Blockchain has “Enormous” Potential to Improve Disaster Relief – US Defence Dept

The United States Defence Department has issued a report highlighting the great potential blockchain has to improve the effectiveness of disaster relief efforts.

As Indonesia reels from its second deadly tsunami in less than a year, it is clear that the threat from natural disasters is ever present. As the threat form climate change grows, it seems that natural disasters like tsunamis, hurricanes and heat waves are becoming more frequent. Accordingly, in the immediate term, disaster relief measures need to be stepped up and made as efficient as possible.

This is where blockchain can potentially step in, according to a new report by the US Defence Department. The Defence Logistics Agency arm held a two-day meeting in Philadelphia, hosted by the Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) office, looking at how blockchain could have improved efforts already deemed successful such as the relief effort in Puerto Rico, following hurricane Maria in 2017.

Potential “Absolutely Enormous”

The outcome of the meeting has concluded that there are numerous areas where blockchain could help with efficient process delivery and mapping logistics between different bodies, including FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, Troop Support and Construction and Equipment.

CPI management analyst Elijah Londo has high hopes for the technology’s potential to have a real impact on future operations. He explained:

“The potential is absolutely enormous. Talk about blockchain, [and] you’ll hear experts comparing it to transforming trust or transactions in the same way the internet changed communication. Other agencies and countries are also looking into this technology.”

At the moment, efforts are run through centrally governed systems which present an obstacle to stakeholders synchronising real time data. The result is that supply chain and logistics information is not always one hundred percent up to date.

Marko Graham, deputy director of the DLA’s Construction and Equipment unit explained how it would help smooth out supply chains:

“This is where I can see where blockchain would have been a big help [in the relief efforts]. Flowing material specifications and tracking data from the manufacturer buying the raw materials to … getting the transportation and getting it on the barges.”

Government Agencies Continue with Due Diligence

Londo continued, stating that government agencies both in and out of the US are doing significant research into blockchain, and how it can help with internal processes.

“We’re researching the technology,” said Londo. “We’re getting as smart as we can about what it is, what industry is saying about it, what the future might look like, how it applies to supply chains and how other industries are using it. We’re doing our due diligence.”

The CPI has partnered with US Transportation Command and global freight giant Maersk and IBM, to build a blockchain supply chain management platform, which aims to provide up to the minute information on supply chain processes.

In other areas, the Department for Homeland Security has offered $800,000 grants to start-ups which want to provide solutions to false documentation using blockchain tech.

Abroad, the United Arab Emirates has set a target of 2021 to get 50% of government transactions processed using blockchain technology.

Worthy Causes

Blockchain potentially hold solutions to inefficiencies in so many areas. It’s easy to get swept up in just crypto, but for any area where record-keeping and liaison between different bodies is done, it can potentially be a game changer. The medical industry, freight, logistics and as we can see here, humanitarian relief can all be hugely improved by appropriate implementation of the technology at different process points. ToshiTimes reported in September that a team of developers had developed a way of using crypto to send SOS signals after disasters in remote areas. Ultimately, improvements in efficiency in all of these areas will be to the benefit of everyone as resources otherwise wasted will be able to be used elsewhere; 2019 will doubtless be an exciting year for blockchain implementation both in the public and private sector.

Image Source: “Flickr”

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