Throughout 2018 the cryptocurrency world has been in something of a tailspin. Billions of dollars in investor capital have evaporated, with Bitcoin itself losing over 70% of its value. Within the industry, there's little consensus as to where the bottom of the market will ultimately be, and the uncertainty is calling the long term viability of cryptocurrencies into question.
The one bright spot, if there is one to be found, is the fact that the blockchain – which undergirds all cryptocurrencies – is continuing to garner plenty of interest as a revolutionary, adaptable tool by industries of all kinds. IBM, in particular, has helped lead the way in blockchain development over the past year. The company has approximately 1600 employees focused on developing new blockchain-powered platforms and use cases, many of which are already beginning to bear fruit. Here's a look at IBM's blockchain platform and two major projects, which could have broad and revolutionary implications for the industries they're meant to serve.
IBM Hyperledger Fabric
IBM's blockchain projects build upon an open-source implementation of blockchain known as Hyperledger, which is hosted by the Linux Foundation. The core of the code contributed by IBM is known as Hyperledger Fabric, which is a modular blockchain system aimed at enterprise-grade use as a secure data storage and authentication system. Unlike many other blockchain platforms, Hyperledger Fabric is permissioned, meaning that it supports multi-tiered access. That enables the use of conditional data access based upon permission level, making the system suitable for multi-company sharing. It's also built for speed and is capable of more than 1000 transactions per second, which compares quite favorably to other commercial blockchain platforms. All together, Hyperledger Fabric is a blockchain system built with business use cases in mind, and provides a solid foundation upon which to build customized applications – and that's just what IBM has been doing.
IBM Food Trust
One of the most visible blockchain projects IBM's been working on to date is their IBM Food Trust platform. It is a blockchain-based system that enables end-to-end tracing of food products in the global supply chain in real time. The idea behind the project is to provide a shared platform that all food supply chain participants can access to keep up-to-the-minute track of products – beginning on farms and in manufacturing facilities, all the way to the retail point of sale. In October of 2018, the platform emerged from testing and is now open to use all around the world for food industry businesses that choose to implement it. With big name players like Walmart in the fold, it seems that IBM's fledgling platform will be off to a great start in 2019 and beyond, and could go a long way towards assuring the safety and security of food products for sale in retail outlets.
ADNOC Energy Accounting
Another IBM blockchain project that looks to be a potential game changer is their collaboration with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC). The recently implemented system will allow the state energy company to automate the transactions that occur between its subsidiary companies and streamline their internal accounting processes. In a commodity industry, that's no easy task, since the associated values for the products traversing the supply chain can change on a regular basis. That's why the system is expected to save the company untold millions in labor and related costs with no reduction in the quality or transparency of their asset accounting. The project is especially significant because it will represent a real-world accounting use case in a high-frequency environment, which could bode well for future blockchain implementations in everything from stock markets down to small business accounting systems.
All of the energy and resources that IBM has been devoting to blockchain development are helping Big Blue to establish itself as a technology leader in the space, at a time when other tech companies remain cautious about the future of blockchain. If the projects detailed here and the others that IBM has in the pipeline prove successful, IBM will be well positioned to lead yet another technology revolution, as it has so many times in its illustrious history. Altogether, it's a promising and forward-thinking initiative from one of tech's oldest companies that could have a transformative effect on a variety of markets that should make IBM's customers, investors, and fans very happy.