The rise of internet-connected devices entering into the IoT market holds the promise to transform homes, cities and lives. It also invites a plethora of challenges when it comes to consumer privacy and data protection — particularly in the wake of GDPR and the recent scandals plaguing social media, credit bureaus and other “advocates” of consumer information.
There is hope though — and it could sit with the controversial offerings within blockchain. For some, blockchain is the disruptive technology that promises to solve transparency problems by creating one version of the truth; for others, it is all hype with no great real-world application other than cryptocurrency. The transparency of a blockchain exists due to its ability to “see” the holdings and transactions of each public address that are opened to multiple users or systems, working as an active distributed ledger. Ultimately, blockchain enhances the interactions between vendors, partners and customers across the chain of consumption.
According to a recent Deloitte survey, 74% of major companies across seven countries are shifting their momentum to blockchain technology and its practical application in business. It is expected that the rising adoption of blockchain by corporations will boost growth of its application in various industries. What is making this technology even more appealing is its seamless ability to pair with IoT technology.
Blockchain and its potential with IoT technology
As IoT applications are by definition distributed, it is only natural that the two will play a role in how devices will communicate directly between each other. In fact, the convergence of blockchain and IoT is on the agenda for many companies and there are existing implementations, systems and initiatives in several areas outside of IoT and financial services too. According to IDC, by 2019, 20% of all IoT deployments will have basic levels of blockchain services enabled.
To illustrate the benefits of blockchain and IoT convergence, IBM gives the example of complex trade lanes and logistics whereby smart contracts can follow (and via blockchain technology register), everything that has happened to individual items and packages. Large-scale organizations such as SAP and Deloitte have even partnered up participating in a blockchain co-innovation initiative, making the digital ledger system an integrated part of IoT, manufacturing and digital supply chain systems by way of the SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain service.
Using blockchain for your IoT data offers new ways to automate business processes among your partners without setting up a complex and expensive centralized IT infrastructure. This also adds additional benefits that include audit trails, accountability, new forms of contracts and speed, to name a few.
Blockchain and IoT: The customer experience dream
So how does this all impact the actual consumer and the overall customer experience (CX)? Blockchain offers the chance to change CX for the better — improving access for disadvantaged customers, making businesses more accountable and increasing security in all kinds of business-customer interactions.
IBM’s recent collaboration with the jewelry industry demonstrates how businesses are utilizing a blockchain network to improve the customer experience. The release of TrustChain, a collaboration between IBM and a consortium of leaders in the gold and diamond industries, offers customers the ability to track and authenticate their jewelry purchase, from mine to market. For enabling message exchanges directly to the customer, IoT devices are used through smart contracts. These are modelled to monitor the agreement between the two parties and notify the end user when each transaction or exchange from one vendor to the next has been completed.
The quest to bring full transparency to the consumer in a digital approach is not specific to just the jewelry industry; in fact a study by Label Insight found that 73% of consumers say they’re willing to pay more for a product that promises total transparency. Providing consumers transparent insight from manufacturing practices to accounting details are all critical when looking to enhance the overall customer experience and retain loyal customers. TrustChain serves as a proof point of how transparency and technology meet to provide the ultimate customer experience.
The future looks bright for customer success
Business and technology leaders have the opportunity to become more engaged and open with their customers through the influence of blockchain and IoT systems. The two together complement their core functions and offer an ethical approach to business while also enhancing the customer journey.
Organizations now have the opportunity to reconsider traditional business processes from their foundations and employ blockchain to create a fair and compliant supply chain. Today, there are already a lot of examples where blockchain and IoT technology is being used across different industries for different applications. For example, blockchain technology is already being used for charity donations, voting systems, HR processes and retail interactions — all of which are making the customer interaction seamless and safe.
Blockchain with IoT adoption allows businesses to demonstrate a heightened amount of transparency which is enabling organizations to build a new type of relationship with their customers — one built upon core values of security, fairness and equality. Blockchain could even create an entirely new era of customer expectation: the expectation that customers should be treated fairly by the businesses they spend their money with — and what’s more, that the blockchain itself can act as a guarantee for that fair treatment.
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