How blockchain technology can help improve everyday life

At Interac Corp., a leading provider of payment services in Canada, we’ve discovered that blockchain for business can improve everyday life.

Consider that blockchain’s promise lies in its ability to weave together networks of previously independent people, organizations and industries to create new value chains. These can help to transform business models, deliver new customer services and even encourage behavior that furthers the social good.

I say this with confidence because with our partners Alectra Utilities Corp. and IBM, Interac is testing a blockchain solution that is likely to achieve these goals. I’d like to share our story.

Creating new value

Partnership runs deep within Interac’s DNA. You could describe our company as an interoperability layer among a partner network of consumers, merchants, banks, the government and other payment stakeholders. That’s why we wanted to discover whether blockchain could help us create value by augmenting our network with partners outside financial services.

For assistance, we turned to IBM Services because of its blockchain expertise and its global leadership position. In particular, we hoped that IBM could help identify complementary blockchain partners.

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Around this time, Alectra, a Canadian utility serving one million customers, was working to transform its business in response to customers investing in solar panels, storage batteries and deferred usage strategies. These distributed energy sources change the grid from a one-way street to a two-way exchange of energy and information, as customers not only consume power but return it to the utility.

To adapt to this reality, Alectra sought to develop a marketplace that would offer energy trading customers more flexible compensation than just a credit on their electric bill. This, however, required a network partner in financial services. IBM brought us together and we immediately began developing a blockchain solution that is now in the proof-of-concept phase. The early returns are so promising that we will soon roll it out more broadly.

Weaving a network of networks

Our marketplace stitches together a network ecosystem that includes Alectra and its customers who own energy appliances, a range of smart power meters, a regional utility regulator, the IBM Blockchain Platform and Interac’s financial network. By providing a single, permanent ledger that is trusted across the network, blockchain enables energy transactions to be settled and digital assets exchanged among all stakeholders.

Here’s how the solution works: Alectra’s customers who trade energy to the grid are compensated with an energy credit. Interac’s network tokenizes that value, which customers can spend directly amongst over 500,000 merchants in our network. The solution also enables Alectra to issue incentives that motivate customers toward energy conservation and other desirable behavior.

Although Alectra’s and Interac’s networks each provide valuable solo capabilities, their combination under blockchain creates new value by making the grid more resilient, offering customers new choices and reducing the grid’s carbon footprint. It’s a perfect example of blockchain’s potential to change people’s behavior for the greater good.

Watch Interac’s Oscar Roque discuss blockchain’s potential for energy trading: