If money is the fuel that makes the world go round, the logistics industry is the engine that keeps goods and services flowing. Few people credit the convenience of modern living to the endless crisscrossing of planes, trains, automobiles, and ships—much less the complex management of systems and interactions that propels this motion. In short, we take the supply chain for granted.


Despite its apparent efficiency, logistics faces many serious challenges: geopolitical tensions, labor shortages, cybersecurity threats, cost pressures, extreme weather, and infrastructure limitations are just a handful. 


Blockchain has often been proposed as a solution to these longstanding challenges. Back in 2018, this was the vision of shipping company Maersk and tech giant IBM, who joined forces to create a blockchain-based shipping solution “designed to promote more efficient and secure global trade.”Four years later, that venture – TradeLens – was scrapped after failing to reach the “commercial viability necessary to continue work and meet financial expectations.” So was the failure due to technical limitations, bad timing, or something else? And how likely is another blockchain-powered network, HEALE, to succeed where TradeLens faltered?



Lessons to Learn from the Fall of TradeLens


Many had high hopes for TradeLens. 94 organizations (ocean carriers, port operators, intermodal providers, and customs authorities) were involved in its Early Adopter program – and by the time it ceased operations in 2022, over 300 had signed up to the network. During its short lifespan, TradeLens managed to track close to 4 billion events, process more than 70 million containers, and publish over 36 million documents. It’s natural to wonder, then, why it all went wrong.


There are many reasons. TradeLens’s technology was too slow, expensive, and lacked the scalability needed to create the logistics network the industry was (and still is) crying out for. On top of that, many companies were reluctant to “take a risk” on blockchain at a time when it was much less understood. 


Technical limitations certainly hampered the Maersk-IBM initiative, too, with throughput (transactions-per-second) and the complexity of integrating TradeLens with existing systems as major factors. Not to mention high upfront implementation costs that proved prohibitive for all but large enterprises, rendering TradeLens’ improved supply chain visibility, simplified documentation flows, and other benefits inaccessible to most. Crucially, wariness of interacting with Tradelens was likely compounded by the fact that the network was effectively owned, managed, and operated by Maersk, a company that many entities in the logistics industry consider a major competitor. This factor alone likely dissuaded even those who were open to the idea of a blockchain-based solution. It should also be noted that the blockchain in question here was IBM’s private, permissioned Hyperledger Fabric rather than a truly open decentralized network like the one that powers the $1.3 trillion Bitcoin market.


So even though the logistics industry suffers from inconsistent data due to its notoriously fragmented nature – with numerous competing platforms, systems, companies, and communities – TradeLens faced an uphill battle to adoption. And while its metrics looked impressive from a distance, they weren’t sufficient to ensure profitability.



How HEALE Network Will Succeed Where TradeLens Failed


Two years after TradeLens closed its doors, another blockchain-powered logistics network is gearing up to launch: Hyper-Enabled-Autonomous-Logistics-Ecosystem, or HEALE

Created by a team of logistics and technology veterans who see their value proposition as vastly superior to that of TradeLens, HEALE’s solution includes an open and decentralized network, a unified API that connects to data sources like TMSs, ELDs and ERPs, and an impactful rewards model that incentivizes stakeholders with tokens for using best practices during shipment.


While the stated aim is the same—to establish a secure blockchain-based ecosystem that enables supply chain actors to efficiently and securely exchange information—HEALE believes that what was missing was the open, decentralized, and tokenomics-driven ethos of Web3. Creating a collaborative, neutral, low-cost, and high-ROI network that is much more accessible to a wider audience.


This confidence stems from the fact that HEALE uses open-source technology, meaning anyone can freely build on it based on their own needs—with no centralized authority to game the network in their favor. The network is owned, managed, and operated by the same companies and users participating in its ecosystem.

While TradeLens was perceived to be anti-competitive, HEALE paves the way for competition and cooperation: network participants are rewarded for sharing data that benefits the entire sector. Given the Data Warehousing Institute’s estimate that bad, inaccurate, dirty or missing data costs supply chain firms over $600 billion annually, this vision has broad appeal.


While onboarding to TradeLens was complex and required steep upfront costs, HEALE is designed for easy onboarding, simple integration, and affordability for entities of all sizes. It also offers economic incentives for data sharing and a fair, open ecosystem where devices can be turned into blockchain nodes.


Further, HEALE Network is committed to combating data silos by supporting information sharing and transparency. And unlike TradeLens, HEALE is not a shipping competitor. Logistics stakeholders – shippers, carriers, drivers, warehousers, ERP/TMS platforms, etc – do not have to entrust their data to the competition.


HEALE’s approach to fostering collaboration among the industry’s fragmented players may be one that TradeLens also supported. Yet its commitment to decentralization means it is an entirely different proposition: open, neutral, transparent, and permissionless. 


This commitment to decentralization extends to governance power, which will be gradually handed over to a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) composed of individual network users to ensure fair representation and decision-making. This group will be responsible for steering the network and voicing the industry’s collective interests.


Scheduled to launch in beta this summer, HEALE has already secured partnerships with transportation management systems and brokerages that generate almost $2.3 billion in transactions. Its team hopes to achieve a meaningful network effect by adding many more logistics organizations and operators in the coming months and years.



The Future of Logistics


When TradeLens failed, a wise Forbes writer noted that “the technology worked, but the founders lack the stomach to drive supply chain innovation.” In other words, blockchain was more than capable of enhancing logistics but Maersk/IBM weren’t the right candidates to steer the ship. 


HEALE is the right candidate. Led by its community of network participants, HEALE is on a mission to transform the global economy through logistics. It is uncompromisingly committed to trust, interoperability, security, privacy, and scalability. By addressing many of the industry’s most pressing challenges with easy onboarding, integration, and low costs, HEALE is here to prove that blockchain and logistics are a match made in heaven. For the moment, the message is clear: watch this space.


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