When the Marie Schulte rounds the breakwater off the Chineseport of Qingdao in early November, bankers on two continents willbe watching anxiously.

In particular, they'll be focused on 88 bales of cottonworth approximately $35,000 that the container vessel is carrying —not because of the value of the goods, but because of thetechnology attached to the shipment.

Unloading the goods at the end of their 7,000-mile journey fromHouston will mark the final stage of an experiment by CommonwealthBank of Australia, Wells Fargo & Co. and the trading firmBrighann Cotton to prove for the first time that the combination ofmuch-hyped technologies — blockchain and smart contracts — candeliver real-world benefits.

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