Blockchain technology is used to track diamonds and the food supply FEATURE
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Blockchain technology is used to track diamonds and the food supply.

What's a diamond that never gets cut or polished? A diamond left in the rough. What's a diamond with an untraceable journey? Possibly a conflict diamond that was mined in a war zone, and used to finance an invading army's war efforts.

Because the diamond industry has for many years been operating with little visibility, many banks have pulled financing from this sector. Leanne Kemp, founder and CEO of  Everledger, saw an opportunity to use blockchain technology to verify the origin of rough-cut diamonds, and open up the market to potential investors.

see also: How blockchain can help women advance

"I wanted to prove that blockchain could reinvigorate the industry and engage with the major stakeholders again.""The industry needed to change, otherwise it would've died a quick death," Kemp says. "I wanted to prove that blockchain could reinvigorate the industry and engage with the major stakeholders again."

The Journey of a Diamond

Everledger begins tracking a diamond immediately after the sorting office. Kemp says her company puts the gemstones through "rigorous protocols," and follow the diamonds through the value chain. Additionally, Everledger takes the metadata of the stone and cements that together to ensure the stone completely traceable.

That sounds like a lot of data to mine. And it is.

Kemp says, "The first thing to understand is that decentralized and shared data encourages data sharing. As a result, blockchain leads to more data and therefore better models."

To make the most of all this data, Everledger brings blockchain and AI together to create digital footprints of the diamonds that are traced.

"Ultimately blockchain and AI can work together in synergy for data scalability and querying purposes," Kemp explains. "With any supply chain intensive business, including the diamond industry, there are huge data sets being created. By modelling those datasets, we can channel the information to help customers understand exactly the information they need from the supply chain; what, why, where, when and how, which is the provenance of the item."

The journey of food, from farm to fork

Applying a similar tracking approach, using the distributed public blockchain network Ethereum, the company Ambrosus aims to verify the quality, safety and origin of food from farm to table. This is done through a combination of Amber, the world's first bonded token that follows food products alongside supply chains, the recording of sensor data using Ethereum blockchain, and decentralized storage solutions.

The process begins with biosensors and food tracers assessing and monitoring in real-time the product's physical attributes, as well as its environment.

See also: Cisco's Hyperinnovation lab hosts 48-hour blockchain brainstorm

Angel Versetti, CEO and Co-Founder of Ambrosus, paints a colorful example of how the company's community-driven, verification system works.

"Let's take for instance, high quality extra virgin oil that is produced in Tuscany," says Versetti. "We use rapid non-invasive techniques to assess and record the parameters of trans-fatty acids for oil. These acids can expose the oil that is not Italian, but instead perhaps Greek or Moroccan, which is often brought to Italy to mix with the more expensive local oils. Our records are made and attached directly to an Ambrosus token that is assigned to the batch of oil. As the batch is distributed within supply chains, the ownership of the token changes hands at every stage along the supply line. This affirms the origins of the olive oil, and prevents counterfeiting or duplication of labels. In addition to tracking the origin of food, our sensors will record storage conditions, such as temperature, continuously on the Ambrosus token."

At a later stage when a store receives the olive oil, the owners can see that the oil's origin, authenticity and storage conditions have been verified. From there, the store can permit consumers to tap their phones on NFC panels in the shop, or scan a QR code on the packaging to see for themselves that the olive oil they are purchasing is exactly what the label and store claims. This can be done through the  Ambrosus consumer app.

Regarding the company's future use of blockchain technology and corporate social responsibility, Versetti says, "We have absolutely only scratched the surface — the applications are possible way beyond food. We are working on further use-cases in other supply chains, where there are similar transparency and authenticity challenges, such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and commodities."

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The contents or opinions in this feature are independent and may not necessarily represent the views of Cisco. They are offered in an effort to encourage continuing conversations on a broad range of innovative technology subjects. We welcome your comments and engagement.

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About Melissa Jun Rowley

Melissa Jun Rowley is an award-winning journalist, on-air host, and content strategist with a passion for all things tied to social innovation.