IBM: Blockchain Tech News Influencer of the Year

| by Bradley Cooper
IBM: Blockchain Tech News Influencer of the Year

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Blockchain Tech News is pleased to announce a new annual award, Influencer of the Year, which recognizes the market-leading impact of a company or individual in the blockchain space over the previous 12 months.

For 2017, the title goes to IBM in recognition of its numerous and significant contributions to this booming market.

Blockchain Tech News spoke with Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president of IBM industry platforms, who explained how IBM became intimately involved in blockchain development, and where the company sees the technology headed in the near future.

Q: Can you give us a recap of IBM's involvement with the blockchain?

A: IBM researchers first began working with the technology several years ago exploring how it could be used by the financial services industry. It did not take long for us to realize the potential this technology has for a wide variety of business applications across many industries.


Bridget van Kralingen, Senior Vice President, IBM Industry Platforms (photo courtesy IBM)

By 2015, we understood that this technology would best serve the market if there was an open source approach to enterprise blockchain which led to our initial contribution of more than 44,000 lines of code to Hyperledger, a project of The Linux Foundation in February 2016. At the same time, we began working with clients to develop proofs-of-concept using blockchain.

As the code continued to develop and our expertise expanded in applying blockchain to real-world pilots, we began to move these projects into production.

This work, even in the fast paced ecosystem of enterprise technology, has moved incredibly fast. In August 2017, we announced the cloud-based IBM Blockchain Platform – the first end-to-end platform to help clients quickly stand up their blockchain networks.

This was the market's first enterprise solution that addressed all the needs of blockchain adopters including developing apps, operating and governing enterprise blockchain networks, and securing blockchain data at unprecedented levels.

We also created nine garages around the world where developers can gain insights and expertise to develop blockchain applications on the IBM Cloud.

Q: Tell us about the development of HyperLedger Fabric. Why open platform?

A: IBM explored a number of existing blockchain protocols, but found that enterprise applications of the technology required something new. We also found that mining was not something that could work long-term or effectively in the enterprise.

IBM has long been dedicated to open source, and actively contributes to a number of The Linux Foundation initiatives. We are also a premier member of the Linux Foundation's Hyperledger Project. This collaboration has included IBM contributing tens of thousands of lines of code to Hyperledger Fabric to help build an openly-governed blockchain framework designed specifically for the enterprise.

Q: How does Hyperledger compare with other open governance platforms? What makes it unique?

A: Hyperledger is specifically geared toward enterprise applications of blockchain technology. Its strength comes from being both open source and openly governed. Therefore, security and governance are priorities.

IBM is not the only contributor; there are many others who are now dedicated to supporting the development of openly governed blockchains. This approach is vital as the technology advances and becomes more pervasive because it prevents any single member from having hegemonic control over the direction of the protocol.

Q: What does IBM see as the potential applications of distributed ledger technology and Hyperledger?

A: We believe the blockchain is such a powerful technology that it will be used in every industry. The root of its value lies in the ability to foster new forms of trust. Blockchain introduces command and consent into the flow of information.

When used among multiple parties or organizations, it empowers the group to do things no single entity could accomplish on their own, such as provide a collective view of a transaction or situation without compromising details.

There are countless potential applications of the blockchain. In a short amount of time, IBM has already worked with clients on hundreds of blockchain projects in a wide range of industries, ranging from food safety, luxury goods provenance, cross-border payments, identity management and more.

Q: What solutions has IBM deployed so far? Does the company have promising proofs of concept or projects in development that you can talk about?

A: We believe that the blockchain has an application for most every industry. We have clients spanning all industries who are adopting IBM Blockchain technology, including Sony Education, Walmart, Maersk, London Stock Exchange, AIG and Standard Chartered, and Northern Trust.

Industry-wide solutions to address food safety, global trade digitization and global financial transactions have already been built by IBM and are currently in use.

IBM has also supported active production networks since October 2016. Some of our most interesting projects include private equity fund administration with Northern Trust, trusted identity exchange with SecureKey, luxury goods exchange with Everledger and several more.

Q. How big an issue is interoperability among blockchain platforms? How is IBM approaching this question?

A. The work with Hyperledger is a big part of our approach to interoperability. It is a collective effort among multiple contributors to ensure the technology can be used and shared by all. Along with data security and authenticity, interoperability is a key benefit to using blockchain for everyday business processes.

Making the technology interoperable is another example of our leadership driving the rapid advancement of enterprise blockchain and we have clients using it successfully today. Hyperledger is also focused on interoperability.

Q.What obstacles do you see to the uptake of distributed ledger technology? Could privacy become an issue? What about security issues ?

A. Some blockchains are permissionless, meaning anyone on the blockchain can see all of the associated information, but without understanding who is viewing the information and what their motivations are. This is clearly not an ideal scenario for most enterprises or governments and could slow its adoption.

However permissioned blockchains can restrict access to sensitive data, making it better suited for business. Participants are assigned a level of permission based on their role in the network and data is displayed accordingly. IBM is focused on immutable, permissioned blockchain networks for business but it is important to understand that not all distributed ledger technology is the same.

Security and privacy will continue to be a focus area for blockchain. It's an area we take seriously and where IBM has demonstrated leadership.

[B]lockchain uses an advanced form of encryption that ensures that information cannot be accessed or understood by anyone for whom it was unintended. Having the right hardware and the right software is what provides the protection to ensure blockchain is secure.

For example, IBM's new mainframe that encrypts all data 100 percent of the time in motion and at rest secures enterprise blockchain data on the IBM cloud on top of the inherent encryption in the blockchain network. IBM is addressing the whole spectrum — securing data as seamlessly as possible and doing so with the most integrity and data responsibility.

In the realm of privacy, we believe blockchain is helping put individuals back in control of their own data. A voluntary, blockchain-based identity system that is decentralized and encrypted brings control of personal identity back into the hands of the consumer. For example, IBM and SecureKey have built the first identity verification network (Verified:Me), that we are piloting in Canada with an ecosystem of trusted partners.

Q. Is DLT the inevitable future of information management and technology? If so, how long will it take to get there and what role do you see IBM playing in that?

A. There is a very bright future ahead in this market and in 2018 we expect to see much broader industry adoption. IBM is the only company that can provide the entire stack for blockchain, including the software fabric based on the HyperLedger Project, a platform for rapid development, secure and scalable cloud infrastructure, and blockchain solutions designed to solve specific industry business problems.

We believe blockchain is the future of how businesses will transact. IBM has built a leadership position in enterprise blockchain which we will continue to expand and extend. Using blockchain saves costs — but as importantly, it increases security, transparency, traceability, accuracy and data integrity.

Topics: Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, Trends / Statistics

Companies: IBM Corporation

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.

wwwView Bradley Cooper's profile on LinkedIn

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