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Logistics Newsmaker Q&A Tom Robinson, ORBCOMM

Tuesday, July 3, 2018 - 06:00
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Earlier this year, telematics solution provider ORBCOMM announced it would join the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA), an organization created to develop Blockchain standards and solutions for the freight industry. Tom Robinson, senior vice president, ORBCOMM Strategic Business Development, spoke to Aftermarket Business World about how Blockchain can benefit the logistics industry.

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What led to ORBCOMM’s decision to join BiTA?
I was one of the co-founders of the first transportation-oriented company that ORBCOMM acquired, StarTrak Systems. That business was oriented toward refrigeration transport, and we have a fairly high share of that market globally. One of the benefits of refrigeration is that it has power, and the machine on the truck talks to us when certain events occur – when freight is originated, when the machine is turned off and on, etc. Those devices tell us intimate details about the transportation infrastructure.

We have expanded that to include other tracking devices in the supply chain. That has given us a wireless infrastructure we feel we can leverage to do other things, and one of those things is to provide insight when freight is picked up and delivered. That can lend itself to the type of automatic transaction that Blockchain enables.

What do you see as the primary benefits of Blockchain in logistics and transportation?
It allows the industry to match up the tracking of commodities with payments for activity. You can combine those into a single transaction. Transportation is really well built for Blockchain.

A lot of Blockchain automation has happened around letter of credit activities for international transfers. There has been cost savings there, but there’s still this missing link between tracking activity of the commodity and its ultimate contract payment. We feel we have the infrastructure to close that gap, and that’s why we joined the alliance.

There’s a lot to be said for acceleration and automation of payments. The transportation market is quite fragmented. By the time a receiver identifies the fact that they received goods. Retailers have these long payment terms with respect tot suppliers or shippers or manufacturers, and they have to pay truckload carriers. All of that takes time. Blockchain can accelerate payments so they can be financed in amore productive way, which will add capital tot eh industry and help suppliers grow.

The security associated with Blockchain is at a point now where automation can occur.

What will your initial activities be within BiTA?
These forums are a good way to have an open discussion about what receivers are thinking and what the truckload customers are focused on, and what problems they are looking to solve. We can learn how we can leverage our technology in a way that will allow us to respond to that, and give us more exposure to people who are trying to solve this problem. That gives us a more focused approach for ultimately creating solutions so we can use our infrastructure to help further this cause.

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