Cotton trade, globalization, and the digital world

Shared my thoughts on the first automatic blockchain cotton trade deal. 
Originally posted at ShareCloth blog.

Last year saw a publication of a very interesting book, Empire of Cotton, whose authors make a case that the early trans-Atlantic trade in this material can be seen as the precursor to globalization.

In the end of 2016, a different kind of cotton- and globalization-related event has transpired, this time a technological one. One could also call it a historic event — according to the sources, this was the first commercial deal for purchase and sale of cotton carried out with the help of the automated smart contract system.

As soon as the barge with the cargo of American cotton had reached the set geographical coordinates, as recorded by the GPS, the system received notification of successful delivery, along with data from the sensors that control the cargo’s condition inside the containers. Based on this data, the system deemed that the contract was fulfilled, and automatically sent a payment to the seller. There were no lawyers, no bankers, and no human factors of any kind involved. A fully automated cotton contract in the globalized world!

Here, at ShareCloth, we work on accelerating and simplifying interaction between the parties engaged in a different kind of process, the clothes manufacturing, and from what we see, the garment industry is very poorly prepared for this wave of globalization. There are so few efficient digital and automated processes that even production of good quality basic t-shirts in China requires a period of six months and the client’s presence at the factory, while all the communications and examination of samples have to be done using DHL delivery services

Computer simulation of fabric movement, which helps to create exact 3D models of clothes, is a science-driven and painstaking process, but its introduction promises incredible change, not just in communications between participants of the process, but in the fundamental foundations of the whole garment manufacturing vertical, from the designer’s idea to the end consumer (I think everyone would agree that transition from paper catalogues to online cannot be considered the pinnacle of e-commerce evolution, and that there’s much room for further improvement).

Despite the myriad of nuances that accompany the process of introducing innovation to this very old industry, we believe that its digitalization can dramatically change and improve the world, because today the manufacturing of garments is very detrimental to the environment, as the textile industry is the world’s second largest polluter after oil and gas.

This is why we believe that the news about successful automation of one of the oldest processes of the global textile industry, the cotton trade, present us with a cause for optimism, both from the technological and historical points of view. This is a great example of opportunities made available to the garment industry by the new technologies.

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Sergei Moliavko,

Originally published at