UK logistics tech provider becomes first European member of Blockchain in Transport Association

Defining a common set of standards is critical to ensuring mainstream adoption of blockchain-enabled technologies. That’s according to the CEO of Marine Transport International, a UK logistics technology provider that specialises in blockchain-enabled products.

A blockchain is a continuously growing list of records, called blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptography. There has been significant interest in its application in the logistics and freight sectors, where it has the potential to increase transparency, improve efficiency and enable automation.

“Blockchain has been touted as a major innovation in the digitalisation of logistics, offering transparency, connectivity and automation at a time when all players are looking to become more efficient and cut costs to offset falling rates,” said Jody Cleworth, founder and CEO of MTI. “Yet as with any new hype, there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors, a lot of confusion and a lot of investment which isn’t necessarily focusing on the long-term potential. Defining a common set of standards is the only way that blockchain is going to make the step up to being seriously considered by the major players in the supply chain.”

With so many of the major logistics players still wedded to legacy systems which can’t connect with one another, having a straightforward, transparent approach is the only way the sector is going to be able to harness the benefits of blockchain.

“Supply chains are made up of multiple parties, all of whom have made major investments in their technology,” continued Cleworth, founder and CEO of MTI. “Historically, those systems haven’t been set up to communicate outside themselves, so people have had to spend time and money repeating the capture of inputting of data to ensure that all parties have what they need. At a time when everyone is looking to become more efficient, cut costs and automate, being able to use a system that can connect with any legacy IT has the potential to radically transform a business.”

To that end, MTI has joined a new US-based blockchain standards organisation as its first European member. Blockchain in Transport Association (BiTA) aims to create a forum for the development of blockchain standards and education for the freight industry. It currently has 160 members, including UPS, SAP and Bridgestone.

Chris Burruss, president of BiTA said, “For blockchain to be a success, we need to have a transparent, open and honest process, which means everyone working off a standard. Right now, everyone is excited about the potential, but as with any new technology, there’s multiple ways it might be deployed. Identifying the right approach is critical in the journey to mass adoption.”

Another challenge is linking blockchain products to legacy systems. MTI’s approach, known as Container Streams, is specifically designed to connect with established systems, meaning that blockchain users can connect with non-blockchain users. In an industry built on the sharing of data, this approach can significantly reduce the amount of time spent on capturing and entering data across multiple systems.

Cleworth said, “We want to build a collaborative ecosystem which connects everyone involved in logistics – from trucking companies and freight forwarders to distribution centres, ports and ocean and air carriers. To do that, we need consistency and standardisation, which is why we’re delighted to be working with BITA to help develop a blockchain standard for the entire transportation industry.”

Burruss said, “MTI’s focus on collaboration and connecting with existing systems puts it ahead of many other providers looking to introduce blockchain technologies in a rip-and-replace format. That’s why we’re delighted to have them join BITA, and we look forward to both parties benefiting from the others expertise.

“As our first European member, we look forward to being able to build on the connections MTI has in the region as we grow our membership.”

MTI has been developing logistics solutions enabled by blockchain since 2016. Its Container Streams technology was recently the subject of a whitepaper by the University of Copenhagen and Blockchain Labs for Open Collaboration.