Applying IOTA in Global Trade and Supply Chains: Mission Possible

Announcements Jan 28, 2019

Trade facilitation, track & trace, provenance… There are many opportunities to apply Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) to international trade and build true innovation. An innovation leveraging the features offered by DLTs, can address current business challenges, create more efficient systems while also establishing the grounds for new business models in the future. See also the earlier blogpost: The Challenges Facing Today’s Supply Chains.  

In the past few months the IOTA Foundation has engaged with a large number of stakeholders and discussed a variety of problems that IOTA’s technology could help solve. We have identified Minimum Viable Ecosystems of actors, and engaged in piloting activities, starting with small Proof of Concepts, all part of a bigger effort aiming to revolutionize the trade community and bring trade processes into the 21st Century. As result of these activities, we have learned where and how IOTA can be integrated with existing systems to add an interoperable trust layer for data exchange. The IOTA Foundation has supported partners to use IOTA technologies and created general guidelines and blueprints that will help other interested parties to replicate similar and more advanced solutions by using IOTA open source code. We will like to share some examples and guidelines for IT developers to get started, and for trade practitioners and policy makers to be inspired; see end of this blogpost.


The demo allows the tracking of a container as it moves between different ports and across borders. The presented process has been simplified for demonstration purposes as it introduces only four different actors in this supply chain.This includes the Shipper, a Forwarder, the Customs officials and the Port operator. For them to plan and operate as effectively as possible, high real-time visibility on the current status of the container (the location, whether it is cleared for export, loaded on the vessel, gate-out of the Port, etc) is needed as well as access to key trade documents (Packing list,Certificate of Origin,Bill of Lading, etc.) about the container’s content. For refrigerated containers(refers) transporting perishable goods, there is also the option to monitor the temperature during transportation.  

This demo was developed to illustrate how easily such visibility could be obtained by using the IOTA Tangle and the 2nd Layer Masked Authenticated Messaging (MAM) protocol, creating an environment where 1) different actors can have different access privileges (i.e. read/write); and 2) all events, documents, and data are stored securely onto the IOTA ledger with highest level of integrity and insured authenticity.

The IOTA Tangle allows the different actors to share a single source of truth, not owned nor controlled by any of the involved actors or an external party. IOTA Tangle provides a trusted ledger where any information that has been uploaded cannot unknowingly be tampered with. All actors can trust that any information is the original information. If any data is changed at a later stage, they would automatically be alerted. Moreover, the information owner approves what will be visible to respective actors.

Try the demo here:  


Using the same demo and code as the starting point, it is possible to build new business models for very different supply chain problems. For example, the IOTA Foundation has partnered up with the IBCS Group to show how the technology can be used for tracking recyclable assets within an industry.

We looked at the glass industry and the very expensive racks that are needed to safely transport the fragile glass/windows between manufactures, distributors, and logistic companies. As various producers are circulating identical assets (racks) in between their stakeholders, the desire and problem of having them returned is obvious across the entire industry. However using a centralized database for the whole ecosystem to record custody-of-the-assets is not possible as it will also reveal proprietary knowledge about each other’s customer base. However, applying IOTA as a tracking layer ensures only rightful owners receive information of owned assets without any unauthorized party being able to gather or access central recordings of the full ecosystem.

Learn more about the case at IBCS’s website:  


To guide decision-makers, trade practitioners and IT developers keen to innovate trade processes, please find links below to the Blueprints of the two solutions, including links to Github for accessing open source code.

Track & Trace Blueprint:  

International Trade demo:  


IOTA Foundation

Official posts from the IOTA Foundation, and migrated posts from old platforms.

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