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Global shipping leaders join IBM and Maersk blockchain platform

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Two of the world’s largest container carriers announced a full integration onto IBM and Maersk’s TradeLens blockchain platform. CMA CGM, a French container and shipping company, along with MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company have joined the TradeLens network to enable a complete digital transformation of their supply chains.

Marvin Erdly, head of TradeLens for IBM Blockchain, told Cointelegraph that as supply chains become digitized, manual paper-based processes, like processing bills of lading, are removed from the equation. “These processes are now embedded in blockchain networks and smart contracts that are trusted by all parties involved,” he said.

Erdly further shared that both CMA CGM and MSC, together with Maersk, will act as platform foundation carriers by running nodes on the TradeLens network. These organizations will validate transactions across the network, ensuring that documents shared between participants are authentic and valid.

The addition of CMA CGM and MSC also brings data from nearly half of the world’s ocean container cargo to the TradeLens network, which has already tracked 30 million container shipments and roughly 13 million published documents since its launch in 2018.

COVID-19 highlights need for blockchain-based supply chains

While it’s notable that CMA CGM and MSC have joined the TradeLens network, this also demonstrates how the coronavirus pandemic has prompted the need for digitized supply chains.

According to Erdly, automating complex business-to-business processes have become more important than ever before due to the pandemic. In order to ensure the future success of the global supply chain, which is a $50 trillion dollar industry, blockchain is slowly but surely becoming a necessary component:

“The initial challenge faced by the TradeLens network was reaching a critical mass. The more entities we have on the network, the more valuable the network becomes. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the platform into having a critical mass. Other entities will now want to join, ultimately creating a network effect. This is why CMA CGM and MSC joining is such an important milestone.”

By joining TradeLens, CMA CGM and MSC will be able to digitally share permissioned shipment information between supply chain entities. The platform, which is powered by IBM Blockchain and IBM Cloud, makes it possible for entities to access data, while keeping sensitive information private for organizations. This provides network participants with a comprehensive, transparent view of data as cargo moves around the world.

As Don Tapscott writes is his book, Supply Chain Revolution, this in turn opens up the internet of value, where assets can finally be moved digitally between parties:

“Blockchain can enable the digital handling of trade documents, such as purchase orders and bills of lading. Near real-time sharing and verification of trade documents on the blockchain will also help streamline the process of asset tracking and offer freight forwarders visibility.”

Ultimately, blockchain presents an important business opportunity for companies working with multiple entities, as it brings transparency, trust and collaboration to complex processes that typically rely on paper documents. For example, an important milestone in the process of onboarding CMA CGM and MSC was a 15-customer pilot involving more than 3,000 unique consignments,100,000 events and 6,000 containers. This pilot demonstrated how the TradeLens platform distributes and shares shipment data across various supply chains with speed and accuracy.

Andre Simha, global chief digital and information officer for MSC, noted that TradeLens is an important initiative in the digitalization of global shipping and logistics, mentioning the platform clearly has the potential to help carriers and their customers increase transparency and reduce errors and delays. “This all comes at a crucial time when the industry is re-thinking and improving the resiliency of supply chains,” he said. Simha further noted that by integrating with TradeLens, the company can begin to show their customers and business partners how they can create value using a blockchain platform.

Ironically enough, getting customers to understand the value of a blockchain network should become easier due to the pandemic. Vincent Clerc, CEO of ocean and logistics for A.P. Moller-Maersk said that the TradeLens ecosystem is indeed gaining momentum during a time when customers and supply chain stakeholders are increasingly turning to digital and online solutions. Clerc noted that organizations are beginning to see the value of digital products and platforms for keeping supply chains flowing during lockdowns that have complicated manual and physical interactions between stakeholders in the logistics value chain.

Clerc further noted that since the pandemic began, Maersk has seen a 27% percent increase in mobile business transactions on the Maersk app. “In a world now where resilience is king, TradeLens has an important role to play in terms of providing supply chain resilience and in increasing the customer experience through increased visibility,” he remarked.

Blockchain brings value to supply chains

Overall, it’s become clear that blockchain will continue to play an important role in the digitization of supply chains. This has become even more apparent due to COVID-19.

“This further validates the notion that blockchain is here to stay, as it’s becoming a critical element for businesses that need to transact across multiple entities,” said Erdly. Erdly also pointed out that TradeLens has continued to scale over the years, noting recent additions of new ports and terminals joining the platform. Growth should continue, as a network effect is closer to being achieved now that CMA CGM and MSC are live on the platform.



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How DeFi will kill the retail bank

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The world runs on consumer spending and consumer saving. It is everyday people who actually power the most important parts of the global economy and the global financial system. 

For consumers, this system runs through their retail bank. It is where most people save, spend and pay their taxes. This is the battleground for the coming fight: the battle for global consumer deposits.

Make no mistake, this will be the fight of the century. It will change the shape of the world more fundamentally than the internet has already. The internet was about information. DeFi is about capital — and as we all know, money is power.

Today, most people either hate or are indifferent to their bank. That is probably because they fine you for tiny mistakes, keep you on the phone for hours, give you the worst interest rates imaginable, and provide you with a user experience that borders on hostile.

That is not always the fault of the bank. Consumer regulation and controls have been mounting to the point that compliance is often one of the biggest cost centers for all retail banks. Such institutions cannot innovate because they are built to resist change, not to embrace it.

An irresistible opportunity

Decentralized finance has flipped the model on its head, delivering a new world of financial products, built using smart contracts that allow consumers to switch between providers in a matter of seconds, all at the click of a mouse.

Related: DeFi will bring global revolution to the traditional finance space

It is not that the DeFi model is just better — it’s simply fundamentally different. In the old world of retail banking, we had to trust the people that run banks. This trust is expensive. In the new world of decentralized finance, we trust the code that provides our financial services.

Protocols such as Aave, Uniswap and MakerDAO have the ability to directly control assets like USD Coin (USDC), Ether (ETH) and Wrapped Bitcoin (wBTC), enabling the rise of financial products that can operate 24/7, 365 days a year, with 100% uptime and no staff. It removes the cost of checks and balances. It takes handcrafted financial processes and turns them into automated programs.

Decentralized finance gives entrepreneurs an irresistible opportunity to truly compete in the world of global finance — a place that was once the exclusive realm of multinational corporations with eight-figure legal teams on retainer. Not only this, DeFi lowers the switching costs for a consumer to almost zero: I can move my capital from Aave to Compound to Uniswap in a matter of minutes, with precisely zero paperwork.

Related: DeFi-ing the odds: Why DeFi could rebuild trust in financial services

On DeFi, capital can flow almost instantly to the best value opportunities, and it provides the thing that global finance truly needs: real competition and real innovation. This competition is why DeFi will kill the retail bank. If I can get 15% APR in my favorite DeFi savings decentralized application, why would I ever keep my money in a bank?

With opportunities come threats

But right now, all is not well in DeFi. To date, DeFi on Ethereum has seen over $285 million in hacks, rewards are unfairly shared, and Ethereum continues to be congested and expensive to use.

The trust model of DeFi is code, not humans. The community is essential to the success of any ecosystem. To win, a platform must never get congested — no matter how many people are using it.

Related: Smart contract exploits are more ethical than hacking… or not?

We need a decentralized network where developers can build quickly without the constant threat of exploits and hacks, where every improvement will get rewarded, and where scale will never be a bottleneck. Because only then can the retail banks be slain and we get to see what great consumer finance truly looks like.

This article does not contain investment advice or recommendations. Every investment and trading move involves risk, and readers should conduct their own research when making a decision.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Piers Ridyard is the CEO of Radix DLT, a secure decentralized network. Piers also founded and exited Surematics, a YCombinator company, and was mining on the genesis block of Ethereum in July 2015. Piers graduated from the University of Manchester and the University of Law and has a CFA level 1.



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Colombian capital supports blockchain and emerging tech with $2.3M fund

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Colombia’s capital of Bogotá is funding blockchain development as part of the city’s broader investment in innovative technologies.

According to a Monday announcement on the city of Bogotá’s official website, the municipal government will provide 8.8 billion Colombian pesos ($2.3 million) to local companies as part of four new programs in the city’s Innovation, Technology and Creative Industries Fund, or FITIC.

The new funding includes a contribution of of 2.8 billion pesos, ($739,000) to the development of local blockchain startups through a program called “Hub Blockchain Bogotá.” The project aims to support 100 blockchain-focused companies in order to boost their competitiveness on the global market and provide tech advice for implementing blockchain within participating companies.

The new innovation funding campaign is organized with support from the Superior Mayor of Bogotá, the District Secretariat for Economic Development, Jorge Tadeo Lozano University, state entrepreneurship body Innpulsa, and Singapore-based blockchain accelerator Tribe Accelerator.

Related: Colombia’s oldest commercial bank pilots crypto services

Bogotá Mayor Claudia Lopez took to Twitter on Monday to invite local businesses to apply for the program starting on June 25. “Each company will be able to receive from the FITIC from 10 to 50 million pesos in capital to be able to take their idea forward,” the mayor said.

Colombia has been actively exploring blockchain technology. Last August, the Colombian Ministry of Information Technology and Communications called on the public sector to adopt blockchain technology in payments, land registration, voting, data management, supply chain and others areas. Previously, Bogotá launched a series of free online courses on a broad spectrum of new technologies including blockchain.