Blockchain: cut the cryptocurrencies and taste the tuna

Cryptocurrencies based on blockchain technology, such as bitcoin and ethereum, get a lot of hype. Some believe they are the future of finance, while other including savvy MPs on the Commons Treasury Committee and the Financial Times’ Alphaville blog (free registration required) take a more cynical view. Recent drops in the price of bitcoin suggest the latter have a point.

Like many technologies, blockchain – which creates a permanent, unalterable record of transactions – may prove to be of greater use in areas other than its original one. I have previously looked at its uses outside finance for Computer Weekly, but have now focused on how it can support food and drink supply chains.

The advantage is that it can show a product’s provenance, allowing food producers, retailers and consumers to see – for example – where their tuna were caught, and under what conditions. WWF is supporting work in Fiji to tag freshly-caught tuna for blockchain-based tracking, to tackle problems of over-fishing and other environmental damage.

Using blockchain could also help food and drink providers and dealers with fraud prevention, auditing and dispute resolution. This is ironic given the reputation of cryptocurrencies, but it demonstrates that it is always worth looking at what else a technology can do.

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