From Far East to Baltic Sea: Impact of Quantum Computers on Supply Chain Users of Blockchain

From Far East to Baltic Sea: Impact of Quantum Computers on Supply Chain Users of Blockchain

Fakhreddin F. Rad (Södertörn University, Sweden)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/IJEIS.2021100105
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This study conceptually investigates the impact of quantum computers on blockchains within the supply chain context. Powerful quantum computers enable attackers to break into blockchains by rapid inverse calculations of mathematical problems that are the core of one of the main blockchain security foundations, known as asymmetric cryptography. They are also able to violate the integrity of public blockchains like bitcoin through mining acceleration. Hence, quantum computers can engender threats to the supply chain users of blockchain. On the other hand, there are ongoing efforts to create a quantum-resistant solution. One approach for such a solution is to utilize quantum tools themselves. Moreover, sufficiently powerful quantum computers are still being developed, and it is still unclear whether a quantum solution will arrive first or vice versa. The contrasting duality of quantum computers and lack of a clear picture over the timing of the arrival of a solution and threats give rise to the uncertainty that might hinder the attractiveness of blockchains for supply chains.
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Blockchain growth in various areas is evident throughout the world. While the US and China are the leaders, Europe also strives to maximize its blockchain potential (Anderberg et al., 2019; Firdaus et al., 2019; Liu, 2020). In a survey among European businesses, half of the respondents perceived that blockchain would impact their current operating models (O’Dea, 2020). Well-established firms in the EU, such as Danish Maersk, German BASF, and Bosch are already involved with blockchain technology (Hackius & Petersen, 2017; Kouhizadeh et al., 2020). In addition, blockchain investment examples can be found in other European countries’ large firms, such as Russian Gazprom (Khatri, 2019). The United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Estonia have the highest number of blockchain startups in the EU (Anderberg et al., 2019). The worldwide amount of financial resources directed to blockchain solutions demonstrate continuous growth, from 1.5 billion U.S dollars in 2018 to the estimation of 15.9 billion by 2023 (Liu, 2020). The PwC’s survey of 600 executives in 2018 revealed that 84% of the companies have already had a certain degree of involvement with blockchains (Davies & Likens, 2018).

The advent of industry 4.0 (also known as digitalization) has unfolded revolutionary promises to the business landscape. In this regard, blockchain is one of the underlying technologies of industry 4.0 that can play an important role in its success (Ghobakhloo, 2018; Schwab & Davis, 2018). Notwithstanding the significant investment across the world, blockchain technology is still evolving. Blockchain has not reached its maturity, as various aspects such as benefits and challenges are yet to be fully elaborated (Manners-Bell & Lyon, 2019; Van Hoek et al., 2019).

In this regard, quantum computers are one of the main matters that can engender a crucial impact on blockchains (Fernández-Caramès & Fraga-Lamas, 2020; Gheorghiu et al., 2017) and can have serious consequences for relevant investments. Quantum computers are referred to as machines that use quantum mechanics to execute computations that are, in many cases, performed faster than classical computers (DiVincenzo, 2000).

One of the blockchain use areas that can be significantly impacted by quantum computers is the supply chain. Blockchain offers important opportunities to supply chains such as transparency, immutability, and authenticability (Manners-Bell & Lyon, 2019; Van Hoek et al., 2019). There are various cases of blockchain utilization in supply chains. For example, Grass Roots uses blockchain with supply farms to create transparency on transferred content (Van Hoek et al., 2019). Maersk uses blockchain to replace hardcopies with digital content and to achieve transparency that enables shared views and collaboration among supply chain partners (Kouhizadeh et al., 2020).

However, the emergence of powerful quantum computers can affect all blockchain opportunities and investments. Quantum computers are a double-edged sword that can be part of the blockchain’s security solution as well as the problem (Campbell, 2019; Gheorghiu et al., 2017). Such features require further investigations into the details of the subject to enhance pertinent understanding, improve certainty, and guide further actions. While the impact of quantum computers on a blockchain is previously discussed (e.g., Fernández-Caramès & Fraga-Lamas, 2020; Gheorghiu et al., 2017; Kiktenko et al., 2018), there is a dearth of research in the corresponding domain. In the supply chain context, such scarcity is even further escalated.

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