Introducing Zebra Savanna and the IOTA Track and Trace Ledger API

Introducing Zebra Savanna and the IOTA Track and Trace Ledger API
A new API combines barcodes/RFID technology with blockchain - easy and low-cost (testing is no-cost)

This blog introduces Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and how it can be combined with RFID or scanning to build a new generation of decentralised supply chain applications. Those applications allow to securely share trusted and immutable data among multiple stakeholders. For this purpose,  Zebra Savanna now offers publicly the IOTA Track&Trace Ledger REST API, allowing developers to build and test novel track and trace solutions. 

 

Understanding DLT technology

Automatic Physical Item Identification is an important aspect of decentralised trade and supply chains that leverage Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT) (a.k.a. blockchains). For those less familiar with DLT-related concepts, some useful definitions are below:

  • Ledger is an information store that keeps final and definitive (immutable) records of transactions. 
  • Distributed Ledger (DLT) is a type of ledger that is shared, replicated, and synchronized in a distributed and decentralized manner. 
  • A decentralised system is a distributed system wherein control is distributed among the persons or organizations participating in the operation of the system. 

IOTA is an open source DLT that enables sharing of any type of data (particularly IoT data) guaranteeing traceability of their source, alongside with integrity and immutability of the shared information, and dedicated access management, e.g., who can read what. In contrast with traditional blockchain-based DLTs, IOTA is based on a Directed Acyclic Graph, the Tangle. 

This video explains how the IOTA’s Tangle works. Here you can find a get started guide intended to IOTA’s developers with additional references. IOTA also incorporates  2nd Layer ledger protocols, such as IOTA Streams. This protocol automatically organizes the data on the Ledger making it extremely simple to establish Digital Twins, for example to connect all data regarding shipment movement from end-to-end in a supply chain. These types of transactions are called data (or zero-value) transactions.

Decentralized applications with DLT and AIDC open up new business models

Zebra and the IOTA Foundation have been working on the integration between automatic identification technologies (AIDC) and the IOTA Ledger (the Tangle) through simple yet powerful REST APIs. In fact, the Track and Trace Ledger API  is offered as a service (currently in a sandbox-preview version mode) by Zebra Technologies and the IOTA Foundation, through the Zebra Savanna Data Services platform. Actually, such APIs are a thin wrapper on top of IOTA Streams technology, a second layer DLT protocol.

Automatic Identification and Data Capture Technologies (AIDC), such as RFID or barcodes, combined with DLT technologies, such as IOTA, can be enablers of a new generation of decentralized applications. The final aim is to utilize directly or indirectly captured information through AIDC to build a digital representation (Digital Twin) of physical items and their context (location, ownership, etc.). Such Digital Twin representation can be published on a DLT, a secure, decentralised and trusted database that preserves integrity and acts as the single source of truth. Therefore, the DLT actually allows multiple stakeholders to share data in real time across the supply chain (on a B2B or B2C scenario). With trusted data (which cannot be manipulated and each actor is accountable for any data shared) and the ability to control access permissions (who can read/write) a number of new business models are enabled: i) better visibility and thus predictability allow for more optimal coordination; ii) product provenance and transparency - track and share information about where/how/who has produced a product; iii) Secure supply chains - fight counterfeit products to enter supply chains, etc.

Inspiration

One example is the track and trace of different physical items to optimise or to make a process more visible and transparent. See for instance this video from Zebra Technologies and IOTA. A car tyre, which has an RFID tag attached, is followed using RFID. Thus, every time the tyre passes through a toll plaza (factory, warehouse, transportation, garage), the tyre movement is recorded by an RFID reader and published to the IOTA Ledger, until it reaches the final car where it will be mounted. Later, the driver (the consumer) can also get access and know all the lifecycle of the tyre being used in her car. Similar traceability processes could be enabled with other products of interest to businesses and consumers, for instance food traceability from the farm to the table.

Another example is paperless trade involving multiple countries and stakeholders. You can watch this videowhere IOTA Foundation and Trade Mark East Africa are digitising cross border trading using a decentralised system based on IOTA. In this case IOTA and Zebra are using RFID technologies to generate different events that track the evolution of consignments/shipments (and their individual items) along the supply chain and global trade stakeholders. The combination of AIDC and DLT allows to increase competitiveness by making trade processes more efficient, reducing delivery disputes and uncertainty.

APIs in the Zebra Savanna Sandbox

Under its sandbox environment, Zebra Savanna has published a new API, the Track and Trace Ledger APIwhich allows to automatically publish and consume scan (barcode) or read (RFID) transactions (possibly originated from Zebra devices) to an IOTA Ledger (the Tangle). As a result new applications such as those described above can be easily developed. It is important to note that the current API implementation sandbox makes use of the IOTA’s Devnet network. This network is composed of a limited number of nodes, mainly contributed by the IOTA Foundation. Security and confidentiality of transactions issued in this network are the same as per the IOTA Mainnet. In the future Zebra Technologies and IOTA Foundation will deploy Zebranet, a dedicated IOTA DLT network for Zebra customers. 

The IOTA Track and Trace Ledger API currently offers the following functionalities to developers:

  • POST new read or scan transaction to the IOTA Ledger, the Tangle. Information such as EPC, symbology, bar code, location, (device and server) timestamp or antenna involved can be stored immutably. 
  • GET, from the Tangle, all the read or scan transactions associated with a EPC or barcode value. 
  • GET, from the Tangle, all the read or scan transactions made with a Reader or Scanner.
  • GET, from the Tangle, an individual transaction by its ID.
  • Developers can also use these IOTA Javascript libraries to directly consume the RFID or scan data through the IOTA Tangle, which can be particularly useful for Web applications. 

Zebra and IOTA Foundation have developed and published a detailed Tutorial, including a IOTA’s Postman Collection to facilitate the utilization and learning of the API. We encourage you to experiment with it and to provide feedback. 

Webinars and feedback 

The Track and Trace Ledger API (sandbox version) opens up a new world of business opportunities and applications thanks to the combination of IOTA and RFID or barcodes. Thus, we encourage you to participate in the upcoming webinar
 

  1. Zebra DevTalk |  Track and Trace with IOTA Blockchain | Wed. Jan. 20th, 2021 10 AM CDT
    • An overview of DLT Technologies, the IOTA Tangle and how to use the Zebra API in combination to IOTA Libraries. A use case on Track & Trace of goods in different supply chains. 
    • Presenters Manuel Cantera, IOTA and Robin West, Zebra Technologies

      REGISTER NOW 

Conclusions

 The combination of RFID and scanning technologies with DLT opens up a new world of novel, decentralised supply chain applications, enabling secure, trusted and immutable data exchange. Zebra and IOTA Foundation are facilitating developers to build and test those applications through simple but yet powerful REST APIs directly connected to the IOTA Tangle DLT.