These days, you can’t go to a financial services conference such as Sibos without encountering animated discussions about blockchain. The distributed ledger technology that underpins Bitcoin has matured in several areas over the last year, and it’s now at a point where companies are looking to go beyond proof of concepts (PoCs). Because of my work in blockchain markets and engagements at IBM, I had the opportunity to speak with many clients at Sibos about the projects IBM has worked on and is helping put into production.
Blockchain has grown from an abstract idea into a viable solution for reducing friction in transaction processes. Last year, attendees were still discussing what blockchain is and the relevancy of it. But clients have been building their blockchain knowledge and are now able to have in-depth discussions about the technology and its implementation. This year, they wanted to learn how to deploy, run and consume blockchain in production networks to realize its benefits.
Making blockchain real
Not surprisingly, sessions about new projects within banking and financial services drew crowds. On October 16, IBM announced a blockchain payments solution in collaboration with KlickEx Group and Stella.org. Later that day, conference room 5 was packed when Jesse Lund, Vice President of Global Blockchain Market Development, FSS, IBM Industry Platform, kicked off a panel discussion about building the new blockchain network for real-time clearing and settlement of multiple financial assets, including cross-border payments and foreign exchange. You can read his blog post to learn more.
On October 17, IBM and eight European banks unveiled we.trade, the new name for the Digital Trade Chain, a shared platform using blockchain for domestic and cross-border commerce. In a session on Thursday, Jason Kelley, General Manager of IBM Blockchain Services, joined the leaders of these banks in sharing the compelling story of choosing a technology to implementing a live trade finance platform in less than a year. This blog post discusses the solution in more depth.
All around Sibos, there were opportunities to get hands-on with blockchain. In addition to the sessions, the IBM booth saw a lot of traffic. The activation that showcased IBM Watson and Watson application programming interfaces being used in various industries was especially popular with IBMStem4Girls.
At The Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger booth on Wednesday, attendees could participate in an interactive demo built on Hyperledger Fabric. Audience members got to use their personal mobile phones to participate in renewable energy trading with blockchain.
Keeping the momentum
Sibos reinforced how much blockchain has evolved in the past year. Many PoCs have been completed and clients are ready to take the next steps toward production. Keeping up this momentum is the industry’s next big challenge, because most blockchain networks require new groups to work together.
Keith Bear, Vice President of Financial Markets at IBM, on a stage with HSBC, Boston Consulting Group and R3, discussed the realities of blockchain adoption. Blockchain benefits businesses by connecting digital islands, but bringing participants to the ecosystem is vital to its success. The more parties that get involved in collaborations and consortiums, the more value you get from the business networks built on blockchain.
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