United States: Blockchain Initiatives Pursue Solutions For Refugees, Voting, Smart Cities, Defense And Food Safety

The World Food Programme (WFP) and UN Women announced last week that they are collaborating in an initiative to use blockchain to aid Syrian refugee women participating in the UN Women's cash-for-work program. Building off WFP's existing Building Blocks project, which utilizes a blockchain-based system to provide cash transfers to more than 106,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, the new system will allow refugee women to request cash back, or pay for purchases directly, at WFP-contracted supermarkets by undergoing an iris scan that links their identity to their blockchain account. The WFP and UN Women will also partner on an initiative that seeks to educate Syrian women participating in the cash-for-work program on how to manage their personal data and control third-party access to it. WFP also plans to experiment with blockchain technology for tracking food delivery through its operations in East Africa.

In the U.S., West Virginia became the first state to utilize blockchain-enabled voting last Friday, as absentee voters overseas can now use a mobile phone app secured by blockchain encryption to cast votes in the upcoming midterm elections (the app has a number of detractors due to security concerns). And the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is looking to blockchain to replace manual systems for tracking aviation parts. Using the SIMBA Chain, a DARPA-led public/private project initially used for tracking secure messages, the project aims to develop a conceptual framework for improving visibility and security while supporting the Naval Air mission through improved safety and reduced costs.

In Dubai, the Dubai Department of Finance and the Smart Dubai Office released a "Payment Reconciliation and Settlement" platform on Sept. 23. The platform aims to enable real-time payments, increase transparency and improve accuracy by and between government entities such as the Dubai transport, police and health authorities. The Smart Dubai Office is part of the Smart City project, a public-private UAE initiative with the goal of leveraging technology to enhance city services. In China, U.S. tech company Ideanomics and the Asia-Pacific Model E-port Network (APMEN) recently formed a joint venture to launch a solution for APMEN ports – starting with the world's busiest port in Shanghai. The end-to-end platform seeks to leverage both blockchain technology and artificial intelligence to streamline port clearance and shipping handling, as well as provide risk control services for business and regulatory bodies.

This week, Walmart and a major U.S. retail warehouse club issued an open letter with a new business requirement for their suppliers of leafy greens to participate in the Walmart Food Traceability Initiative, a blockchain-enabled solution to advance food safety by improving farm-to-table traceability for produce. Similarly, in a recent press release, the Dairy Farmers of America announced a project with startup ripe.io to track milk products with blockchain. And a major global technology company recently was awarded a patent for a system that increases automation in distributed networks of devices using a blockchain protocol. According to reports, the system could use a peer-to-peer consensus mechanism to diagnose issues so that the devices could be "self-servicing."

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