On Monday, IBM announced a new version of its enterprise-grade deployment of IBM Blockchain (Blockchain offers companies the ability to create, run, and monitor distributed ledgers on IBM’s cloud). The company also announced several commercial applications of IBM Blockchain that are either already in existence or will soon be deployed by a wide range of companies, including authentication provider SecureKey, financial-services company Northern Trust, and a Chinese carbon-allowance trading company.
The blockchain concept was popularized by Bitcoin, the virtual currency that uses a distributed ledger to track transactions, which can be verified by any member of the group. In the wake of Bitcoin’s popularity, IBM and other large companies across various industries started molding blockchain software to apply to purposes beyond exchanging money. These purposes could include tracking shipments across the globe, providing transparency to credit default swaps, or verifying identities across multiple banks.
IBM announced its commercial blockchain service last February, and it has been partnering with select companies to try out blockchain deployments for the past year. The company notably paired with Walmart late last year to manage recalls as the retailer tracked food and drug shipments around the globe.
IBM has been developing its product with the help of the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger project, to which IBM devoted monetary resources as well as the work of a few dozen researchers and software engineers. IBM Blockchain is based on Hyperledger’s open source Fabric codebase. According to an IBM press release, Fabric is built for enterprise-level systems, and it can handle “more than 1,000 transactions per second among large ecosystems of users.”
Among the companies trying out IBM blockchain in 2017 is identity authentication service SecureKey, which plans to run a pilot program involving six Canadian banks. The program will “make it easier for consumers to verify they are who they say they are, in a privacy-enhanced, security-rich and efficient way.” If a customer wants to open a new telecom, utility, or bank account, that person can opt in to SecureKey’s feature through a mobile app. If one participating bank and credit agency has already verified the customer’s identity, then the entity creating the new account can choose to rely on the distributed ledger to check that the customer’s information has been verified. The participating banks include BMO, CIBC, Desjardins, RBC, Scotiabank, and TD. Collectively, the banks invested $ 27 million in SecureKey.
Another company deploying IBM Blockchain is Energy-Blockchain Labs. This Beijing-based company hopes to help other companies develop and trade carbon allowances as China opens up its cap-and-trade program later this year. IBM and Energy-Blockchain Labs say that using a distributed ledger to track carbon allowances will improve efficiency in the carbon market and increase its credibility. “Blockchain technology also provides transparency and auditability, which help stakeholders address regulatory requirements,” a press release said.
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