Q&A: Dale Chrystie, FedEx: On building the ‘big global village’ for blockchain development

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In April this year, Rob Carter, the CIO of courier giant FedEx, argued that, for all of the hype and projects related to the blockchain industry, a need for collaboration is vital. Take the fledgling rail industry in the United States in the 19th century as an example; only an act of Congress in 1863 forced through the adoption of an industry-standard gauge, enabling unified development.

For blockchain technologies, Carter argued, a similar initiative needs to take place. Given the company’s role in delivery – founder Fred Smith said last year that the technology has ‘big, big implications in supply chain, transportation and logistics’ – then such a message will continue to be sought.

Dale Chrystie (left), business fellow and blockchain strategist at FedEx, is a regular speaker and thought leader on the topic. Ahead of his participation at Blockchain Expo North America later this week, The Block caught up with Chrystie to discuss ‘co-opetition’, open strategies, as well as enterprise adoption trends.

The Block: Hi Dale. Tell us briefly about your career to date, what your job responsibilities are at FedEx and what being a ‘blockchain strategist’ entails?

Dale Chrystie: I have been in the transportation industry for more than 30 years and have been responsible for a number of areas, including strategy, quality, process improvement, portfolio management, human resources, operations, sales, education, risk, and standards development.  I am a business fellow and am focused on the business and strategy side of blockchain.

TB: What initiatives are FedEx currently undertaking with regard to blockchain technologies, in terms of product, use cases, and thought leadership?

DC: We do think blockchain is a technology discussion, but it’s not only a technology discussion, which leads us to the thought leadership space.  The below questions speak to the thought leadership side of things around blockchain.

TB: Your CIO, Rob Carter  said in April that industry standardisation is the key for blockchain technologies to achieve widespread adoption. What is your opinion on these remarks and how do you see standardisation taking shape around blockchain?

DC: We see standardisation occurring in multiple areas in the blockchain discussion. The Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) is focused on the development of open and royalty-free data standards, to essentially map the DNA sequence of data in the global supply chain space. Rob also discussed what we believe will be an open effort to build out such a global supply chain blockchain as a foundational layer.

TB: Which industries and use cases (can be personal as well as professional interest) do you think are the most exciting and interesting with regard to blockchain technologies?

DC: Where authenticity is critical, we think blockchain will be transformative, which gets you to some of the early very interesting use cases like global clearance, pharmaceuticals, and aircraft parts.

TB: What in your opinion needs to be the course of events to ensure enterprise-level adoption of blockchain and when will that arrive?

DC: Our CIO, Rob Carter, also said we don’t believe we can put a FedEx logo on blockchain and the world will come to us. So, that leads us down the path of ‘coopetition’ with others in this space.  It’s not about where we compete, but rather in blockchain, it’s about where we can agree in non-competitive areas that benefit all. We think it will take a big global village to build out the foundational non-competitive blockchain technology and all of us can use it in the future.  The sooner that idea becomes apparent, the sooner this technology will scale.

TB: Your talk at Blockchain Expo North America is titled ‘Blockchain Goes Global’. What themes will you be addressing and what do you hope the audience comes away with from your discussion?

DC: Some of the themes were answered in these questions.  Blockchain is not yet very fast, or very scalable, or very mature. However, what it does, it does really well, and where authenticity matters it will be a game-changer. We don’t think consortiums scale globally in the supply chain space, which leads us to working together in an open model as a foundational layer, and which leads us to ‘coopetition.’

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