Nov
28
2018
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AWS launches a managed blockchain service

It was only a year ago that AWS CEO Andy Jassy said that he wasn’t all that interested in blockchain services. Clearly something has changed over the course of the last year because today, the company is launching two new blockchain services: Quantum Ledger Database and Amazon Managed Blockchain.

As the name implies, AWS Managed Blockchain is a managed blockchain service. It supports Ethereum and Hyperledger Fabric.

“This service is going to make it much easier for you to use the two most popular blockchain frameworks,” said AWS CEO Andy Jassy. He noted that companies tend to use Hyperledger Fabric when they know the number of members in their blockchain network and want robust private operations and capabilities. AWS promises that the service will scale to thousands of applications and will allow users to run millions of transactions (though the company didn’t say with what kind of latency).

Support for Hyperledger Fabric is available today. Ethereum support is launching a few months from now.

Getting started with Managed Blockchain is a matter of using the AWS Console and configuring nodes, adding members and deploying applications.

“When we heard people saying ‘blockchain,’ we felt like there was their weird conveluting and conflating what they really wanted,” said Jassy. “And as we spent time working with customers and figuring out the jobs they were really trying to solve, this is what we think people are trying to do with blockchain.”

more AWS re:Invent 2018 coverage

Nov
14
2018
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This startup got $2.3M to identify physical objects using diamond dust

Imagine coating an expensive part with a layer of diamond dust the width of a human hair, capturing its light pattern as a unique identifier, then storing that identifier in a traditional database or on the blockchain. That’s precisely what Dust Identity, a Boston-based startup is trying to do, and today it got $2.3 million in seed money led by Kleiner Perkins with participation from New Science Ventures, Angular Ventures, and Castle Island Ventures.

The science behind Dust Identity was nurtured inside MIT, but the company has been at work for two years trying to build a solution based on that idea after receiving early support from DARPA. What these folks do is manufacture extremely tiny diamonds. They dust an object such as a circuit board with a coating of this and capture the diamonds in a polymer, company CEO and co-founder Ophir Gaathon explained.

“Once the diamonds fall on the surface of a polymer epoxy, and that polymer cures, the diamonds are fixed in their position, fixed in their orientation, and it’s actually the orientation of those diamonds that we developed a technology that allows us to read those angles very quickly,” Gaathon told TechCrunch.

For all the advanced technology at play here, Dust Identity is truly an identity company, but instead of identifying an individual, its purpose is to provide a trusted identity for an object using a physical anchor — in this case, diamond dust. You may be thinking that diamonds are kind of an expensive way to achieve this, but as it turns out, the company is actually creating the coating materials from low-cost diamond industrial waste.

“We start with diamond waste (for example, [from] the abrasive industry), but we developed a proprietary process (that’s of course highly scalable and economical) to purify and engineer the diamond waste into dust,” a company spokesperson explained.

The idea behind all of this is to prove that an object is valid and hasn’t been tampered with. The dust is applied at some point during the manufacturing process. The unique identifier is captured with some kind of commercial scanner and stored in the database. It provides a physical anchor for blockchain supply chain solutions that’s currently lacking. When the part makes its way to the buyer, they can run the part under a scanner and make sure it matches. If the dust pattern has been disturbed, there’s a good chance the piece was tampered with.

Finding a way to create uncopyable tags for physical objects is a kind of supply chain holy grail. Ilya Fushman, a partner at Kleiner Perkins says his firm recognized the potential of this solution. “We have a pretty strong hard tech practice. We understand the value of supply chain and supply chain integrity,” he said.

The company is not alone in trying to find a way to attach a physical anchor to items in the supply chain. In fact, you can go back to RFID tags and QR codes, but Gaathon says the security of these approaches has degraded over time as hackers figure out how to copy them. IBM and others are working on tiny chips to attach to objects, but the diamond dust approach could be the most secure if it can scale because it works with an entirely random light pattern that can never be reproduced.

The startup intends to take the money and try to prove this idea can be commercialized for government and manufacturing use cases. It certainly gets points for creativity here and it could be onto something that could transform how we track the integrity of items as they move through a supply chain.

Oct
23
2018
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Oracle delves deeper into blockchain with four new applications

Oracle is a traditional tech company that has been struggling to gain traction in the cloud, but it could see blockchain as a way to differentiate itself. At Oracle OpenWorld today it announced the Oracle Blockchain Applications Cloud, a series of four applications designed for transactions-based processing scenarios using Internet of Things as a data source.

“Customers struggle with how exactly to go from concepts like smart contracts, distributed ledger and cryptography to solving specific business problems,” Atul Mahamuni, VP of IoT and Blockchain at Oracle told TechCrunch.

The company actually introduced a more generalized blockchain as a service offering at OpenWorld last year, but this year they have decided to focus more on specific use cases, announcing four new applications. The blockchain comes into account because of its nature as an irrefutable and immutable record.

In cases where there is a dispute over the accuracy of a particular piece of data, the blockchain can provide incontrovertible proof. As for the Internet of Things, that provides data points you can use to provide that proof. Your sensor feeds the data and it (or some reference to it) gets added to the blockchain, leaving no room for doubt.

The four applications involve supply chain-transaction data including a track and trace capability to follow a product through its delivery from inception to market, proof of provenance for valuables like drugs, intelligent temperature tracking (what they are calling Intelligent Cold Chain) and warranty and usage tracking. Intelligent Cold chain ensures that a product that is supposed to be kept cold didn’t get exposed to higher than recommended temperatures, while warranty tracking ensures that a product was being used in a proscribed fashion and should be subject to warranty claims.

Each of these plays to the some of Oracle’s strengths as a company that builds databases and ERP software. It can draw on the information it tends to collect any way as part of the nature of its business processes and add it to a blockchain and other applications when it makes sense.

“So what we do is we get events and insights from IoT systems, as well as from supply chain ERP data, and we get those insights and translation from all of this and then put them into the blockchain and then do the correlations and artificial intelligence machine learning algorithms on top of those transactions,” Mahamuni explained.

This year perhaps even more so than the last couple, Oracle is trying to differentiate itself from the rest of the cloud pack, as it tries to right its cloud business. By building applications on top of base technologies like blockchain, IoT and artificial intelligence, while taking advantage of their domain knowledge around databases and ERP, they are hoping to show customers they can offer something their cloud competitors can’t.

Sep
24
2018
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Walmart is betting on the blockchain to improve food safety

Walmart has been working with IBM on a food safety blockchain solution and today it announced it’s requiring that all suppliers of leafy green vegetable for Sam’s and Walmart upload their data to the blockchain by September 2019 .

Most supply chains are bogged down in manual processes. This makes it difficult and time consuming to track down an issue should one like the E. coli romaine lettuce problem from last spring rear its head. By placing a supply chain on the blockchain, it makes the process more traceable, transparent and fully digital. Each node on the blockchain could represent an entity that has handled the food on the way to the store, making it much easier and faster to see if one of the affected farms sold infected supply to a particular location with much greater precision.

Walmart has been working with IBM for over a year on using the blockchain to digitize the food supply chain process. In fact, supply chain is one of the premiere business use cases for blockchain (beyond digital currency). Walmart is using the IBM Food Trust Solution, specifically developed for this use case.

“We built the IBM Food Trust solution using IBM Blockchain Platform, which is a tool or capability that IBM has built to help companies build, govern and run blockchain networks. It’s built using Hyperledger Fabric (the open source digital ledger technology) and it runs on IBM Cloud,” Bridget van Kralingen, IBM’s senior VP for Global Industries, Platforms and Blockchain explained.

Before moving the process to the blockchain, it typically took approximately 7 days to trace the source of food. With the blockchain, it’s been reduced to 2.2 seconds. That substantially reduces the likelihood  that infected food will reach the consumer.

Photo:  Shana Novak/Getty Images

One of the issues in a requiring the suppliers to put their information on the blockchain is understanding that there will be a range of approaches from paper to Excel spreadsheets to sophisticated ERP systems all uploading data to the blockchain. Walmart spokesperson Molly Blakeman says that this something they worked hard on with IBM to account for. Suppliers don’t have to be blockchain experts by any means. They simply have to know how to upload data to the blockchain application.

“IBM will offer an onboarding system that orients users with the service easily. Think about when you get a new iPhone – the instructions are easy to understand and you’re quickly up and running. That’s the aim here. Essentially, suppliers will need a smart device and internet to participate,” she said.

After working with it for a year, the company things it’s ready for broader implementation with the goal ultimately being making sure that the food that is sold at Walmart is safe for consumption, and if there is a problem, making auditing the supply chain a trivial activity.

“Our customers deserve a more transparent supply chain. We felt the one-step-up and one-step-back model of food traceability was outdated for the 21st century. This is a smart, technology-supported move that will greatly benefit our customers and transform the food system, benefitting all stakeholders,” Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety for Walmart said in statement.

In addition to the blockchain requirement, the company is also requiring that suppliers adhere to one of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), which have been internationally recognized as food safety standards, according to the company.

Sep
13
2018
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Hacera creates directory to make blockchain projects more searchable

In the 1990s when the web was young, companies like Yahoo, created directories of web pages to help make them more discoverable. Hacera wants to bring that same idea to blockchain, and today it announced the launch of the Hacera Network Registry.

CEO Jonathan Levi says that blockchains being established today risk being isolated because people simply can’t find them. If you have a project like the IBM -Maersk supply chain blockchain announced last month, how does an interested party like a supplier or customs authority find it and ask to participate? Up until the creation of this registry, there was no easy way to search for projects.

Early participants include heavy hitters like Microsoft, Hitachi, Huawei, IBM, SAP and Oracle, who are linking to projects being created on their platforms. The registry supports projects based on major digital ledger communities including Hyperledger, Quorum, Cosmos, Ethereum and Corda. The Hacera Network Registry is built on Hyperledger Fabric, and the code is open source. (Levi was Risk Manager for Hyperledger Fabric 1.0.)

Hacera Network Registry page

While early sponsors of the project include IBM and Hyperledger Fabric, Levi stressed the network is open to all. Blockchain projects can create information pages, not unlike a personal LinkedIn page, and Hacera verifies the data before adding it to the registry. There are currently more than 70 networks in the registry, and Hacera is hoping this is just the beginning.

Jerry Cuomo, VP of blockchain technologies at IBM, says for blockchain to grow it will require a way to register, lookup, join and transact across a variety of blockchain solutions. “As the number of blockchain consortiums, networks and applications continues to grow we need a means to list them and make them known to the world, in order to unleash the power of blockchain,” Cuomo told TechCrunch. Hacera is solving that problem.

This is exactly the kind of underlying infrastructure that the blockchain requires to expand as a technology. Cuomo certainly recognizes this.”We realized from the start that you cannot do blockchain on your own; you need a vibrant community and ecosystem of like-minded innovators who share the vision of helping to transform the way companies conduct business in the global economy,” he said.

Hacera understands that every cloud vendor wants people using their blockchain service. Yet they also see that to move the technology forward, there need to be some standard ways of conducting business, and they want to provide that layer. Levi has a broader vision for the network beyond pure discoverability. He hopes eventually to provide the means to share data through the registry.

Aug
17
2018
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Incentivai launches to simulate how hackers break blockchains

Cryptocurrency projects can crash and burn if developers don’t predict how humans will abuse their blockchains. Once a decentralized digital economy is released into the wild and the coins start to fly, it’s tough to implement fixes to the smart contracts that govern them. That’s why Incentivai is coming out of stealth today with its artificial intelligence simulations that test not just for security holes, but for how greedy or illogical humans can crater a blockchain community. Crypto developers can use Incentivai’s service to fix their systems before they go live.

“There are many ways to check the code of a smart contract, but there’s no way to make sure the economy you’ve created works as expected,” says Incentivai’s solo founder Piotr Grudzie?. “I came up with the idea to build a simulation with machine learning agents that behave like humans so you can look into the future and see what your system is likely to behave like.”

Incentivai will graduate from Y Combinator next week and already has a few customers. They can either pay Incentivai to audit their project and produce a report, or they can host the AI simulation tool like a software-as-a-service. The first deployments of blockchains it’s checked will go out in a few months, and the startup has released some case studies to prove its worth.

“People do theoretical work or logic to prove that under certain conditions, this is the optimal strategy for the user. But users are not rational. There’s lots of unpredictable behavior that’s difficult to model,” Grudzie? explains. Incentivai explores those illogical trading strategies so developers don’t have to tear out their hair trying to imagine them.

Protecting crypto from the human x-factor

There’s no rewind button in the blockchain world. The immutable and irreversible qualities of this decentralized technology prevent inventors from meddling with it once in use, for better or worse. If developers don’t foresee how users could make false claims and bribe others to approve them, or take other actions to screw over the system, they might not be able to thwart the attack. But given the right open-ended incentives (hence the startup’s name), AI agents will try everything they can to earn the most money, exposing the conceptual flaws in the project’s architecture.

“The strategy is the same as what DeepMind does with AlphaGo, testing different strategies,” Grudzie? explains. He developed his AI chops earning a masters at Cambridge before working on natural language processing research for Microsoft.

Here’s how Incentivai works. First a developer writes the smart contracts they want to test for a product like selling insurance on the blockchain. Incentivai tells its AI agents what to optimize for and lays out all the possible actions they could take. The agents can have different identities, like a hacker trying to grab as much money as they can, a faker filing false claims or a speculator that cares about maximizing coin price while ignoring its functionality.

Incentivai then tweaks these agents to make them more or less risk averse, or care more or less about whether they disrupt the blockchain system in its totality. The startup monitors the agents and pulls out insights about how to change the system.

For example, Incentivai might learn that uneven token distribution leads to pump and dump schemes, so the developer should more evenly divide tokens and give fewer to early users. Or it might find that an insurance product where users vote on what claims should be approved needs to increase its bond price that voters pay for verifying a false claim so that it’s not profitable for voters to take bribes from fraudsters.

Grudzie? has done some predictions about his own startup too. He thinks that if the use of decentralized apps rises, there will be a lot of startups trying to copy his approach to security services. He says there are already some doing token engineering audits, incentive design and consultancy, but he hasn’t seen anyone else with a functional simulation product that’s produced case studies. “As the industry matures, I think we’ll see more and more complex economic systems that need this.”

Aug
10
2018
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This Week in Data with Colin Charles 48: Coinbase Powered by MongoDB and Prometheus Graduates in the CNCF

Colin Charles

Colin CharlesJoin Percona Chief Evangelist Colin Charles as he covers happenings, gives pointers and provides musings on the open source database community.

The call for submitting a talk to Percona Live Europe 2018 is closing today, and while there may be a short extension, have you already got your talk submitted? I suggest doing so ASAP!

I’m sure many of you have heard of cryptocurrencies, the blockchain, and so on. But how many of you realiize that Coinbase, an application that handles cryptocurrency trades, matching book orders, and more, is powered by MongoDB? With the hype and growth in interest in late 2017, Coinbase has had to scale. They gave an excellent talk at MongoDB World, titled MongoDB & Crypto Mania (the video is worth a watch), and they’ve also written a blog post, How we’re scaling our platform for spikes in customer demand. They even went driver hacking (the Ruby driver for MongoDB)!

It is great to see there be a weekly review of happenings in the Vitess world.

PingCap and TiDB have been to many Percona Live events to present, and recently hired Morgan Tocker. Morgan has migrated his blog from MySQL to TiDB. Read more about his experience in, This blog, now Powered by WordPress + TiDB. Reminds me of the early days of Galera Cluster and showing how Drupal could be powered by it!

Releases

Link List

  • Sys Schema MySQL 5.7+ – blogger from Wipro, focusing on an introduction to the sys schema on MySQL (note: still not available in the MariaDB Server fork).
  • Prometheus Graduates in the CNCF, so is considered a mature project. Criteria for graduation is such that “projects must demonstrate thriving adoption, a documented, structured governance process, and a strong commitment to community sustainability and inclusivity.” Percona benefits from Prometheus in Percona Monitoring & Management (PMM), so we should celebrate this milestone!
  • Replicating from MySQL 8.0 to MySQL 5.7
  • A while ago in this column, we linked to Shlomi Noach’s excellent post on MySQL High Availability at GitHub. We were also introduced to GitHub Load Balancer (GLB), which they ran on top of HAProxy. However back then, GLB wasn’t open; now you can get GLB Director: GLB: GitHub’s open source load balancer. The project describes GLB Director as: “… a Layer 4 load balancer which scales a single IP address across a large number of physical machines while attempting to minimise connection disruption during any change in servers. GLB Director does not replace services like haproxy and nginx, but rather is a layer in front of these services (or any TCP service) that allows them to scale across multiple physical machines without requiring each machine to have unique IP addresses.”
  • F1 Query: Declarative Querying at Scale – a well-written paper.

Upcoming Appearances

Feedback

I look forward to feedback/tips via e-mail at colin.charles@percona.com or on Twitter @bytebot.

 

The post This Week in Data with Colin Charles 48: Coinbase Powered by MongoDB and Prometheus Graduates in the CNCF appeared first on Percona Database Performance Blog.

Aug
09
2018
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IBM teams with Maersk on new blockchain shipping solution

IBM and shipping giant Maersk having been working together for the last year developing a blockchain-based shipping solution called TradeLens. Today they moved the project from Beta into limited availability.

Marie Wieck, GM for IBM Blockchain says the product provides a way to digitize every step of the global trade workflow, transforming it into a real-time communication and visual data sharing tool.

TradeLens was developed jointly by the two companies with IBM providing the underlying blockchain technology and Maersk bringing the worldwide shipping expertise. It involves three components: the blockchain, which provides a mechanism for tracking goods from factory or field to delivery, APIs for others to build new applications on top of the platform these two companies have built, and a set of standards to facilitate data sharing among the different entities in the workflow such as customs, ports and shipping companies.

Wieck says the blockchain really changes how companies have traditionally tracked shipped goods. While many of the entities in the system have digitized the process, the data they have has been trapped in silos and previous attempts at sharing like EDI have been limited. “The challenge is they tend to think of a linear flow and you really only have visibility one [level] up and one down in your value chain,” she said.

The blockchain provides a couple of obvious advantages over previous methods. For starters, she says it’s safer because data is distributed, making it much more secure with digital encryption built in. The greatest advantage though is the visibility it provides. Every participant can check any aspect of the flow in real time, or an auditor or other authority can easily track the entire process from start to finish by clicking on a block in the blockchain instead of requesting data from each entity manually.

While she says it won’t entirely prevent fraud, it does help reduce it by putting more eyeballs onto the process. “If you had fraudulent data at start, blockchain won’t help prevent that. What it does help with is that you have multiple people validating every data set and you get greater visibility when something doesn’t look right,” she said.

As for the APIs, she sees the system becoming a shipping information platform. Developers can build on top of that, taking advantage of the data in the system to build even greater efficiencies. The standards help pull it together and align with APIs, such as providing a standard Bill of Lading. They are starting by incorporating existing industry standards, but are also looking for gaps that slow things down to add new standard approaches that would benefit everyone in the system.

So far, the companies have 94 entities in 300 locations around the world using TradeLens including customs authorities, ports, cargo shippers and logistics companies. They are opening the program to limited availability today with the goal of a full launch by the end of this year.

Wieck ultimately sees TradeLens as a way to facilitate trade by building in trust, the end of goal of any blockchain product. “By virtue of already having an early adopter program, and having coverage of 300 trading locations around the world, it is a very good basis for the global exchange of information. And I personally think visibility creates trust, and that can help in a myriad of ways,” she said.

Jul
23
2018
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Xage secures $12 million Series A for IoT security solution on blockchain

Xage (pronounced Zage), a blockchain security startup based in Silicon Valley, announced a $12 million Series A investment today led by March Capital Partners. GE Ventures, City Light Capital and NexStar Partners also participated.

The company emerged from stealth in December with a novel idea to secure the myriad of devices in the industrial internet of things on the blockchain. Here’s how I described it in a December 2017 story:

Xage is building a security fabric for IoT, which takes blockchain and synthesizes it with other capabilities to create a secure environment for devices to operate. If the blockchain is at its core a trust mechanism, then it can give companies confidence that their IoT devices can’t be compromised. Xage thinks that the blockchain is the perfect solution to this problem.

It’s an interesting approach, one that attracted Duncan Greatwood to the company. As he told me in December his previous successful exits — Topsy to Apple in 2013 and PostPath to Cisco in 2008 — gave him the freedom to choose a company that really excited him for his next challenge.

When he saw what Xage was doing, he wanted to be a part of it, and given the unorthodox security approach the company has taken, and Greatwood’s pedigree, it couldn’t have been hard to secure today’s funding.

The Industrial Internet of Things is not like its consumer cousin in that it involves getting data from big industrial devices like manufacturing machinery, oil and gas turbines and jet engines. While the entire Internet of Things could surely benefit from a company that concentrates specifically on keeping these devices secure, it’s a particularly acute requirement in industry where these devices are often helping track data from key infrastructure.

GE Ventures is the investment arm of GE, but their involvement is particularly interesting because GE has made a big bet on the Industrial Internet of Things. Abhishek Shukla of GE Ventures certainly saw the connection. “For industries to benefit from the IoT revolution, organizations need to fully connect and protect their operation. Xage is enabling the adoption of these cutting edge technologies across energy, transportation, telecom, and other global industries,” Shukla said in a statement.

The company was founded just last year and is based in Palo Alto, California.

Jul
22
2018
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The blockchain begins finding its way in the enterprise

The blockchain is in the middle of a major hype cycle at the moment, and that makes it hard for many people to take it seriously, but if you look at the core digital ledger technology, there is tremendous potential to change the way we think about trust in business. Yet these are still extremely early days and there are a number of missing pieces that need to be in place for the blockchain to really take off in the enterprise.

Suffice it to say that it has caught the fancy of major enterprise vendors with the likes of SAP, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft and Amazon all looking at providing some level of Blockchain as a service for customers.

While the level of interest in blockchain remains fluid, a July 2017 survey of 400 large companies by UK firm Juniper Research found 6 in 10 respondents were “either actively considering, or are in the process of, deploying blockchain technology.”

In spite of the growing interest we have seen over the last 12-18 months, blockchain lacks some basic underlying system plumbing, the kind any platform needs to thrive in an enterprise setting. Granted, some companies and the open source community are recognizing this as an opportunity and trying to build it, but many challenges remain.

Obstacles to adoption

Even though the blockchain clearly has many possible use cases, some people still have trouble separating it from its digital currency roots, and Joshua McKenty, who helped develop Open Stack while working at NASA and now is head of Cloud Foundry at Pivotal, sees this as a real problem, one that could hold back the progress of blockchain as an enterprise technology.

He believes that right now bitcoin and blockchain are akin to Napster and peer to peer (P2P) technology in the late 90s. When Napster made it easy to share MP3 files illegally on a P2P network, McKenty believes, it set back business usage of P2P for a decade because of the bad connotations associated with the popular use case.

“You couldn’t talk about Napster [and P2P] and have it be a positive conversation. Bitcoin has done that to blockchain. It will take us time to recover what bitcoin has done to get to something that is really useful [with blockchain],” he said.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Newsmakers – Getty Images

A recent survey by Deloitte of over 1000 participants in 7 countries found that outside the US in particular this perception held true. “When asked if they believed that blockchain was just “a database for money” with little application outside of financial services, just 18 percent of US respondents agreed with that statement versus 61 percent of respondents in France and the United Kingdom,” the report stated.

Richie Etwaru, founder and CEO at Hu-manity and author of the book, Blockchain Trust Companies sees it as a matter of trust. Companies aren’t used to dealing from a position of trust. In fact, his book argues that the entire contract system exists because of a total lack of it.

“The hurdle [to widespread blockchain adoption in the enterprise] is that those who have traditionally designed or transformed business models in large enterprise settings have systematically and habitually treated trust and transparency as second, sometimes third level characteristics of a business model. The raw material needed are the willingness and executive level alignment and harmonization around the notion that trust and transparency are the next differentiators,” Etwaru explained.

The volatility of new technology

Blockchain was originally created as a system to track bitcoin (digital currency) ownership, and it’s still used extensively for that purpose, but a trusted and immutable record has great utility to track virtually anything of value and enforce a set of rules. We have seen companies like po.et trying to use it to enforce content ownership, Hu-manity, which wants to enforce data ownership, and the IBM TrustChain consortium to track the provenance of diamonds from mine to store.

Photo: LeoWolfert/Getty Images

Rob May, who is CEO at Talla and whose company helped launch a blockchain called BotChain to track the authenticity of bots, says finding good use cases could help ultimately determine the technology’s success or failure. “Blockchain has a bunch of different use cases, and they are usually either all lumped together or poorly understood separately,” May said.

He believes that in many instances today, companies don’t understand the advantages of blockchain, which he identifies as immutability, trust and tokenization, the latter of which can help finance blockchain initiatives (but which can also contribute to confusion with digital currency use cases).

“Right now, businesses are missing real blockchain opportunities and instead throwing blockchain in places where it doesn’t belong. For example, they are trying to use it for smart contracts, and that stuff isn’t ready. They also try to use it for cases that require a lot of speed, and again blockchains aren’t ready,” he said.

Finally, he says, if you don’t require immutability, trust and tokenization, you might want to consider a different approach other than blockchain.

Please identify yourself

Like any network, identity will be at the core of any blockchain network because it is imperative that you understand whom you are communicating with. Charles Francis, a senior analyst at Accenture says for now blockchains will remain private for the most part, but authentication will become increasingly important as we eventually have blockchain-to-blockchain communications.

Photo:  NicoElNino/Getty Images

“Initially blockchain-to-blockchain connections will be manually set up and you will manage your network in a private model and bad actors will be immediately obvious,” he explained. But he believes that we will require a system in place to ensure we are authentically who we say we are as we move beyond private networks.

Jerry Cuomo, IBM Fellow and VP of Blockchain says that there will come a time when there are multiple networks and we will need to set up systems for them to communicate. “There won’t be one blockchain network to rule them all. It’s a very safe bet. Once you make that statement, these systems need to work together,” he said. “All [the different pieces of networks] need identity and the identity better play across networks. My identity on one network better be the same on another network,” he explained.

For Etwaru it comes back to trust, and a trusted identity would be a natural extension of that. “Transformational blockchain use cases require a network of trading partners to start to operate in a more trusted and transparent way, not just one individual,” he said.

Moving toward adoption

All this said, there is still a steady march toward adoption in the enterprise. As Talla’s May says, there may be open questions, but that just represents a big opportunity for smart companies. “If you are interacting with a network instead of a single company, whose throat do you choke when something goes wrong? I think you will see many companies in the blockchain space do what Red Hat did for Linux. Enterprises need consulting help and better frameworks to think about how [blockchain] networks will work, since Ethereum isn’t a product per se in the traditional sense,” he said.

Gil Perez, SVP for products and innovation, as well as head of digital customer initiatives at SAP says he’s seeing companies with real projects in production. “It is beyond just wanting to do something. We’re doing large scale implementations and pilots. For example, we did one in the pharmaceutical industry with over a billion transactions,” he said.

In fact, SAP has a total of 65 companies working on various projects at different stages of progress at the moment. Perez says the next level of adoption will require a way to involve multiple parties, not just a single company, as with a supply chain example, which involves moving goods and paperwork across multiple countries involving many individuals.

Photo: allanswart

He also points out the importance of making sure there is good data because ultimately, if you have bad data in an immutable record, that is going to be a serious problem. That requires the companies involved to come together and agree to a common system to enter and agree upon each piece of information that moves through the system and that is a work in progress.

May sees blockchain technology transforming the way we do business in the future and providing a more standard way of interacting than today’s hodgepodge of vendor approaches.

“Now that blockchain is here, what if we could launch a standard and have shared marketplace by all apps in a space? So as a developer, you write your [application] add-on one time and it works with any [similar application] that supports that standard, and they share one giant marketplace. But how do you get them to share a marketplace? Blockchain and tokens provide decentralization and incentives such that, if you set the right rules, maybe you could do it. That could be transformational,” he said.

As with any new technology, the more it scales the more the tools and adjacent technologies are required. We are still in the early stages of discovering what those are, and before the technology can take off in a big way, we will need more underlying infrastructure in place. If that happens, blockchain could be just as transformational as May suggests.

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