Major U.S. Retailer Target Quietly Building A Blockchain Solution For Supply Chains

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Retail giant Target is making inroads into the blockchain space, albeit much more silently than most other such companies.

The retailer has quietly moved closer to developing a blockchain-enabled solution, beginning the project last year and working in collaboration with ConsenSource.

Target has looked to beef up its participation in the blockchain space, pledging to back the Hyperledger Grid project.

The Hyperledger Grid project is a supply chain framework that has already got input from one of the major Target suppliers, food giant Cargill. There is also technology titan Intel and blockchain startup Bitwise.io.

The retail giant Target aims at boosting its distributed ledger technology (DLT)-related work. To help, the company has advertised for a blockchain engineer and systems developer, the firm’s career page shows.

The new talents will be expected to make contributions to the recently open- sourced ConsenSource and also the Hyperledger Grid. Their role as stipulated in the page will be to develop “distributed ledger systems, protocols, smart contracts, CLI’s, and RESTful APIs in an open source environment.”

Target’s Vice president of architecture Joel Crabb said in the firm’s blog that he was proud that Target would support the Hyperledger Grid project. Furthermore, the company was committing its engineering resources to develop parts in Grid architecture.

Target’s ConsenSource project which it recently open-sourced main focus is on certification of suppliers for the firm’s paper manufacturing.

In addition, Crabb noted that Target had a one on one work relation with forest managers and certification boards as they studied the technology and tried to establish the data that can be shared on a DLT.

Throughout the research, Target was able to know the advantages of open-source projects and also offering support to some.

Target has largely been operating secretly with its blockchain project for some time, till now. It took in the services of Aarthi Srinivasan, a former employee of JPMorgan and IBM. Srinivasan has been Target’s director of product management for personalization, machine learning and also blockchain since 2016.

In December last year, information leaked from Hyperledger that Target was developing a supply chain product working with open-source Hyperledger partnership.

According to the source that sought to remain undisclosed, Target was seeking to partner with Sawtooth Supply Chain project. The project is working on a distributed application that would keep track of the source of food including other assets via the use of Sawtooth implementation of Hyperledger.

Target might have made code contributions to Hyperledger, however, that does not give it membership to Hyperledger, Linux Foundation’s Emily Fisher recently noted.

The Sawtooth project has been occupied with coding activity despite the fact that it is still developing and in fact, was far from reaching production. There have been over 5,000 commits coming from 46 contributors on GitHub.

As per the ConsenSource GitHub depository, the project is using the Sawtooth code.

Target has managed to include identity verification technology sourced from a different Hyperledger project dubbed Indy. Cargill is also allegedly part of the supply chain project.

The Sawtooth codebase is an alternative to Hyperledger’s Fabric and is contributed to by Intel. The Fabric codebase, developed by IBM, is so far most popular Hyperledger implementation.

It is already in use in tracking food on a network named Food Trust, a project headed by IBM and Walmart.

Target in its last yearly report to shareholders did mention its investment in supply chain improvements. However, it never talked of blockchain or even DLT.

The firm observed that it was in the process of “a broad migration of many mainframe-based systems and middleware products to a modern platform.”

These, according to the firm, would include systems that support inventory and also supply chain-related transactions.


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