Editor's Desk

By Michael Hughes

The tunes of a revolution, blockchain style

The blockchain revolution will have a soundtrack – or several.

This month's cover story tackles the blockchain/cryptocurrency phenomenon through an avenue hyped not nearly as much as cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and Ethereum. In "Get Smart with Your Contracts," Gurram Gopal, Alejandro Garach Martinez and Juan Martinez Rodriguez posit how blockchain will enable smart contracts that will disrupt industries, cutting legal and courtroom costs and, at least in the recording industry, transferring power from major music labels to the musicians.

Decades ago, legal scholar Nick Szabo realized that a decentralized ledger could manage self-executing contracts, and that monitoring contract performance without human involvement could lower costs and reduce errors.

Several startups use blockchain technology to let musicians monetize their work and manage their rights. Bypassing the major record labels upends the value chain, treats musicians as entrepreneurs and partners, offers them additional licensing deals and automatic enforcement of their digital rights and could generate more and diverse music.

While Motown and Nashville haven't traditionally been the province of industrial and systems engineers, the authors also detail how the breakthroughs can benefit traditional sectors like manufacturing and supply chain. Blockchains and smart contracts could help enterprises track every product and part.

The authors use the example of pallets to illustrate the power of distributed ledgers. The life cycle of a pallet (including its attenuating legal status) includes the companies that make them, the manufacturers that buy or lease them, distributors and retailers, recycling and waste management companies, insurance firms, standards organizations and certifiers. All of these can interface with the blockchain system, showing the current owner and the pallet's history, handling operations that include repair, warranty recovery, redistribution, remarketing and end-of-life recycling.

Speaking of history, I will be making my premiere visit to IISE's premier gathering, the Annual Conference and Expo scheduled for May 19-22 at the Loews Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando, Florida. Come by the IISE membership booth and hear how you can get your stories into IISE publications, including the one you're holding right now. Check out www.iise.org/Annual, stop over in sunny Florida, drop by and say hello.

Michael Hughes is managing editor of IISE. Reach him at mhughes@iise.org or (770) 349-1110.