Stephan Nilsson’s “a-ha” moment occurred in 2011 when he read Satoshi Nakamoto’s whitepaper on bitcoin and blockchain technology. Nilsson is the founder and CEO of UNISOT and SeafoodChain. Having worked two decades as an SAP integration architect, Nilsson encountered business after business that tried to solve the same frustrating problem: data exchange between companies.
Organizations are not particularly willing to give out data to other companies without control and incentives. What blockchain allows is for companies and individuals to easily control their own data and who they choose to share it with or sell it to, addressing a need and creating opportunities for entrepreneurs like Nilsson.
“When I read the Satoshi whitepaper it blew my mind. I immediately thought, ‘Here we have a solution to every company’s problem. We have this global public data layer that everyone can use, but it’s not a central database. It has a similar functionality, but it’s not owned by anyone. It’s distributed and every actor has control of their own data,”
Nilsson said in an interview for the TAAL blog.
“That’s just a giant step from my point-of-view that we have achieved because of this technology.”
Nilsson began to take a deeper look at the potential of blockchain and even experimented on his own to prove some of its applications. He created a vending machine in his garage, a wooden box equipped with a Raspberry Pi touchscreen computer and two servos, integrated it with an SAP system, and had it dispense small candy boxes when a bitcoin payment was made. The integrated SAP system created a sales order and then created a replenishment order when it realized the candy boxes needed to be refilled. (You can view a video of Nilsson’s experiment here.)
“I proved that it was possible to integrate centralized ERP systems like SAP with the decentralized bitcoin blockchain,” Nilsson says. “And it recorded every transaction in an immutable way, so we could eliminate any accounting discrepancies.”
Nilsson’s expertise with blockchain led him to launch UNISOT, whose name is a shortened form of “Universal Source Of Truth”. The company is headquartered in Oslo and implemented a first pilot project for the seafood industry in Norway in 2020. The industry’s producers and distributors can use UNISOT’s SeafoodChain solution to trace everything from fish eggs to the breeding location, to how the fish are transported and the temperature of their storage containers. All that data gives the food supply chain the chance to have far more effective quality and safety tracking.
Sushi restaurants — which rely on strict temperature control for their raw fish menu items — can benefit from UNISOT’s services. With data sensors embedded in the packaging, UNISOT is able to provide its customers with a mobile app that shows if and when temperature changes have occurred during transportation.
“We’re providing solutions that are solving the problems within the seafood industry. We are providing tools to prove the quality, provenance and sustainability of their products. There are other companies that offer similar solutions but they can’t support the complete supply chain, due to the lack of the cost-efficiency and scalability that we provide,”
Nilsson points out.
Each data point is recorded on the blockchain and the information can be retrieved, allowing anyone from the producer to the consumer to know the activity that took place at a given touchpoint in the product’s life cycle. That knowledge allows retailers to quickly respond to a food-safety concern, or for restaurateurs to understand where their best-selling products originate from, or for the producer to see favorable ratings from the end consumer. Unique QR or RFID codes on a package or menu links to the UNISOT Digital Product Passport that informs the public of the details related to every single ingredient in a product, which can help consumers make conscious choices that are suitable for their diets and can help managing their allergies or intolerances.
“It opens up a lot of opportunities to pass along a full understanding of the food we’re eating. The chefs I speak to are really interested in what we can provide. By knowing where the fish is grown, you can create a whole branding identity around the fish. You can tell an interesting and true story to customers about where it came from and the care that went into harvesting it, and that can be a differentiator for restaurants,”
He points out that SeafoodChain brings missing information to producers. Until now, those producers have not had any connection to nor control of the quality of the foods they produced once it departed their warehouse. Now, UNISOT allows them to receive notice from the end consumers and middleman suppliers.
“Once their products are transported on a boat or a truck, they have no idea what happens to it. With global traceability, they now have a way to follow the product all the way to the end consumer, who can give feedback and even rate the quality of the fish like you rate an Uber driver. That feedback can go back to the producer, and they can see the difference they’re making and that’s something they’ve never had before,”
For UNISOT to grow, it will need predictable costs and a dependable partner to process the number of data transactions it will send to the blockchain. That’s where TAAL comes in. With world-leading 4GB block sizes on the BSV blockchain, TAAL has the data capacity to fulfil UNISOT’s needs. The Scandinavian company recently began speaking with some of the biggest packaging companies in the world and one of the region’s biggest retailers. Transport companies have expressed interest in partnering too.
“So much about what we are doing is about cost. If we can have an agreement with TAAL to process 10 million transactions per month and if we can get a fixed price for those 10 million transactions, then we can turn to our customers and with confidence say, ‘If you order 1 million transactions from us, we can offer you a fixed price’. In doing so, we are moving away from the fluctuations of the bitcoin price and will have a stable, predictable price that we can work with for the benefit of our customers and their customers. You can’t do professional business without that cost structure in place,”
Nilsson points out.
“And, of course, with TAAL we have the certainty that if we send a transaction to them, it will be processed within a certain time. That’s peace of mind for us too.”