Blockchain Platform Leverages RFID Solution for Inventory Management

By Claire Swedberg

Citizens Reserve is providing its blockchain solution, enabled by Smartrac's Cosmos software, to the livestock and retail markets, so users can share data with other supply chain members and consumers to validate the conditions of animals and meat.

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Blockchain and radio frequency identification technologies are converging with a new supply chain-as-a-service platform being piloted by companies in the livestock market, which was provided by Citizens Reserve. The company’s solution, known as SUKU Ecosystem, uses its blockchain platform, along with Smartrac‘s Cosmos software and application programming interface (API), and Smartrac’s UHF RFID readers and tags, to enable companies to track their goods on an immutable public ledger.

The initial use case is the management of data regarding livestock moving through the supply chain. With RFID and blockchain technologies, users can capture and share data about the conditions of animals and meat, as well as other information that matters to retailers and consumers, such as genetically modified organism (GMO) status, feed type and quality, and other conditions. The SUKU Ecosystem solution can be utilized by a variety of industries to provide supply chain visibility and authentication.

Citizens Reserve’s Yonathan Lapchik

With the SUKU Ecosystem, supply chain stakeholders can manage data from end to end in order to boost efficiency, transparency and collaboration, according to Yonathan Lapchik, Citizens Reserve’s CIO. “We do this by offering a supply-chain-as-a-service platform to all sized enterprises,” Lapchik explains.

The platform consists of two primary components, Lapchik says: a system called Marketplace and a solution known as Track & Trace. Marketplace provides data about a product to consumers in the store or after a purchase, while the Track & Trace function is intended to help supply chain members confirm information about a product as it flows to the store. The platform also allows users to build their own supply chain applications using Citizens Reserve’s blockchain functionality.

With the technology, participants in a livestock value chain can employ UHF RFID tag reads at various points in the supply chain to capture data they want to view, save and share. They can read and input data regarding the livestock or meat as part of an immutable record proving the product’s organic or sustainability status.

Lapchik calls supply chains a natural and intuitive use case for blockchain technology. Since the advent of blockchain solutions, he notes, organizations have been seeking to use the technology to manage data about goods flowing from source to consumer. The use of RFID in blockchain systems is an enabler for automated data capture, he says, adding, “RFID… allows us to connect the physical with the digital world, so it’s a key component of our supply chain platform.”

Although data can be collected and shared via blockchain without RFID, Lapchik says, transparency becomes diminished since the information cannot be automatically collected as it might be using a fixed reader portal, for instance. However, users also have the option of inputting traceability information about their products from non-RFID external data sources.

Typically, a tag would be attached to an animal, such as in its ear, and would then be read at such key points as during feeding, weighing or vaccinating. Additionally, once meat is packaged, a UHF RFID tag with a unique ID number encoded on it can be attached to the package. That tag can be linked to data about the meat and the animal from which it came, including where and when the meat was packaged, what the animal was fed and at what location this occurred. Each time the animal or meat changes hands, is processed or reaches a retailer, that tag can be read again, and new data can thus be added to the public ledger.

NFC tags or QR codes could enable consumers to scan a label on the packaging to access data about the product as well. When an end-customer scans a product’s Smartrac NFC tag, for instance, his or her phone or other device would be directed to the SmartCosmos API, and a website offering additional product information would be displayed. In the background, this product’s information would be reconciled against the SUKU Blockchain, so as to ensure the authenticity of the displayed product information.

For those already using RFID, Lapchik says, blockchain access provides the ability to share and authenticate data. “Traditional RFID-based supply chain management solutions struggle with the coordination and validation of shared information,” he states. With existing RFID systems, he notes, participants only have insight into the data they collect, which is siloed across the supply chain and could be changed by other users.

“When users do decide to share data, they must trust that the received information is valid without any way to verify,” Lapchik states. “The SUKU blockchain enablement changes this,” by allowing users to reconcile shared information against an immutable, verified ledger. In that way, each item has an irreversible identity that cannot be faked, copied or lost, due to the immutable nature of blockchain technology.

Citizens Reserve first demonstrated its solution in November 2018 at the MarketWave18 conference, then announced its partnership with Smartrac in January of this year. While members of the livestock industry are piloting the technology early this year, the company expects to see use cases beyond livestock in other supply chains.

“Third-party developers and technology partners can leverage this existing infrastructure to build new supply chain applications.” Lapchik says. “We see our planned efforts with Smartrac playing a foundational role in the long-term development of RFID-blockchain solutions.” Those, he notes, will be complimented by what he expects to be innovative products created by technology partners.

The company intends to commercially launch the platform later this quarter. Citizens Reserve sells its solution to suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers within each supply chain, but end users can access applicable information.