Certis steps into digital realm with blockchain venture

Mr Fuji Foo, Certis' vice-president (business digitalisation) of technology services, scanning a pharmaceutical product yesterday to obtain information about it during a demonstration of the company's new secure digital record service using blockchai
Mr Fuji Foo, Certis' vice-president (business digitalisation) of technology services, scanning a pharmaceutical product yesterday to obtain information about it during a demonstration of the company's new secure digital record service using blockchain.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Security firm Certis - best-known for the physical presence of its uniformed officers - is making a foray into the digital world.

It officially launched a new digital record-keeping service yesterday, and is hoping to woo clients keen to increase security across their supply chains.

Certis Secured Digital Records, which makes use of blockchain technology, is being piloted with three local companies. Two are in the food and healthcare industries; Certis declined to reveal details of the third.

Blockchain technology refers to a digital record in which data is stored in virtual "blocks", each with its own digital fingerprint. When data is modified, this fingerprint is altered and the changes are visible to everyone with access to the blockchain.

This transparency makes it easier for users - whether manufacturers, distributors or consumers - to detect if any data has been tampered with or falsified.

It also means that consumers can check if companies' marketing claims are backed up by the data, said Mr Fuji Foo, who is vice-president (business digitalisation) of Certis' technology services.

For example, any company may claim that its products are certified organic or halal. "Today, we have to take their word for it," Mr Foo said. "As a consumer, how can you be very sure that it's the product that you expect it to be?"

But if all the data related to a product has been captured on the blockchain, customers could scan a bar code and see that a genuine halal certificate has been issued.

The technology would also allow firms a paper trail of even the minutest details to make sure nothing falls through the cracks during the production and transport process.

Mr Foo gave another example - of biological specimens, which often have to be kept at a certain temperature and humidity.

"How are we able to ensure that it is being stored at the right temperature throughout?"

Sensors that keep track of such environmental conditions can upload this data to the blockchain, and due to the nature of the service, firms can be sure that what they see is what actually happened.

One firm that is trialling Certis' new technology is SMC Nutrition, which specialises in products such as infant formula and sports nutrition powders. Mr Mike Lim, its general manager, said the company wants customers to be able to check that its products really came from its plant.

He said the firm also wants to monitor "quality-related information" - such as the source of its ingredients - along the supply chain.

"(We) need to be in the forefront of such technology to allow us to differentiate ourselves from our competitors, and to give us the first-mover advantage into some of these markets," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2018, with the headline 'Certis steps into digital realm with blockchain venture'. Print Edition | Subscribe