bahrein and medicine resale in the USA by SAP.

I don’t know if you know what cobalt is, but it is one of the main ingredients for building batteries for electric cars. One of the countries cobalt is found is in Congo, an African country with an instable social structure and a lot of child labor. Besides that minerals are often combined with metals from various sources when they are smelted, they are particularly difficult to track. A complicated field to try and change things and use a technique like blockchain. But Manish Chawla, general manager of IBM’s mining and industrial sector business says: “There is no fool-proof method, but you have to keep the ball moving forward, to keep raising the level of accuracy”. And that is an approach I like: it’s not getting the perfect solution, but working to make a better solution every day. And companies like Ford want to achieve child labor free products too. But companies are under pressure too from consumers and investors to prove that minerals are sourced without human rights abuses. Last Wednesday Ford, IBM, LG Chem and Huayou Cobalt announced a project quietly under way since December. Starting with industrially mined cobalt in Congo, it is monitoring supplies all the way to lithium-ion batteries for Ford vehicles. For the pilot project cobalt from Huayou’s industrial mine will be placed in secure bags, entered into a blockchain and traced from the mine and smelter to LG Chem’s cathode and battery plant in South Korea and then on to a Ford plant in the United States. A difficult but potentially lifechanging use case and as I said, with a nice state of mind: getting better every day.

Then to my next app: Blockcerts. And that is in my own field: education. I’m working on an use case building a permissioned blockchain network to share student data between four organizations. But where my vision and use case starts with a learning experience and in the classroom, a lot of educational blockchain projects start with certificates or diploma’s. Blockcerts is one of the largest and oldest companies in this field and now they are expanding to Bahrein. But first: what is Blockcerts? Started at MIT, it is a global open standard for creating, issuing, viewing and verifying any type of using a blockchain (Bitcoin mainly) as a secure anchor of trust. The Learning Machine Issuing System enables governments, corporations, and educational institutions to issue Blockcerts at scale. After MIT and Malta, the University of Bahrain (UOB) it will become the next university to issue digital diplomas anchored to the blockchain using the Blockcerts open standard, in partnership with Learning Machine, a leader in Blockcerts credential issuing systems. This blockchain credentialing initiative forms an integral part of the University of Bahrein’s  wider digitization strategy, which places digital security, ownership, and portability at the center for globally mobile learners and workers.

And although I am enthusiastic about all the blockchain efforts in education, I personally believe putting diploma’s on blockchain won’t change a lot in education. We can do so much more, if we use blockchain as a lever to start a conversation about the education that could be, not the education we have with a face lift.

Reselling medicine, a field I don’t know nothing about, but in the USA it is an important topic. The aim is to save money: U.S. wholesalers encounter nearly 60 million returns annually, accounting for an estimated US$7 billion. The US Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), requires as of November 2019 that companies that want to resell returned medicine verify the drugs. This prevents buying fake, contaminated or stolen medication. SAP built a blockchain based solution for this problem: the SAP Information Collaboration Hub for Life Sciences. The hub is designed to authenticate pharmaceutical packaging returned from hospitals and pharmacies to wholesalers before products are resold. The new software allows customers to verify the product code, lot, expiration date and a unique serial number embedded in the barcode against manufacturers’ data stored in the blockchain. “This blockchain product supports the industry’s need for an immutable and shared ledger, avoiding many complex integrations,” said Dr. Oliver Nuernberg, chief product owner, SAP for Life Sciences solution portfolio, SAP SE.

Governments and law


Oh my god!


And a lot more applications were launched last week: WWF uses blockchain to track environmental impact of products, blockchain based proxy vote in Japan and HSBC says its settled 250 billion in trades with DLT.

And there is other news too: you can find a blockchain job as research fellow in DLT at the University College London, Former French central bank chief joins blockchain startup board and Israel’s top cargo shipping firm opens blockchain platform to all clients (remember podcasts #35 and #36)

And that wraps up this Last week in blockchain. Check my website: for more info on me and my podcast and a full transcript of this episode. Check the links mentioned in this episode in the description: the cobalt application, Blockcerts and the medicine resale hub by SAP and check all te referrals.. And if you like what you’ve heard, share this podcast with your friends and on social media and subscribe to this podcast in your podcast app. See you next week!




Medicine resale



Proxy vote


Research fellow wanted

French central banker joins startup

Israel’s cargo shipping company

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