Our global economy and populations depend on safe delivery of perishable goods (food, medicine, livestock, etc.). Whenever public health officials issue a warning about bacterial outbreaks affecting the food supply, there are investigations into the source and cause of the contamination. Often these perishable goods are sensitive to environmental conditions during shipment. Were the perishable goods exposed to extreme temperatures? To preserve freshness, shipments of perishable goods might have refrigeration requirements or sensitivity to shocks and vibrations. No one wants to eat unsafely warmed meat or bruised apples. If the shipment exceeds these thresholds, the goods are likely damaged and might become a health hazard.

Recording the details (Where, What, and When) of a shipment that experienced extreme conditions (thresholds specified in a smart contract) allows food safety experts to verify that the goods got delivered successfully (or not). As consumers, we care about our health safety. As a retailer, payment is predicated on successful delivery of the perishable goods within the safety margins.

This IBM Code pattern provides an exemplar solution of IoT Asset Tracking via a Blockchain.

Tracking the conditions of the shipment across multiple participants using a blockchain provides verification and trust. As the goods are transported from farms to processing plants to ports to distribution centers to retail stores, recording where the shipment is located is best done via cellular triangulation. Boxes and pallets are loaded into and out of containers, trucks, warehouses and stock rooms. Unfortunately, the crates are hidden from clear line of sight of the GPS satellite system. As the shipment moves, it can still monitor the signal strength of nearby mobile network cell towers. Since cell towers don’t move and their locations are well known, the relative signal strengths to several towers can be used to calculate the geolocation of our shipment. Low power, low cost mobile device chipsets are being embedded into IoT boards to provide reasonably accurate details of where that shipment has been.

Sensors within the shipment can now record environmental conditions in real-time. Is the truck refrigeration sufficient for this particular type of good? What temperature ranges were prescribed in the Smart Contract? Once it arrives at the final destination, is this shipment still safe or damaged? By recording and transmitting the geolocation, environmental sensor data and the time to the Cloud allows us to track the conditions and verify its safety. A multi-party permissioned blockchain allows the participants to review the sensor transaction history and pinpoint the location (and implied ownership) when an asset becomes damaged.

By using an IoT Asset Tracking system using Blockchain, consumer trust can be assured, public safety officials can protect the public, producers can maintain their brand by avoiding recalls, insurers can correctly assign negligence and retailers can lower the cost of delivering safe food supplies.

Follow this IBM Code pattern and learn how to assemble and program the IoT hardware, establish the Hyperledger Blockchain business network, and track the assets in a Node-RED Dashboard.

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