Published in El Pais, 21 November 2020.
Online shopping has never been higher during the pandemic as many are afraid to go to local stores. This has understandably led to a rise in shipping demand as imports and exports increase. With this of course we see a backlog in shipping, a delay in customs clearance due to the large number of packages, and less reputable companies taking advantage of the sudden online surge by selling counterfeit objects to unsuspecting shoppers. The demand for online goods will not likely disappear once the pandemic is over as it will be a difficult habit to break so these are likely going to be problems that will not go away on its own.
To this I propose using blockchain technology. The same technology behind Bitcoin has a multitude of applications with many start-ups looking to solve everyday problems, supply chain included. Projects like VeChain are looking to provide retailers a way to prove authenticity to the consumer that would show the entire route from the factory to the storefront by scanning a QR code. Those without the code would automatically be flagged as fakes.
LTO network is another project that hopes to create a global decentralized network that would allow companies to grant third parties instant access to only part of their information network while leaving irrelevant information unavailable. This could in theory help provide customs officials with the necessary documentation much faster to speed up clearance.
Finally, a Dutch company named V-IDT is working on a data authentication network that will instantly flag any alterations from the original document, this will allow customs officials to easily identify any false documents and further hasten the clearance process.
The technology is only starting to get the recognition it deserves and it is only a matter of time before it is part of everyday lives whether we realize it or not.