Retail Giant Target Is Working on a Blockchain for Supply Chains

According to the company’s own corporate blog, it recently open sourced the project as a blockchain solution for suppliers certification, dubbed ConsenSource. It’s also pledged to support the Hyperledger Grid project, a supply chain framework that earlier saw the participation from Cargill, one of Target’s suppliers, together with Intel and Bitwise IO.

Retail giant Target has been quietly working on a blockchain-powered solution for supply chain management.

“I’m proud that Target will support the Hyperledger Grid project, and that we’re committing dedicated engineering resources to build out components in the Grid architecture!” Joel Crabb, Target’s vice president of architecture, said in the blog post.

The post revealed that Minnesota-based retailer has been working on a blockchain proof-of-concept since mid-2018. The project was primarily focused on the certification of suppliers for the company’s own paper manufacturing. Target has been “working directly with the forest managers and certification boards” studying the technology and trying to figure out what data can be shared on a distributed ledger, Crabb wrote.

The exploration led to Target recognize the benefits of open-source projects – and even joining some.

The blog reads:

“Many companies – including Target – see the most potential for enterprise blockchain initiatives as open source. Open-source projects require all participating parties to define the governance model collectively from the outset, so companies then can focus their time working on blockchain-based solutions that will lead to greater speed, transparency and cost savings.”

To boost the DLT-related work, Target is now looking for a blockchain engineer and systems developer, according to the company’s career page. The new engineer will be contributing to the recently open-sourced ConsenSource and to Hyperledger Grid, developing “distributed ledger systems, protocols, smart contracts, CLI’s, and RESTful APIs in an open source environment”, the job posting says.

Target did not respond to CoinDesk’s requests for comments by press time.

A secret Hyperledger member

Earlier this year, CoinDesk learned from a source within Hyperledger that Target – the eighth-largest retailer in the U.S. – had been working on a supply chain product under the umbrella of the open-source Hyperledger consortium.

The source, who did not want to be identified, said Target had joined the Sawtooth Supply Chain project, which is developing a distributed application to track the provenance of food and other assets using the Sawtooth implementation of Hyperledger.

Target, however, has largely stayed under the radar with regard to its blockchain initiatives. The company hired Aarthi Srinivasan – who has previously worked at JPMorgan and IBM, among others – as its director of product management for personalization, machine learning and blockchain, in 2016.

While it is still in the development phase and far from reaching production, the Sawtooth Supply Chain has been a hotbed of coding activity, with more than 5,000 commits from 46 contributors on GitHub. According to the ConsenSource’s GitHub repository, the project uses the Sawtooth code.

Among Target’s notable moves has been incorporating identity verification technology from another Hyperledger project called Indy. Cargill, the food production giant, is also known to be involved in the supply chain project.

The Sawtooth codebase, which was contributed to Hyperledger by Intel, is the main alternative to Fabric, the best-known Hyperledger implementation, developed by IBM. Fabric is already being used in food tracking on a network called Food Trust – a project spearheaded by IBM and Target’s big-box rival, Walmart.

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