In this use case, we have discussed how technologies like Blockchain, AI (Artificial Intelligence), and IoT (Internet of Things) can fulfill requirements of Thorium's supply chain traceability, security, and efficiency for sustainable energy generation.
So, let’s start with understanding blockchain technology.
Blockchain as the new form of a shared database
Blockchain acts like a digital ledger shared across network participants. It naturally stores information in an immutable way. All participants in the network get the same copy of the ledger at a given time. It enables decentralization in the network while leaving no single point of failure. However, changing the ledger data warrants a consensus of network participants. It means that without achieving consensus, it is almost impossible to alter or change data stored on the blockchain.
Discussing blockchain brings up its two types that serve different purposes. One is a permissionless blockchain that enables anyone to join and get full rights to use it. The other one is business blockchain, which tends to be permissioned. Some permissioned blockchains restrict access to pre-verified users who have already proven their identities. Others enable anyone to join, but let only trusted identities verify transactions on the blockchain.
Achieving Thorium’s supply chain traceability, security, and transparency with a permissioned blockchain solution
We will use a permissioned blockchain solution as an underlying infrastructure for Thorium’s supply chain traceability, visibility, and security from the mine to power-plant. Hyperledger Fabric, NEM, Credits, and Corda are a few of the most suitable blockchain platforms for this purpose. A permissioned blockchain that enables only verified participants to join its ecosystem is required to implement robust Thorium handling measures. The solution can onboard only permissioned participants to involve in supplying Thorium, such as authorized miners and freight providers. It enables them to create and track end-to-end Thorium’s supply chain information while making it secure and accessible to all.
A few blockchain platforms for permissioned blockchain solutions
Hyperledger Fabric: It is a permissioned distributed ledger technology (DLT) platform with a highly modular and configurable architecture designed for enterprise contexts, including finance, healthcare, supply chain, and human resources.
NEM Enterprise: It provides powerful modular customization for virtually any applications where speed and privacy are the priority. It enables developers to build fintech systems, decentralized notarizations, supply chain and logistics solutions with traceability, and much more.
Credits for Enterprises: Its supply chain platform provides automation, management, and control of the delivery of goods and services on each stage of the chain. It provides transparency in transactions and reduces operational costs.
Corda Enterprise: It is a distributed ledger technology that uses known identities to establish trust in the system and keeps transactions private between interacting parties. It reduces the effort required to maintain data consistency while still enabling it to scale and manage a higher volume of transactions.
Integrating technologies like AI (Artificial Intelligence), the Internet of Things (IoT), and others can further augment the blockchain solution for accurate real-time system entry of generated data.
Integrating AI, IoT, and Blockchain other technologies for supply chain traceability, real-time updates, and visibility
Thorium’s supply chain process will begin with loading it into air-tight containers and equipping them with tamper-evident sealing devices. They can include Near Field Communication (NFC) or Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)-enabled chips, weight sensors, micro GPS tracking, and other sensors for efficient asset tracking.
The RFID microchip will act as an identifier for the container by creating its digital identity. It will contain important identifying information about every touchpoint of the container in the supply chain such as,
Type of material
UN Number and shipping name
Weight of containers
Point of origin
Destination and delivery date
Identity of the individuals handling the container at each point
Additionally, wireless level monitoring IoT solutions, and AI-powered facial recognition and motion sensors can be embedded into the process to notify parties about any movement in real-time. They will provide the ability to monitor chemical containers’ real-time;
Fill Level or Weight Alerts: Notification about the weight deviation from the threshold limits
Theft Alerts: Ensure security with a reliable alerting system
Temperature Alerts: Immediate alerts about the temperature deviation
Shipment Route Tracking: Enable live tracking of shipment and route optimization
Facial Recognition Security: Ensure security of shipments with digital identification
All this digital identification combined with other logistical information will be uploaded to the blockchain solution.
While the integrated sensors will provide the ability to monitor the containers’ status’ 24×7, and issue real-time alerts about suspicious activities, permissioned blockchain solution will make this data secure and visible only to the solution’s participants. It will enable respective stakeholders to receive regular alerts and notifications of every event and action defined as per business rules.
Further, smart contract integration with blockchain will automate necessary business rules and contracts between the transaction participants, such as payments and audits. It will reduce heavy paperwork and the risk of human-prone errors in data and information.
Smart contracts are self-executing, written into code, and built as complex if-then statements. It means that they only execute transactions when established conditions are fulfilled.
An imaginary scenario of Thorium’s Supply Chain traceability from a mine site to a power plant
The shipment of Thorium containers leaves by a truck from the mine site with all devices and sensors attached to provide real-time information about the shipment.
As any supply chain update is available after the exit from the mine site, blockchain creates an entry, which is simply a record stored in a decentralized ledger. It may be an update of GPS location or data from IoT devices and sensors placed inside the containers. It can be about temperature, weight or shipment route deviation from the defined limits or even driver change before the delivery. Each record will refer to a specific asset or shipment ID, with the current timestamp in milliseconds and other custom parameters. All records will become immediately and permanently available on the blockchain during the transit till the shipment is received by the power plant manager.
Additionally, we can make this data available via API, making it possible to connect with ERP and other legacy systems.
As discussed above, distributed ledger could be a good solution for provenance and other logistical purposes. Data updates, consumption, and storage happen is a decentralized way that creates a trustless environment. Everybody gets access to the same data and full ledger of records from the first transaction with full transparency and traceability of who has created each record and when. However, blockchain technology cannot solve provenance on its own. It needs integration support from ERP systems, supply chain management solutions, IoT smart tracker hardware systems, and more. Processes, operations, legal frameworks, and conventional technology need to envelop blockchain for it to be fully practical and effective. Lastly, it might require the assistance of a blockchain supply chain development company to bring this revolutionary idea into realization.