“I think much like the Internet was able to organize separate databases into an interlocking, networked marketplace, we see the potential to link separate blockchains together into a greater ecosystem that will lead to new business models,” said Marie Wieck, General Manager of Blockchain at IBM. “It will allow people that aren’t currently able to collaborate to effectively partner and create new value through communities of innovation.”
That’s the future that is taking shape now. It is those “communities of innovation,” that will give rise to the new business models out of which the next Amazon, Google, or Facebook can emerge.
Blockchain is real, today. What started as the enabling technology behind cryptocurrency has matured, and a decade later is now making real impact across a number of different industries. Blockchain is actively used to bridge the trust gap and reduce laborious and manual paper-based processes in areas such as food safety, insurance, banking, and supply chains.
More than a way to record and verify transaction in a secure environment, it is on the verge of ushering in a new blockchain economy as separate blockchain networks explore how to interoperate and merge into an interlocking, networked marketplace. It’s also now being fully recognized for its potential in the new era of digital money and stable coins. The global adoption of blockchain for financial services, followed by news of J. P. Morgan’s plans to launch JPM Coin, and this week’s high-profile news of Facebook Libra gives credence to that.
At this week’s Fortune Brainstorm Finance Conference, Marie Wieck, addressed how the tourism phase of blockchain has peaked. Now, new ways of using and combining blockchain technology are making an impact on both startups and established enterprises. These organizations are driven not only by the motivation to improve trust and transparency, they are incentivized by new ways to lower costs, remove barriers to entry into new markets and the potential to reach new trading partners.
The technology is growing in a similar way the Internet did over the course of history. We are seeing consortia bring together industry heavyweights, all coming together to witness the value blockchain brings to both disruptive use cases and everyday business processes.
The blockchain networks that are thriving today are those that build an ecosystem around shared value, that are permissioned, and built on open standards software with security factors in place to allow others to join while protecting data privacy. We’ve seen strong adoption with projects such as we.trade, in which we’ve united 12 of Europe’s largest banks around a trade finance platform for small and medium enterprises in Europe. Meanwhile work continues to progress between we.trade and eTradeConnect, a trade finance consortium of 14 Hong Kong banks, making these two blockchain networks interoperable.
IBM Blockchain World Wire was the first blockchain network of its kind to integrate payment messaging, clearing and settlement on a single unified network, while allowing participants to dynamically choose from a variety of digital assets for settlement. IBM Blockchain World Wire uses multiple stable coins and is being piloted by banks and money transfer operators worldwide.
TradeLens, is a global trade digitization solution for a network of 100+ participants that helps improve transparency in global shipping while reducing paperwork. It is scaling at a rapid pace and data for nearly half of the world’s ocean container cargo will be available on TradeLens.
In healthcare, Cigna and Sentara Healthcare joined Aetna, Anthem, Cigna, Health Care Service Corporation, PNC Bank and Sentara Healthcare to use blockchain to create a new ecosystem for the healthcare industry. More recently, IBM, KPMG, Merck and Walmart commenced a pilot with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to trace prescription medicines and vaccines using blockchain.
And today, IPwe, a blockchain-based patent platform, announced they have verified 5,000 patents in the past six months with transactions recorded using the IBM Blockchain Platform.
IPwe is on a mission to mend the broken patent system and mint a new asset class in the process. One of the first startups selected for the IBM Blockchain Accelerator Program, IPwe aims to leverage artificial intelligence to unearth basic patent information such as ownership and value, then — through IBM Blockchain and smart contract technology — create a distributed platform where intellectual property can be seamlessly transacted. It’s estimated that just 2 percent of patents are ever transacted. By eliminating friction from these transactions, IPwe looks to unlock the value of the remaining 98 percent, providing instant liquidity to countless innovators and entrepreneurs and creating a bona fide new asset class.
“Our goal is to transform the patent marketplace,” said Dan Bork, CTO and co-founder of IPwe. “Just as the Internet organized separate databases into an interlocking, networked marketplace, we see the potential to link separate blockchains into a greater patent ecosystem that leads to new business models. It allows people that aren’t able to collaborate to effectively partner and create new value and build trusted communities around peer-to-peer networks.”
While the work with IPwe is still early stages, as it scales, we anticipate this could have far-reaching potential to unify patent holders, corporations and legal systems, potentially impacting the patent landscape in much the same way TradeLens has touched global shipping or IBM Food Trust the retail food industry.
This is why IBM has established and shared principles by which it develops and builds these networks. With years of experience and research behind us, and the benefit of established live networks advancing, we know what a trusted and transparent enterprise blockchain should truly look like. These networks are designed from the ground up to deliver real business value, to be equitable to all participants, and promote open innovation and collaboration. Our work is influenced by five key principles: open is better; permissioned doesn’t mean private; governance is a team sport; common standards are common sense; and privacy is paramount.
Building on these guiding principles, IBM is moving the market well beyond blockchain tourism. We are looking beyond today’s implementations to a future where blockchain technologies enable new networks of networks while helping reimagine the way economies, governments and corporations work together. It’s an exciting time for blockchain innovation.
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