Seagate To Track Hard Drives With The Help Of Blockchain Technology.
Blockchain has become a relatively common use case for the supply chain enterprise, as it adds clarity and trust to a large number of the process involved in the journey of the product to the customer. The blockchain project of Seagate, a tech giant, is entering its pilot phase, seeking help from the technology to follow hard drives throughout the supply chain process.
Seagate plunged into the blockchain space, using IBM’s platform, and working with them as a crucial hard drive customer. “Last year, we started a proof-of-concept [PoC] with IBM, and the proof-of-concept was about product provenance,” Manuel Offenberg, Seagate research group managing technologist of data security told us in an interview. “Earlier this year, we wrapped up the proof-of-concept.”
Technological innovations have led to a greater reach of the products over many years. Customers in the United States can now order entities from across the globe with less to no difficulty, which was not possible in the last century. Although, the complexity increases with the increase in reach too. Products undergo several procedures and stops before it is delivered to the buyer. Blockchain, being a technology made famous for operating digital asset bitcoin, has now been adapted by many industries to bring clarity and trust to the market.
“Seagate’s proof-of-concept stage expressed the effectiveness of blockchain, in sync with its products,” Offenberg explained. “We just went through an executive review on the next step, and the next step is starting a pilot with IBM. Seagate aims to prove the project’s scalability through this pilot, he noted. Seagate has not yet kicked off its pilot but recently received the approval to move forward with it.”
“Seagate’s pilot with IBM will seek to give the customer confidence that the Seagate product received is the genuine product that Seagate originally sent. In this case, IBM is both the customer of these drives, as well as the technology provider for the underlying Hyperledger Fabric platform,” he added. “Hyperledger Fabric is one of the main players in blockchain when it comes to gateways for businesses to apply the new tech.”
Seagate’s supply chain blockchain venture not only track products for the customers but also tracks the same products back to Seagate in case of the product return. The solution ensures that legitimate devices are returned because of the added data and the tracking provided by a blockchain.
Moreover, when those hard drives are returned due to having defects, they may still contain data of the customer on them. Offenberg said that the solution to this would be “certified erase”.
“We want to make sure that these devices have no PII [personally identifiable information] data on them,” Offenberg said. “When a drive fills in a customer’s system and the drive comes back as part of its returns process, if we can prove that the drive was cryptographically erased, and therefore, the information is no longer on the device, then, from a risk perspective, this reverse supply chain can treat that device differently.”
He stressed on the weightiness of data protection, pointing General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) helping the European side of the table, and said that the project ensures some kind of a solution.
“Seagate is working with IBM as its customer for the pilot, although Seagate has plans to branch out to involve other partners in the reverse supply chain,” Offenberg said. “That’s the intent,” he added, also clarifying that Seagate attains most of its sales from bigger enterprises. “The larger volumes are still going to cloud service providers or OEMs [original equipment manufacturers].” Hence, Seagate is focusing currently on larger players.
Seagate supplies already hold a “brand protect ID” which includes a QR code that customers can scan to know the details of the product, as far as end-customer retail is concerned.
“These retail products, however, are not yet tied to the blockchain. Based on the results of its blockchain pilot, as well as other factors, Seagate might move toward bringing the mentioned blockchain supply chain solution toward the end-consumer level down the road,” Monty Forehand, Seagate product security officer explained to us.
“Adding blockchain to the mix would bring aspects such as greater trust and speed to the marketplace. Regarding Seagate’s preliminary work with IBM so far, the company is involving the cryptographic identity of the device in the blockchain transaction, such that the digital trust of the product itself is part of the transaction,” he said. This is in contradiction to “something that’s printed on a label,” he added.