Timeline: Evolution of blockchain tech in supply chain

At first, blockchain seemed a niche concept that would have little benefit, before becoming a game-change in finance and, later, supply chain

Blockchain timeline: 1990

Much of the groundwork for the blockchain was set in the early 1990s. Stuart Haber and Scott Stornetta met while working for US software company Bellcore, where they identified a problem: the world relied so heavily on records that weren’t authenticated by an independent party, diminishing trust in their efficacy – and the duo wanted to set about creating a solution.

Blockchain timeline: 1991

Within a year of presenting their idea, Haber and Stornetta had written the algorithm that would become recognised as the blockchain. 

The term itself is derived from the way data, such as the record of a transaction and its unique hash, is packaged into blocks and linked together like a chain. The more blocks are added, the stronger the chain becomes.

Blockchain timeline: 1998

By the end of the 1990s, computer scientist Nick Szabo had attempted one of the very first applications of this new ‘decentralised’ system, proposing ‘bit gold’ – a forerunner to the very popular bitcoin. Bit gold was never implemented, and it would take another decade before anybody would build on Haber and Stornetta’s work to launch a decentralised currency.

Blockchain timeline: 2008

A developer or team of developers using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto publishes a white paper that conceptualises the cryptocurrency bitcoin, establishing the blockchain as the public transaction ledger used for bitcoin. This lit the flame for the cryptocurrency market, which would explode over the next decade.

Blockchain timeline: 2013

Five years after the white paper was published, early bitcoin enthusiast Vitalik Buterin created Ethereum. He thought bitcoin needed a scripting language for application development and, failing to establish a consensus among the bitcoin community, built his own blockchain-based platform. It utilises smart contracts and is the platform on which NFTs are built, for example.

2017-Present

Supply chain professionals begin to leverage the power of blockchain. Instead of coins, supply chain blockchains ‘tokenise’ a variety of transaction-related data, creating unique and readily verifiable identifiers for purchase orders, inventory units and bills of lading. Every participant in the chain has their own unique digital signature, which is used to ‘sign’ tokens moving through the chain. 

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