IBM thinks blockchain is the future of transactions for multiple industries

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Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies haven't had the revolutionary effect on the finance industry some proponents were hoping for. However, several organizations are finding one of the core components behind the technology – the blockchain – to have a bevy of use cases elsewhere in the enterprise.

The Linux Foundation announced last week its founding class of 30 organizations in its Hyperledger Project to advance the technology. With that nonprofit at the helm, the Hyperledger technology will be open-source and accessible to enterprises big and small. Now, IBM is talking about ways that blockchain technology might be useful to enterprises. 

For Bitcoin, the blockchain is a distributed ledger that allows users around the world to keep track of all Bitcoin transactions, regardless of their personal stake in any activity. It's basically crowdsourcing a log of all transfers.

Blockchain technology could face a similar arms race that IoT standards has seen over the last few years, as the Linux Foundation is not the first to jump in. Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation, said in the nonprofit's press release that its structure will allow many separate companies to come together and build out a platform much more efficiently than even the largest company could execute on its own.

"The Hyperledger Project has ramped up incredibly fast, a testament to how much pent-up interest, potential and enterprise demand there is for a cross-industry open standard for distributed ledgers," Zemlin said.

IBM, one of the 30 founding members, further announced Tuesday some specific use cases it wants to see the blockchain technology extended to. Big Blue also announced new blockchain services on the IBM cloud to create, deploy, run and monitor blockchain applications. The services are accessible through Bluemix, and the company said apps could even access existing transactions through APIs.

While the financial applications are clear – likely the reason a good chunk of companies in the Hyperledger Project are financial companies – IBM points to some other transactional uses. The company said a blockchain platform combined with the Internet of Things could help during a transfer of goods to keep tabs along the process to ensure contractual compliance.

"For example, as an IoT-connected package moves along multiple distribution points, the package location and temperature information could be updated on a blockchain," read IBM's press release. "This allows all parties to share information and status of the package as it moves among multiple parties to ensure the terms of a contract are met."

For its part in the Hyperledger Project, IBM said it has made available 44,000 lines of code through the Linux Foundation and will look to open accelerators for the technology in London, New York, Singapore and Tokyo.

For more:
- read the press release from IBM
- read the press release from the Linux Foundation last week

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