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Amazon, Walmart Announce New Blockchain Ventures

Blockchain is now an official word in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Of course, the FinTech industry doesn’t have to look it up, but the dictionary now defines blockchain as a technology that enables the keeping of records of financial transactions in a digital database as part of a publicly accessible network.

The addition of blockchain to the dictionary is symbolic of the technology’s continuing proliferation. The latest data on blockchain investments and adoption offer more concrete evidence of this trend.

According to news from Cointelegraph, venture capital funding for blockchain and blockchain-adjacent startups (which use technologies like bitcoin, Ethereum and other virtual currencies) this year is on track to exceed 2017 funding in this industry. To date, an estimated 130 deals have been inked in 2018, valuing about $400 million.

Separate analysis from CoinMarketCap released this week found continuing adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies has led to a $457 billion market cap for the world’s cryptocurrency players.

In this week’s Blockchain Tracker, PYMNTS takes a look at some of the largest companies on the planet and their latest efforts to embrace blockchain — yet another sign of the technology’s increasing popularity.

JD.com

China’s retail conglomerate JD.com announced plans to use blockchain for supply chain management purposes. Specifically, the firm — which Business Insider dubbed the “Amazon of China” — wants to use distributed ledger technology (DLT) to track its meat supply chain from Australian farms to buyers.

Reports said JD.com’s blockchain system will be up and running later this year and will enable customers to track the journey of the meat products they’ve bought on the site. The tool is developed in conjunction with Australian beef company HW Greenham & Sons.

“Consumers in China don’t just want quality imported products; they want to know that they can trust how and where their food is sourced, and blockchain helps us deliver this peace of mind,” said JD.com Chief Technology Officer Chen Zhang in a statement.

Amazon

The Amazon of China may be operating in blockchain, but the world’s actual Amazon is doing the same. Reports this week said Amazon announced a new partnership with Luxoft Holding, according to The Motley Fool. Luxoft and five other consulting firms are joining together to roll out their blockchain solutions that can operate on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

“Blockchain is about removing data silos, improving trust and operational efficiencies,” said Luxoft Vice President of Technology Strategy Vasiliy Suvorov. “By using AWS to deploy and integrate DLTs into day-to-day processes, businesses can revolutionize how they operate.”

Among Luxoft’s targets is the health insurance market to facilitate claims processes; the company designed a solution using Hyperledger technology to address friction in this space.

Walmart

Walmart, which is competing with Amazon on multiple fronts, revealed its own blockchain initiative this week. Digital Journal reported that Walmart plans to launch a blockchain-based shipping solution to enable product tracking, citing a patent filing by the company for a “smart package.”

“Many customers shop online for various reasons [including] ease of shopping, comfort of shopping, to save time and any number of other reasons that customers have for shopping online,” Walmart said in its filing. “These online customers many times seek to purchase items that may require a controlled environment and further seek to have greater security in the shipping packaging that the items are shipped in. Current shipping packaging does not provide for such desired functionality.”

Reports said Walmart is likely to develop its own blockchain platform to enable tracking of these “smart packages.”

GE

GE’s transit equipment unit GE Transportation announced it’s the newest member of the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA). The company joins more than 230 members that are banning together to explore the use of blockchain in supply chain management, logistics and transportation.

In a statement, BiTA Managing Director Craig Fuller said GE Transportation is “on the forefront of technology” and, as a member of the group, will be able to help “lead the blockchain framework for the industry,” reports in Cointelegraph said.

BMW

Germany auto giant BMW made its next step into blockchain through a partnership with Singapore nonprofit VeChain Thor (recently rebranded from VeChain). Rumors of their collaboration had circled in the past, but the companies confirmed their partnership to roll out VeChain Thor’s Blockchain-as-a-Service solution for supply chain management. The companies are particularly focused on quality and authenticity management of products that move through the supply chain, and VeChain Thor offers several solutions, including tracking of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and supply chain metrics analysis.

Soon after, reports in Reuters said BMW struck another partnership, this time with Circulor, which uses blockchain for the ethical sourcing of cobalt.

Kakao

South Korea’s largest messaging app is “planning to establish a unit focusing on blockchain technology,” reports in BusinessKorea said this week. The firm is already operating in the blockchain space through the use of a DLT-powered authentication service with Kakao Pay, but the launch of a new subsidiary will enable the company to go the Initial Coin Offering (ICO) route. Reports said Kakao’s ICO will likely take place in Japan, Singapore or Hong Kong because South Korea has banned ICOs.

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