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Can We Solve One of the Biggest Problems in Shipping?

During the past year I feel most of us around the world got an appreciation of supply chain. When things work, we don’t notice it. When you go to the store and you can’t get flour or toilet paper, well that can be quite a shock. Certainly there were many factors at play but one in particular was disruption to the supply chain. A critical component to the world’s international supply chain is the intermodal shipping container. For those of you who may not be familiar, the importance of the intermodal shipping container is described in the Forbes article, “The Supply-Chain Will Never Disrespect The Shipping Container Ever Again”.

Believe it or not, tracking of shipping containers really hasn’t kept up with the technology available today. The majority of containers are tracked with pen and paper, spreadsheets and within each company’s individual databases, leading to mistakes causing delays and at worst, lost containers. You would think the problem could be easily addressed with RFID or GPS tracking. These technologies are used but it doesn’t solve the global problem of tracking containing. RFID tends to be proprietary and so once it leaves the closed infrastructure it doesn’t have value anymore. GPS is expensive so it is used but only on high value containers.

IBM has attempted to solve the problem with their TradeLens offering. The initial launch in 2018 struggled to get partners on board and is primarily for companies that participate in the supply chain. It’s a permissioned blockchain meaning participants need to be explicitly granted access to use it.

Instead of a large centralized organization pushing out and forcing adherence to technology what if the opposite approach was taken. Use the individuals who are actually responsible for the container movement, such as truckers and longshoreman, be the ones who provide the tracking of the containers. What if they could be motivated to provide accurate, timely data on the container? You would have a crowd-sourced solution.

Previously it would have been difficult and very expensive to create a system like this. Both the technology and operation model were missing. Both are available now. Blockchain was designed to capture immutable events collected from distributed sources. Blockchain has enabled the concept of a Distributed Autonomous Organization (DAO). As defined in wikipedia, a DAO is an organization represented by rules encoded as a computer program that is transparent, controlled by the organization members and not influenced by a central government. A DAO’s financial transaction record and program rules are maintained on a blockchain.

Consider the organization members that are key participants in the movement of shipping containers: truckers. Truckers are independent business people who have created an informal community of support. They communicate constantly looking out for each other on the roads. The entrepreneurial spirit and network effort within the trucking community is fertile ground for a DAO.

So how would this work. Imagine creating a mobile application enabling truckers to record movement of shipping containers. This gets recorded on a public blockchain. Truckers are incentivized to publish to the blockchain by receiving rewards through tokens. When the blockchain creates value for another entity, through the data that’s collected, the tokens appreciate in value.

Are you intrigued to solve this problem? Do you have interest in empowering individuals? Does better securing the transportation system and economy feel like something you’d like to contribute to?

You can help. has been created as a DAO itself to bring together a community of individuals to create the solution. Whether you have software development skills or involved in the logistics industry you can help. Check out the site, join the discord and let’s modernize a key part of our economy.



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Craig McQueen

Lifelong exploration and teaching of Leadership, Technology and Finance.