Frequently asked questions

Are you looking for information? The frequently asked questions section allows you to access the answers to the most frequently asked questions by our customers.

Technology

Blockchain technology ensures that information cannot be tampered with or modified. So much so that even an error in data entry cannot be erased. Indeed, any error can only be amended by recording a new corrective trace that is added to the existing erroneous trace. Similarly, it is impossible for users to subsequently disavow the entry of the information they have recorded on the blockchain. This is the principle of non-repudiation.

In addition to the inherent security of blockchain technology, we rely on two levels of blockchain. First, the traces are notarized one by one in a private blockchain (called consortium blockchain), and then we record an encrypted digital snapshot of this consortium blockchain on the public Ethereum MainNet blockchain. This double level of security allows us to go even further in the protection and immutability of the information.

In addition, we offer each stakeholder of a value chain to host a private blockchain node and thus to have a copy of the registry available internally.

One question that comes up very often is that of contamination. When a batch of products tests positive for the presence of a harmful bacterium, alerts are automatically triggered in the system, which means that the products in the contaminated batch can all be located within seconds. The customer can then use this information to manage the product recall or withdrawal.

One of the most powerful uses of blockchain traceability is its ability to pinpoint, at any time, the exact location of a given product. This is a considerable asset for logistics companies and supply chain managers working in a ‘just-in-time’ environment. It means that stocks can be tracked in real time, and each time a player in the value chain delivers or picks up a batch of products, it is recorded in the blockchain. Within seconds, you know where a batch is and when it is due to be delivered and thus identify possible bottlenecks or other issues. This optimizes the supply chain and saves 48 to 72 hours in time-to-market.

A blockchain does not prevent participants from cheating, but it is a strong deterrent to cheating. First, it is important to know that all traceability information transmitted is the responsibility of the players and is signed off by each one. If false information is detected as a result of an audit, or a data consistency check, it is quickly spotted, and the source immediately identified. Accountability and technology are two key elements to obtain reliable data.

Blockchain technology usage implies the responsibility of all concerned parties: all participants in the chain commit to providing accurate and truthful information and recording it in the blockchain. This commitment is materialized by the signature of a charter of good conduct. 

On top of that, we automatically check data consistency. For example, if a batch must be analyzed before shipment to the customer, we will ensure that the results of that analysis are recorded in the blockchain before the customer posts the goods receipt.

We also carry out checks to ensure there are no discrepancies between a plant’s inbound and outbound goods. For example, if a manufacturer declares the production of one ton of organic bread, we check that he has bought the right amount of organic flour (approximately two thirds of the finished product weight). Those upstream and downstream of a participant who tries to cheat the system will be alerted if there is any such inconsistency in data.

In virtually all sectors, independent auditors regularly verify that materials, processes, or products meet a predefined standard. Any deviation from this standard detected during an audit will be investigated to identify the source of the error or fraud.

Another way of ensuring no false data or mistakes enter the chain is the use of connected objects. Sensors, actuators, or other technologies automatically measure and transmit the physical information in encrypted form to the digital record. This method is obviously dependent on the integrity of the sensors and their use.

Technological progress is becoming faster and more frequent, so this is a hypothesis we cannot exclude. Nevertheless, our vision is that all consumer goods will be traced on the blockchain within 5 to 10 years. In any case, the most complex part of a traceability project is to get all the stakeholders around the table and to have them cooperate and share data. Thus, once this organization is in place, the migration from blockchain technology to another hypothetical technology in several years will be easy.

This question, which has been the subject of many articles in the press, only concerns the Bitcoin blockchain. The private blockchains that we create for our clients require only a limited number of computers (one per player in general) and therefore consume little energy.

We use the public Ethereum blockchain to record only one piece of information, once a day.  In addition, Ethereum will be upgraded later this year (2020) with a Proof of Authority algorithm (which consumes very little energy).

Both technologies are used for blockchain traceability solutions, and neither one is fundamentally better than the other. They have differences, but both are relevant: they allow the creation, encryption, updating (but not deletion) and storage of physical event records, as well as sharing them across all nodes of a given chain.

Other blockchains appear regularly, meeting new needs and pushing the limits of existing solutions. In addition, technologies are also evolving.

We expect that in future, several blockchain platforms will be used simultaneously. It’s important that they are interoperable, so we’re working on that.

Businesses

At Crystalchain we have chosen to adapt to the existing organization, processes, and data of our clients. As a result, the impact for them is extremely limited.

In addition, our solution offers the following advantages:

  • Improved quality and availability of traceability information
  • Simplified auditing
  • Greater transparency
  • Valorization of each player’s work, for the benefit of the finished product and therefore the consumer.

Our platform can adapt to any industry, even the most complex. We have successfully set up blockchain traceability platforms for sectors as diverse as food, utilities, luxury goods and textiles, which are sometimes extremely complex: information source diversity, flow complexity, language variety…

Our platform adapts perfectly to any type of company or organization (large companies, SMEs, farmers, artisans, etc.), regardless of their technological maturity. It is possible to record information by any means, from the most advanced to the simplest: “machine-to-machine” (allowing direct communication between two different machines), regular transfer of Excel (or Json, or other formats) files, manual input on our platform’s interface, or even sending an SMS for users who have neither a computer nor an internet connection.

Yes, of course. It is indeed possible to trace the various steps of a processed product, provided that each stakeholder is willing to participate and record the traces relating to his part of the chain. For example, for a ready-meal, there are several dozen ingredients, all coming from very different raw material producers, but there’s no reason why the chain cannot be traced up from the finished product to the origins of each individual raw material. In general, at the start of a project, the main ingredients, or the most problematic ones, are traced, and the others are added to the blockchain afterwards.

You can certainly tell your partners and customers that the product you sell is traced (fully or partially) using blockchain technology. You can cite the technology we use (Ethereum) to convince them that it is reliable, secure, and regularly backed up.

Consumers

At this stage, the QR code is the most widespread and easy way to access digitized information. QR code readers are available on all smartphones, either through the default camera app, or with a specific app (either installed by default or available through the smartphone’s app store).

Other technologies exist, such as RFID chips, for example. But very few smartphones can read them today. Nonetheless, we remain attentive to market developments and technological progress.

There are two types of users:

  • companies operating within the supply chain: farmers, auditors, suppliers etc.
  • consumers

Companies may access all data in the blockchain. But if some of them want to limit visibility for some data, they can. For example, if there are two companies supplying the same customer, each of the two companies will want to keep its sales and delivery information confidential. Of course, the data is there, but only visible to those companies who are authorized to see it. And if we need to disclose this data, in the case of a dispute for example, we can show it to an authorized party only, for example an auditor.

The consumer only has access to the data he needs to see. This is because, firstly, some data might be confidential. Also, some data might be too complex or of no interest to him. That is why the consumer restitution is a “digest” of the data in the blockchain.

Confidentiality is a crucial parameter for organizations, and the blockchains we build perfectly integrate this constraint. Thus, our platform allows a meticulous control of access rights, and each user is chosen and certified by the administrator of each value chain. This makes it possible to maintain confidentiality at the level decided by each client.

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