IBM has taken to blockchain development in a big way. According to a recent article published by CNNTech, Big Blue currently has 1500 employees working on more than 500 blockchain projects around the globe. Unlike many firms that have come into the blockchain development game recently, IBM has been working on blockchain-based platforms for years.

IBM Blockchain

IBM at the Highlight Towers in Munich, Image from WSJ

With that many irons in the fire, IBM is clearly developing platforms for numerous applications. IBM sees financial services, healthcare and logistics as the most promising sectors for blockchain. Although IBM has a track-record of innovation, they also have struggled with translating new technology to commercial successes.

Josh Olson, who is an analyst at Edward Jones, commented to CNN on the challenges that IBM faces in the tech marketplace.

“Historically we’ve seen IBM invest in a technology early with some early promise, but then they’ve had difficulty commercializing good technologies or innovations at scale.”

He went on to cite IBM’s Watson supercomputing program as evidence of their inability to commercialize an innovative platform, but IBM sees blockchain as being far easier to translate into a success in the real world.

IBM is Selling Blockchain Today

Innovation is one thing, and converting potential customers to your platform is another. IBM recently announced that their blockchain-based TradeLens logistics platform has signed up more than 90 customers, and is currently adding more than one million events to the ledger on a daily basis.

IBM expanded on how TradeLens is helping numerous companies to replace an archaic system that limits efficiency via a press release,

“During the 12-month trial, Maersk and IBM worked with dozens of ecosystem partners to identify opportunities to prevent delays caused by documentation errors, information delays, and other impediments. One example demonstrated how TradeLens can reduce the transit time of a shipment of packaging materials to a production line in the United States by 40 percent, avoiding thousands of dollars in cost.”

Unlike their Watson program, TradeLens hasn’t had any trouble finding potential commercial clients. According to the same press release,

“PSA Singapore, International Container Terminal Services Inc, Patrick Terminals, Modern Terminals in Hong Kong, Port of Halifax, Port of Rotterdam, Port of Bilbao, PortConnect and PortBase,”

have joined a list of more then 230 logistics gateways in adopting TradeLens for daily use.

Blockchain is Useful Right Now

Blockchain has been called a bubble by many experienced investors and tech insiders. While the sector as a whole is probably overheated, IBM is demonstrating why blockchain technology is here to stay. Not every program blockchain program that IBM is developing has been as successful as TradeLens, and some programs may take longer to hit the market.

Bridget van Kralingen, SVP of IBM’s industry platforms group pointed out how different Watson and blockchain really are.

“Watson’s (potential applications are) very complex and difficult,” she told CNN, and continued, “I would argue blockchain is much easier because it’s a process flow. … We learned a big lesson in implementing new technology: Ease of use has become a very important part of adoption.”

Ease of use is one area where blockchain looks like it is second-to-none. Unlike complex paper-based systems that have no centralized access, blockchain allows the secure storage of data that can be shared easily with authorized parties. Not only does blockchain create new efficiencies, it also allows people to monetize information that would have been impossible to sell otherwise.

Empowering Individuals

Another IBM blockchain program is seeking to develop “self-sovereign identity” technology, which will allow people to have more control over their personal data. They are teaming up with Hu-manity.co, who produces the #My31 app. The app is available on iOS and Android mobile devices, and implies that people should have the right to their own data. The 31st right to data ownership would be in addition to the 30 human rights that the United Nations already recognizes.

Blockchain Personal Identity

Read: Putting Personal Identities on the Blockchain

The #My31 app seeks to allow people to own all of the data they create, and monetize it as they see fit. Instead of just handing over data that companies collect and then resell, IBM is apparently interested in allowing individuals the ability to control access to their data trail.

One of the most potentially profitable areas of sovereign data commerce is clearly health records, which could be used by researchers to do AI-driven meta-analysis of truly large amounts of human health data. For now the idea of personal data sales is a little ways off, but with a massive company involved, it could come to market sooner rather than later.

Posted by Nicholas Say

Nicholas Say was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has traveled extensively, lived in Uruguay for many years, and currently resides in the Far East. His writing can be found all over the web, with special emphasis placed on realistic development, and the next generation of human technology.


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