A New Chain of Trust – Blockchain and Its Impact on Trustworthy Systems

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The Need for Trust

I remember when I first started learning about security and the concepts of CIA – Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability. At the heart of these concepts is trust. For us in IT, that means creating trusted systems that support our organization’s business processes.

Unfortunately, we have not really been able to achieve a level of true trust and integrity of these systems. My wife reminds me of this each month as she meticulously reconciles her bills against her bank and credit cards. She inevitably finds some mistake, usually not in her favor. You would think that banks, credit card companies and the merchants that use these institutions would strive for near perfect transactional integrity. While database and process technology can almost guarantee transactional integrity, the interfaces between people and different organizational systems are unable to meet that bar.

In fact, it’s the interfaces between businesses and organizations where most mistakes are made. Each interface represents an implied or implicit agreement or contract between the parties that often stretches far beyond the view of any individual or organization. Unlike my wife, most of us just trust the system and accept the infrequent errors that occur when transacting in a complex world. After all, you’re probably like me – most of us don’t have time to reconcile our accounts. I trust that if the error is large I’ll probably notice. Unfortunately, she has proven me wrong. And over time, these inconsistencies add up in someone else’s favor. 

Wouldn’t it be great if we had a better and more secure system of trust?

Enter Blockchain

Blockchain may well be the answer to establishing true transactional integrity and trust. Blockchain is being touted as potentially not only the next technological trend, but also the next big socioeconomic disruptor. Why? Because blockchain has the power to disintermediate the intermediaries and ensure the integrity of social and economic agreements and contracts. Blockchain will reduce the number of intermediaries within our organizational and economic ecosystems, which in and of itself will lower the cost of doing business and increase accuracy. Fewer middlemen mean fewer places where things can go wrong. The application of blockchain to long-standing challenges will allow us to address operational and economic inefficiencies.

Real World Example

Like many people, I love peaches, but I react to the chemicals used by many growers. So how can I make sure that a peach is actually organic and free from any unnecessary additives? Blockchain can enable the process by which we can validate the authenticity of the peach we are about to consume.

Each step of the way that peach will be traced from the grower, distributor and then the grocer – all the way to your mouth. This allows consumers to use an application to view the immutable chain of custody and all the claims (for example, organic) made along the way. WAIT – You call Yahtzee on this idea! A data record is only as good as the input you say – garbage in, garbage out. Yes, that’s true, but what’s really interesting when it comes to Blockchain is a convergence of technologies that will ensure the integrity of the chained process – in this case, the growing and manufacturing of a peach. And that’s where the Internet of Things (IoT) comes into the picture.

With the advent of IoT technologies integrated into the process, along with the use of Blockchain, we can test and validate the assumptions of the chained records which is another valuable feature of blockchain technology. By placing sensors along the supply chain path in the growing and distribution of the peach, we can ensure and validate that your peach is free from unwanted chemicals and it has been kept safe just the way you like it all along the growing and distribution process.

IBM Blockchain and Watson IoT

This week, IBM announced just such a partnership with major food growers, distributors and merchants http://cnb.cx/2wAEfi7. Working with large manufacturers and distributors, like Walmart, Nestle, and Unilever, these companies are poised to change the way food and good are tracked and trusted. This new approach will limit the chances you get a bad peach and help the companies track contamination or product defects to exactly where the problem occurred. As you can imagine, this will impact the entire process of manufacturing not to mention legal liability, supplier management and the financial side of all the businesses that participate in this blockchain ecosystem.

The automation of processes like those described will require new validation approach, which will accelerate the adoption of powerful IoT based sensors to collect the data throughout the chain of events – from growing all the way to consuming. IBM Watson IoT platform can play a big role in that process by automating the management of devices to collecting and integrating that data into the blockchain validation process https://ibm.co/2mNDRHI.

In addition, IBM is uniquely positioned to manage the massive amounts of data that will be generated as these new blockchain business ecosystems are established. Managing and manipulating massive amounts of big data generated by the collection of sensor data and the blockchain validation process will require an integrated data platform. IBM has developed the Watson Data Platform with just this challenge in mind https://ibm.co/2reqLmN. Developers no longer need to code big data solutions and play with ever changing open source solutions – IBM Watson Data Platform will provide the platform that will automate big data solutions while maintaining openness by integrating your favorite tools. This allows developers to focus on developing solutions to business challenges and avoid the frustration of open source tool chain integration. Watson Data Platform has already done that for you.

These technologies and the tools are a reality today. It’s time to rethink how we conduct our government business and missions by integrating Blockchain technology into our systems and partnerships to ensure they meet the principles of Confidentiality, Integrity and Availability – to become truly trustworthy!

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