NAG Executive Director and CStore Decisions Editor-in-Chief John Lofstock welcomed convenience industry veteran and Road Ranger Chief Information Officer Jeremie Myhren for the NAG/YEO Virtual Conference’s seventh session, “What Is Blockchain and How Will It Affect You?”
Myhren, with more than two decades experience in tech leadership in the c-store industry, broke down what could be a highly technical topic into terms that are easy to understand. He asked attendees to picture a spreadsheet that is duplicated thousands of times across a network of computers. Imagine that the network is designed to regularly update the spreadsheet and you have a basic understanding of blockchain.
Transparency Equals Security
Blockchain is decentralized. There is no controlling party. “Blockchain eliminates the need for intermediaries and the problems they introduce,” he said. That means fewer points of leakage and less exposure to covert outside threats. Blockchain’s data cannot be adjusted by outside parties for the purposes of fraud. It is fully transparent from transaction to transaction, which ensures trust and credibility every time.
That’s an important element of blockchain’s security. Traditional databases have low transparency — blockchain is highly transparent. All of its data is publicly visible and impossible to modify.
One way to assess the value of blockchain is to see who else has been using it. “Walmart has been a blockchain enthusiast almost from the beginning,” Myhren said.
Coke One North America tracks 160,000 orders daily totaling $21 billion in annual revenue. Large corporations across many industries are already operating more securely thanks to blockchain.
HSBC and Visa in the bank and finance sector. Pfizer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the CDC in healthcare. Insurance giants Prudential, MetLife and AIG use it. Airline companies Delta, Singapore Air, Etihad and British Airways employ blockchain. Add Shell Oil, Coldwell Banker and Scotiabank to the list.
More Than a Ledger
Blockchain can be used to track a myriad of things. It’s much more than just a financial ledger, said Myhren. Its secure nature can be applied to many types of transactions. It can be used to secure shipment tracking, online voting, contact tracing, frictionless payments — Myhren displayed a slide with nearly two dozen areas where blockchain greatly enhances secure modifications.
It can also track raw materials, crude oil, foodstuffs and other products. Those are industries, said Myhren, that are some of convenience retail’s key partners.
Blockchain technology can monitor product safety by locating bad foods, executing recall of the affected product batches with pinpoint accuracy at a much higher degree than current standards. The use of blockchain has the potential to give the consumer real and true trust to product claims.
And for retail — including c-stores — it has other uses. Product promotions and loyalty programs will benefit because of its power to prevent errors and fraud. Return policies and warranty claims will be more honest. All of this will strengthen the bonds between retail and supply partners, thereby reducing costs. That benefits everyone, from supplier to retailer to customer.
For the upper end of the c-store industry, embracing and employing blockchain makes a lot of sense, Myhren said. But for smaller operations, he advised, just keep your eyes open. Watch how those larger entities use blockchain to improve the industry.
Myhren closed by touting the larger societal impacts of blockchain on the horizon. Many technologies, he said, will converge — artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT).
“We’re on the cusp,” said Myhren, “of a dramatic enhancement of efficiency of the world we live in.”
The 2020 NAG/YEO Virtual Conference concludes on Wednesday, Sept. 16, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, with Critical Tobacco Update: Local Restrictions to FDA Regulations. For the entire eight-session agenda, visit https://nagconvenience.com/virtual-series-agenda/. To register click here: NAG/YEO Virtual 2020 Registration. For on-demand access to past sessions visit the NAG/YEO Virtual 2020 On Demand page.