- JD.com has launched AI Catapult, an accelerator for the development of artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies, according to a press release. JD and Alibaba are the top-two e-commerce retailers in China and Walmart has a stake in JD.
- This month, AI Catapult will begin partnering with six blockchain startups to build new businesses and "create and test real-world applications of their technologies at scale," according to the press release.
- Participating startups include: Chinese financial technology company Bankorus; Australian cryptocurrency firm CanYa; Singapore-based blockchain-powered database service Bluezelle; London-based e-commerce payments and identification platform Nuggets; and Devery, a blockchain powered, open-source product verification protocol.
JD.com is aiming to become a leader in AI and blockchain technologies, and sees startup companies as key to reaching that goal. This will make the Chinese e-commerce company more efficient as it competes domestically with Alibaba.
But the use of blockchain in retail remains little understood. The technology was originally designed for the digital currency, Bitcoin, but now has other uses.
There are four opportunities for blockchain technology in retail, Nikki Baird writes in Forbes. The first is the original application of consumer payments, such as the use of Bitcoin. Second, as a distributed ledger, blockchain can make counterfeiting especially difficult. In a supply chain, every legitimate touch, from supplier to manufacturer to shipper, will add a verifiable record to the product pedigree. Third, in business-to-business payments, banks – and IBM – are experimenting with blockchain to see if it can be used to settle cross-border payments. Fourth, in the world of digital advertising, blockchain can be used to solve problems caused by a lack of transparency.
Blockchain is also making progress in logistics. JD.com is using blockchain technology in supply chains and for product safety, the press release said. Its supply chain transparency initiative can trace products back to their origin. With the launch of AI Catapult, JD hopes to deploy such technologies more widely to increase efficiencies.
JD Logistics has joined the Blockchain in Transport Alliance, which plans to develop and promote blockchain standards for global freight and logistics companies, reported Coindesk. IBM, in partnership with A.P. Moller Maersk, has established a joint venture to use blockchain technology to make cross-border commerce and shipping more efficient.
The company said it plans to focus on scalability, security, privacy, efficiency and energy consumption for their business benefits and positive social impact.