Ishan Pandey: Hello Dr. Bryan Ritchie, welcome to our series “Behind the Startup.” Please tell us about your background and the motivation behind SIMBA Chain?
Bryan Ritchie: Before joining SIMBA, I spent about 30 years in the technology and software innovation industries and most recently served as CEO of the IDEA Center at the University of Notre Dame. That’s also where SIMBA started after receiving a DARPA grant from the Center for Research Computing, with the IDEA Center acting as the first investor in the company. After receiving that grant, SIMBA Chain started working on its first blockchain projects for organizations like the US Navy, Boeing, and other defense contractors. Since then, we've expanded to enterprises in the healthcare, food production, and automotive industries.
Ultimately, SIMBA Chain’s mission is to build the platform on which enterprises can leverage the transformative capabilities of Web3. What does that mean? In short, it means ensuring our technology is enterprise-grade — it’s scalable, secure, and easy to use. Our chain-agnostic APIs allow organizations to easily configure their blockchain requirements, build and manage smart contracts with ease, and, most importantly, connect with their existing data systems. What’s the point of a blockchain solution if it can’t effectively share legacy data or connect within the existing data infrastructure?
Ishan Pandey: Since 2019, SIMBA Chain has collaborated with several official US departments on a number of significant initiatives. Please tell us about these regulatory initiatives and their objectives?
Bryan Ritchie: That’s correct, we’ve worked with several departments of the government. Among these are arms of the Department of Defense, such as the Air Force, Navy, and Space Force. We’ve also created solutions for other institutions like the Department of Energy.
It can become quite difficult to keep track of inventories and various parts for such large-scale organizations. We’re talking about billions of dollars worth of manufacturing inputs across supply chains. This is where blockchain can be particularly revolutionary. For example, while working with Boeing, we created a platform to track wing parts for their F/A-18 fighter jets across 400 data points used by the US Air Force. Ensuring the fast, secure delivery of parts not only impacts the pilots but our national security. Our solution tokenized every part of the blockchain, allowing us to track and trace inputs in real-time as they moved through the supply chain.
This system also greatly reduced paperwork and manual labor. Boeing was able to reduce the man hours required to track non-conformance from 2000 hours to 20 per year—a 99% reduction.
Ishan Pandey: We have seen across multiple industries adoption, and blockchain technology integration continue to rise, why do you feel it is important for all businesses to start to explore their blockchain technology plan and what are the typical benefits?
Bryan Ritchie: What blockchain technology really solves is trust. How do you share data or critical information in a trustless environment? For example, when an item is moving across the supply chain from one vendor to another, how do you make sure stakeholders communicate effectively across ERP systems without divulging their IP? Alternatively, how confidently can you pinpoint the location of a specific item in real-time when multiple vendors are involved, each with their own data streams and tools?
This can also be applied to healthcare. For instance, how do you share data across various entities and still comply with privacy regulations like HIPAA? Closing data sources limits what we can deliver in terms of technology advancements, but we need to be able to access that data in a way that respects privacy and security needs.
One of my personal favorite projects has been with TOKs, a restaurant chain with over 200 locations across Mexico. They came to us looking for a solution to help certify their organic and rainforest-certified coffee beans as they traveled from farmers to their customers. Again, by tracking coffee bean production on the supply chain, we were able to deliver the visibility required. This transparency not only helped Toks eliminate seven intermediaries and increase profits but also increased farmer revenue by over 600%. This is a really great outcome for everyone involved.
As consumers demand more ethical practices, many companies are also “greenwashing” their products, falsely claiming their practices are environmentally friendly here, Toks can validate the product certifications to customers. As a result, consumers know they’re getting the highest-grade rainforest or organic certified coffee. In addition, their farmers are earning more for their product, and Toks generates more profit. These outcomes show that sustainability and ethical practices can also be profitable.
Ishan Pandey: Your comments on the executive order regarding the future of digital assets, were published by the White House. In your opinion, how will the web3 economy impact the future of the world economy?
Bryan Ritchie: Web3 has the potential to impact our lives as much as the Internet has. I believe the current stage of Web3 development is similar to the Internet boom of the late 90s and early 2000s. The hype cycle is so similar! For example, there is as much potential and opportunity for real innovative change with Web3 as with cloud computing. We’ll soon begin to see a new emergence of long-lasting innovation based on blockchain technology in areas like supply chain track and trace, asset management, title security, identification, certification, transactions, and more. This will be a multi-decade build-out, but the impact will be tremendous.
Ishan Pandey: According to your experience, how will the healthcare sector benefit from blockchain technology?
Bryan Ritchie: There are many ways healthcare can benefit from blockchain. For example, as we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lack of PPE, healthcare supply chains are critical. In this area, we’re working with MxD on a NIST grant to build a Local Health Alert System that conducts contact tracing and data analysis on-chain. The platform translates real-time public health indicators into future demand signals that help develop predictive capabilities for supply chain needs.
The system, which will be built on SIMBA Blocks, will employ blockchain technologies like zero-knowledge proofs, verifiable credentials, and distributed IDs to establish a decentralized and privacy-preserving system that powers an online marketplace for consumers and manufacturers of emergency health and medical goods. The application will integrate with leading-edge health monitoring wearable technology applications to detect disease earlier, enable earlier and higher-resolution demand signals, and provide additional value to consumers and the healthcare sector.
As I previously mentioned, health data management is another great use case for blockchain. This functionality is applicable across multiple subsectors, including population health, life sciences, insurance providers, health providers, and of course, patients. If you look at US healthcare today, less than 25% of health systems can effectively share data beyond their EMR instance. So if you go to a hospital, and your family doctor doesn’t work for that hospital, it’s likely they won’t be able to attain your health records without them being emailed or faxed (yes, our health systems still use fax machines today). In contrast, blockchain-based systems can provide real-time transparency to parties with the appropriate permissions.
The Equidium Health exchange platform is another exciting project we’re working on. Equideum Exchange users, including pharmaceutical companies, MedTech stakeholders, and public or global health authorities, will be able to procure valuable data. Specifically, the platform will compute privacy-preserving analytics for clinical, population health, health economics, patient-centered outcomes research, and machine learning purposes.
As a result, users will be able to access a growing array of high-integrity, longitudinal data resources unavailable today, accompanied by the fine-grained, verifiable, and enforceable consent and economic participation of the individual data subjects. This functionality will also allow private individuals to benefit from sharing their health data. Finally, the exchange will allow individuals to profit economically from transactions involving data about them while curating much higher-quality data with verifiable provenance for scientific and global health purposes.
Ishan Pandey: SIMBA Chain offers a unique platform where enterprises can build their own blockchain-based applications using Web2 interfaces (SIMBA Blocks). What is the most common type of application your customers build, and what type of companies are mostly using your services?
Bryan Ritchie: Our platform is really designed to be industry and use-case agnostic. We want to give as much choice to our users as possible. For example, users can choose what protocol they want to build on (we currently have 5 and are expanding frequently). They can also choose between private, public, or hybrid solutions. Using our dynamic APIs, anyone can quickly connect to their existing data streams. Most exciting, at least in my opinion, is our Structured Data tooling feature. SIMBA’s unique structured data approach annotates smart contracts at design, generating powerful business intelligence insights. Specifically, SIMBA Blocks indexes blockchain data, supporting lightning-fast searches and event-driven architecture, allowing companies to utilize their data as they wish.
It’s easy enough to get data on the blockchain, but then what? If you can’t easily access it, query it, or adapt it to business intelligence, what have you really gained? Tokenization can also be adapted to so many different industries and use cases. Creating a digital version of a physical asset provides valuable insights and tracking capabilities not seen before.
We’ve seen the adoption of our technology across so many different industries. I love hearing what use cases our partners and potential customers are exploring and figuring out how we can get them to production as quickly and efficiently as other enterprise solutions.
Ishan Pandey: What major trends in the blockchain industry do you think will influence the future enterprise and government web3 adoption?
Bryan Ritchie: Enterprise adoption requires a few things. First, the technology needs to deliver speed, security, and scalability—otherwise, it won’t meet the needs of large enterprises. Understanding this, we’ve ensured Blocks delivers on all three needs.
Until now, blockchain has been an interesting concept, but unless you’re a blockchain developer that understands the technology thoroughly, building any solution is very difficult. The learning curve required to understand blockchain and all the technical requirements is lengthy. Blocks remove that complexity; meaning developers can build smart contracts in a familiar environment and in the SDK of their choice.
Most critical is ensuring enterprises recognize the value of blockchain and invest in the technology. For this to happen, they need to understand the benefits of the technology and how to adopt it with ease. Every day we’re having conversations with companies who now see the benefits of blockchain but are daunted by the task of building out a use case and ultimately achieving production.
I think with time and some of these large-scale projects going live, we’ll finally cross the chasm and get to large-scale adoption. I’m really excited about the future of blockchain — I love that my team and I are a part of it.
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