Ever since blockchain was recognized for having a broader value beyond enabling cryptocurrencies, the technology has seen many use cases being explored by companies of all kinds. One company that has taken blockchain development in a big way is IBM.
According to a recent report by CNN Tech, IBM currently boasts 1500 employees working on more than 500 blockchain projects spread across various industries such as shipping, banking, food safety, and healthcare. This may seem like a bold move for many firms but not for IBM, a company that is known for being among the first to embrace new technology.
IBM Blockchain Initiatives
The tech giant has a long track-record experimenting with distributed ledger technology. It started to roll out a blockchain platform for food traceability built in partnership with the global retailer Walmart two years ago and had an ongoing partnership since then including a recent blockchain pilot in China. This was followed swiftly by a joint venture between IBM and Maersk that saw the development of a blockchain-based global trade digitization platform called TradeLens that is used by port and terminal operators worldwide such Holt Logistics at the Port of Philadelphia. So far, the TradeLens logistics platform has signed up more than 90 customers and is currently growing at the rate of $1 million events added to the ledger per day. The platform is able to track cargo as it moves from one port to another in real-time, enabling transparency and efficiency in the shipping supply chain. To date, more than 4,000 shipping containers have been tracked and more than 150 million transactions have been logged on its blockchain.
Through its research, IBM identified three main use cases for blockchain that could be valuable: financial services, healthcare, and shipping. However, the tech company has been keen on placing the greatest emphasis on the financial sector in the meantime. This explains why IBM has made huge strides with its LedgerConnect blockchain-powered application that brings banks and FinTech companies together to share distributed ledgers and improve their daily back-end operations.
Another IBM blockchain program, Humanity.co is a blockchain for identity solution that allows people to leverage blockchain to track and grant access to their personal data. The app, dubbed #My31 is based on the idea that people should have to right to control their data. Potentially profitable areas for such data-driven application could be healthcare research, advertising and IoT (Internet of Things). Another IBM key blockchain project is Insurance Data Link, an open blockchain network designed to enable insurance companies to upload data directly onto a blockchain platform as a proof that they are in compliance with state regulations. It is a unique example of how distributed ledger technology can be applied to streamline business operations by eliminating burdensome paperwork while boosting efficiency and security.
Although IBM has been successful with researching new use cases for blockchain, finding commercial applications for the technology has been a challenge. For instance, Watson, the artificial intelligence platform built by IBM failed to live up to expectations because the technology underpinning the system is too costly and difficult to adopt commercially. That was a mistake well-learned by IBM. General Manager of IBM Blockchain, Marie Wieck said in her interview with CNN Tech that listening to the marketplace and working with customers to determine what they need from the technology is now more vital than ever in the company’s efforts to implement blockchain technology.
It’s worth noting that IBM has also forged partnerships with the likes of Columbia University to continue developing more use cases for blockchain technology. IBM is also a core member of the HyperLedger Fabric, a platform that enable companies from multiple industries to collaborate and build blockchain technologies. Just recently, IBM was ranked 38th in the Forbes list of 50 companies exploring blockchain use cases.