Crypto winter, which has produced a massive market correction on bitcoin and other cryptocurrency prices, may now extend the big chill on blockchain as well. Beyond the rather convenient management consulting dismissals that blockchain hype has slipped into the valley of disillusionment, the world’s most resilient technology may face its first serious technological challenge with IBM’s announcement of commercially ready quantum computing.

While blockchain and distributed ledger technologies come in many shapes and sizes, proponents of the bitcoin blockchain and other public ledgers have long advocated for the property of resilience by design. Some going as far as claiming that the bitcoin blockchain is unhackable by today’s technological standards, due in no small measure to the distributed, encrypted and consensus-driven mechanisms that require broad agreement among many systems to ledger a transaction. This “hardened” posture of blockchain has up until now and by today’s technological standards proven to be very resilient indeed. One study claimed that to hack the bitcoin blockchain was as likely as winning the Powerball lottery 9 times consecutively. Those odds, which no betting person would wager on, have just received a considerable challenge with the advent commercially viable quantum competing as IBM introduces the first generation of the IBM Q System One – the q standing for qubit, which is the basic unit of quantum information.

The claims that true blockchains are unhackable or the more accurate designation hack resistant negates the reality that complex systems fail in complex ways. This much is true especially when you countenance an evolving cyber risk landscape that is propelled by Moore’s law, as much as the miniaturization and commercialization of quantum computing is now a market reality – and several years ahead of schedule at that. Does this mean that blockchain is immediately more vulnerable and that people’s crypto hoards now face an additional peril beyond the ever-present risks in the space? The answer is a cautious no, at least for now.

Any would-be exploit of true blockchains or a large-scale crypto heist exploiting quantum computing, despite IBM’s announcement, can only be carried out by a nation state actor or a very determined enterprise with deep pockets and a lot of physical space. The 9 by 9 tower encasing IBM’s quantum computer hearkens to the mainframes of the early days of computing, which filled entire rooms. But as a first foray into the democratization of quantum computing, IBM has made a considerable first move. This first version will of course continue to evolve apace with technological advancements and market adoption, which will then imply further miniaturization and, hence, proliferation of the computing power necessary to fall into nefarious hands. When this occurs, which may be as soon as 2020, true blockchain projects and large crypto nest eggs in the hands of even the most cyber mature digital asset custodians may face a hitherto unimaginable peril.

Just as 51% attacks where once considered improbable, the prospect of quantum computing power being arrayed against blockchain and the valuable treasures and truths they hold have now entered the realm of possibility, albeit remote. Blockchain technology, like cloud computing or that other foundational technology the internet before it, is very much in its infancy, despite bitcoin’s tenth anniversary. Serious players, including IBM and other technology majors, are also evolving with blockchain and, critically, their management understanding of the underlying technology and how it can impact core functions of their business and the economy overall. To this end, blockchain’s evolution, efficiency and security are also not constants, but evolving at the rate of technology innovation as well.

One crucial item to remember about blockchain, like all other technologies in the digital transformation toolbox, is that it is not to be used in isolation or as a constant, no matter how permanent data may be on its records. Like the migration to cloud computing, which is a largely uninsured and risk-prone option, blockchain and advanced technologies are infinitely better and safer than many of the legacy, honey pot systems and databases used today. These very legacy systems are easily broken by low-cost high-impact social engineering, phishing and targeted whaling scams, cyber extortion and comparatively unsophisticated ransomware attacks that do not require millions spent on quantum computing. So, despite IBM’s impressive foray into leveling the quantum computing playing field, blockchain advocates and digital change leaders need not worry for now. They likely face greater risk from project selection and execution in educating their board rooms than from technological vulnerabilities.

*This post is credited to Forbes

The first and most dominant application of blockchain technology is cryptocurrency. However, this isn’t the only application of the technology. Blockchain technology can be used as an organizational tool. Even if it is still in its early stages, many organizations and people are already exploring the possible benefits of the technology. Recently, a survey conducted in the IBM Institute for Oxford Economics and Business Value showed that 62% of executives in the automotive industry believe that blockchain technology will have a disruptive effect in the automotive industry in the next few years.
Blockchain Technology In The Automotive Industry
While the research showed that there are many opportunities presented by blockchain technology, it also stated that just a small percentage of suppliers and OEMs are ready to apply blockchain technology. Very few of them have an accurate understanding of blockchain solutions in the commercial sector.
Companies like Tesla and other emerging electric software-laden companies have proven that the automobile industry is ready for disruptive innovation. While the common disruptions are in the manufacturing of vehicles, the blockchain technology has made some other behind the scene disruption possible in the automotive industry.
In the automotive industry, blockchain technology can be applied in things like mobility, supply chain and finance. It can be used to track part distribution and aftersales. Dirk Wollschlaeger, Ben Stanley, and Matthew Jones the authors of the study stated:
“Right now, part traceability during the lifecycle of a vehicle is limited. This is why it’s easy to add counterfeit parts to the mix. Some service centers use counterfeit parts. By implementing blockchain technology, we will solve many of the issues surrounding recalls, consumer safety and fake products.”
The report continued:
“Blockchain technology can also improve operational efficiencies in areas like authentication access, financial transactions between parties involved, loyalty, and customer experience. Blockchain will change the way business is done for the better.”
According to the report, 54% of executives in the industry expect that new business models are going to influence investments in blockchain technology. 51% of suppliers and 39% of OEMs only had little knowledge of blockchain organizational strategies. Even at this, it is too early to start counting successes. The authors continued:
“Many of the executives who participated in the study do not have a general understanding of a functional organizational blockchain strategies.”
Another aspect of the development of blockchain technology is skill. The study showed that there is a shortage of skills in the industry. About 42% of suppliers and 37% of OEMs said that shortage of skill is one of the factors that have hindered the adoption of blockchain technology. The more blockchain technology gets applied in different industries, the greater the need for skilled individuals will be. These skilled individuals will be responsible for putting the technology in motion.
During a recent study, LinkedIn estimated that blockchain jobs are the fastest growing jobs in the world over the past 5 years. It showed that there has been a 33x growth in the need for positions related to blockchain technology, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Skills related to Ethereum, blockchain, cryptocurrency, solidity, Node.js, etc. Professionals and executives who intend to build on blockchain will need to deal with many of the concerns before they can enjoy the benefits of blockchain technology.
*This post is credited to Smartereum

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) has partnered with IBM to pilot blockchain-based transaction management for its commodities right from the oil wells through to its end customers.

The automated, blockchain-based, system will encompass oil and gas production management for ADNOC’s entire value chain including tracking, validating, and executing, transactions.

As with many blockchain pilots, this one is also expected to increase efficiencies and provide greater stakeholder transparency.  A key differential, however, is this pilot’s application to the entire oil and gas lifecycle where other industry pilots have focused on key parts of commodity supply chains, like trade and post-trade processes. ADNOC plans to incorporate customers and investors in the platform at a later date.

Zahid Habib, IBM’s vice president of chemicals and petroleum solutions says:

“With this pilot, ADNOC takes a massive leap forward in asset provenance and asset financials, which, in its simplest terms, enables the ability to track irrefutably, every molecule of oil, and its value, from well to customer.”

The ADNOC pilot will track the quantity and financial value of oil through its journey from well to refinery and then to export. The blockchain application will also cover gas, condensates, natural gas liquids, and sulphur.

First Application of Blockchain-Based Oil and Gas Accounting

The project was announced at the recent World Energy Capital Assembly held in London, UK. Calling blockchain technology a “game-changer,” ADNOC’s digital unit manager Abdul Nasser Al Mughairbi says blockchain could:

“Substantially reduce our operating costs by eliminating time-consuming and labor-intensive processes, strengthen the marketing and trading of our products, and create long-term sustainable value.”

Al Mughairbi believes the blockchain pilot is:

“The first application of Blockchain in oil and gas production accounting anywhere in the world. It demonstrates how ADNOC is leveraging innovative partnerships to unleash the power of technology and creative thinking to enhance efficiencies and deliver greater performance.”

BP and Shell’s blockchain-based oil trading platform, Vakt, went live in late November 2018. The consortium also includes Gunvor Group, Equinor, Koch Supply and Trading, and Mercuria Energy Group as well as banking partners Societe Generale, ING, and ABN Amro.

The Vakt platform focuses on commodity management from trade entry to final settlement. It is being launched privately with key members of the consortium, before being opened to a wider market in January 2019. Vakt plans to also deliver financing management by linking with another development in the space, the “Komgo” blockchain platform, later.

*This post is credited to CCN

Jesse Lund is the Head of Blockchain Solutions, Financial Services at IBM. He leads IBM’s blockchain market development, digital currency strategy, solutions engineering and client engagement for banking and financial services. And he has this to say about banks and crypto:

“Good things take time friends.

This is about disrupting (reforming) financial services by the people, for the people…

And bank charters aren’t as easy to get these days!

Give them time; focus on the current buying opportunity, like most of the banks are quietly doing ;-)”

2 more days to buy TradingView with 60% off
If this was some anonymous “crypto bull, crypto dog, crypto worm” etc from Twitter, it wouldn’t be worth mentioning. However, Lund is a high level executive of a company with more than 100 years of tradition. He is also more informed about the moves of big banks and financial institutions than most of crypto personalities you see on Twitter or YouTube so this provides at least some alleviation to the bear inflicted, throbbing wounds of crypto holders.

IBM has been working with the stellar project since last October, indicating in March that it is interested in expanding the business applications of cryptocurrencies.

Jesse is a big proponent of blockchain and considers it to be at the same level of importance as the internet itself. Here are some of his most interesting quotes on the industry:

I think Blockchain is to finance (and global commerce) what email was to communications– both are protocols that ride on the Internet. There is a project under Hyperledger called Quilt that is an adaptation of the Ripple ILP specification for inter-ledger coordination. Personally I think cross-ledger consensus coordination (i.e. allowing assets to live or move across multiple protocols) is really difficult. I think real time shadow entries might be a better near term approach. But I’m just a wanna be tech guy (aka the dumbest guy in the room at IBM). I’ll leave it to the big brains to figure out.

Simply stated, Blockchain allows for the globalization of peer-to-peer relationships in real time, which is to say, it removes intermediaries. In developing regions intermediaries can be bad actors, corrupt governments. To that end, whether its financial inclusion (bringing capital and financial services directly to emerging economies in remote villages) or enablement for sustainable development / fair distribution of resources, Blockchain offers a lot to combat the inefficiencies of intermediaries and reduce or eliminate corruption through better transparency.

His comments on the IBM and Stellar cooperation:

First and foremost, stellar-core is a scalable, secure, open source public DLT platform that aligns nicely to the IBM Blockchain platform strategy. It allows IBM to extend its vision for permissioned blockchain networks to support public accessibility. More specifically, Stellar allows IBM to create a permissioned public asset registry and token lifecycle management system that will enable many different use cases where IBM brings operational integrity and stability that most enterprises want. Regarding IBM’s future—I wouldn’t have left a really good job at a really good company (Wells Fargo) to come to IBM if I didn’t believe in IBM’s vision (or my ability to influence it 🙂 IBM’s perspective on cryptocurrency support, however, is still a work in progress and subject to more understanding from the lawyers and regulators.

*This post is credited to CaptainAltcoin

Ethereum’s co-founder doesn’t seem impressed with the IBM blockchain.

The company has been among the firms investing both money and mind power into blockchain, evidenced by a string of announcements over the last several months — in a drive to file scores of blockchain-related patents. In fact, IBM is tied with Mastercard for the second-highest tally of blockchain patents in 2017. The company said its blockchain platform has more than 400 clients, using Hyperledger Composer and Hyperledger Fabric. Among recent announcements, the company had a patent accepted to use blockchain for database management.

However, Co-founder Vitalik Buterin, who spoke with Quartz on the sidelines of Devcon4, isn’t thrilled with IBM’s moves.

“I don’t understand this deeply, but the detail that jumped out at me is they’re saying, ‘Hey, we own all the IP and this is basically our platform, and you’re getting on it.’ And like, that’s … totally not the point.”

IBM has also revealed it is working with Walmart to improve the latter’s food business supply chain.

“The potential value of tracking food on a blockchain is that you’d get QR codes stamped on the [food] at every step [along] the way, and you as a consumer can scan the code and get confirmation about ‘here is where the stuff came from.’ Like I can check if it complies with my own moral values or standards for quality and so forth,” explained Buterin. “There’s definitely something there, but whether or not any of the actors there are doing it remotely correctly, I’m much less sure,” he added.

As for which industries Buterin believes blockchain is most viable for, he said, “Cryptocurrencies and making international payments easier. All of the other ideas (whether we’re talking about products or the self-sovereign identity stuff), that’s clearly something that still needs much more time to be worked out before we can see [whether it] makes sense at scale.”

“Going beyond money, I think the value is that you create a token and you immediately have access to wallets, multi-signature wallets, decentralized exchanges and just using it as collateral — all of this infrastructure that you wouldn’t have access to if you just created a currency and tried launching it off your own server,” he said. “I feel like actual utilities in the space are going to start getting closer to things that are more purely digital.”

*This post is credited to PYMNTS

Big tech is getting in on blockchain in a big way. Microsoft has launched a cloud-based blockchain development kit powered by Azure.

“This kit extends the capabilities of our blockchain developer templates and Azure Blockchain Workbench, which incorporates Azure services for key management, off-chain identity and data, monitoring, and messaging APIs into a reference architecture that can be used to rapidly build blockchain-based applications,” Microsoft blockchain engineering lead Marc Mercuri said.

The initial release will focus on three key themes: connecting interfaces, integrating data and systems, and deploying smart contracts and blockchain networks.

Among other things, Microsoft says the development kit will provide SMS and voice interfaces for tracking and supply chain solutions, integration with Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and support for mobile clients like Android and iOS. Indeed, Microsoft calls the kit an “end-to-end” blockchain solution.

The Redmond giant pointed out that its new offering will be compatible with a number of different ledger technologies, including Ethereum and Bitcoin.

To get developers off the ground, Microsoft has also prepared a white paper on how to use the kit to deploy decentralized applications.

Big Tech hopping on the blockchain bandwagon

Microsoft is hardly the only tech giant that’s made a foray into blockchain. IBM, Google, and Amazon recently launched similar development kits for blockchain businesses.

Previously, Microsoft has showcased various blockchain pilots, including one that aimed to curb spam calls in India and another one designed to help developers get paid (launched in collaboration with accounting firm EY).

The Redmond company is also working on a blockchain-powered system to manage identities.

It’ll be interesting to see what developers will think of its new blockchain development kit – and what projects they can build with it.

*This post is credited to Thenextweb

The Thai branch of U.S. global IT company IBM will promote blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) in order to turn the country into a major sales hub in the surrounding region, English-language daily news outlet The Bangkok Post reports Wednesday, Nov. 14.

According to the article, IBM is going to promote blockchain in collaboration with the country’s central bank, Bank of Thailand. A recent survey by IDC-IBM shows that global spending on blockchain will reach $9.7 billion by 2021.

Moreover, IBM is also discussing the possibility of blockchain education in local schools and universities, aiming to provide enough member of the workforce for the industry in the nearest future.

IBM concurrently plans to use Watson AI, a computer system equipped with AI and capable of answering questions by using its database, to find insights for different areas in the country, such as retail, education, finance, business, and energy.

Thai officials have recently started applying blockchain in different areas. In early October,  the Thai Ministry of Commerce revealed it started conducting feasibility studies on the use of blockchain in copyright, agriculture, and trade finance. And later in November, the local Revenue Department announced its plans to track tax payments using blockchain and maсhine learning.

As Cointelegraph previously reported, IBM is also actively promoting blockchain technology, elaborating decentralized solutions for different areas in numerous patents. In late August, the number of patents filed by IBM comprised 89, which made the U.S. corporation one of the biggest players in the area, surpassed only by China’s Alibaba with its 90 applications.

IBM has filed several more blockchain-related patents since then, including patents for a blockchain-driven platform for scientific research and another for the decentralized storage of trusted locations for augmented reality (AR) games.

*This post is credited to Cointelegraph

A patent application published Thursday claims the process of conducting scientific research can benefit from the blockchain.

Led by a team at IBM’s Watson Research Center, the patent application presents a vision for dynamic collaboration – one where researchers can track their work across institutional borders. It’s another non-financial application of the distributed-ledger technology, which IBM has championed in recent months.

This latest patent can be thought of as an elaborate software changelog, but for science. Or, as the filing puts it, a system that provides “a tamper resistant log of scientific research.”

From the filing:

“The blockchain system can form a blockchain representing a research project, wherein the blockchain comprises a first block of research data and a second block of analysis data representing a log of an analysis performed on the research data. Summary blocks and correction blocks can also be added to the blockchain representing the post analysis of the research results.”

The application – titled “Blockchain for Open Scientific Research” – was first filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in December 2017. IBM researchers Jae-wook Ahn, Maria Chang, Patrick Watson and Ravindranath Kokku are listed at inventors.

According to the patent, “currently, there are limited platforms that allow for sharing information about scientific research and showing transparent data collection and analysis steps. Platforms that do exist, lack the requisite controls and mechanisms to allow for trustworthy data, as there are few options for ensuring that data will be resistant to modification.”

IBM isn’t the only group working on applying distributed ledger technology to the scientific realm. A Berlin-based think tank, Blockchain for Science, held its first international conference earlier this week.

The blockchain-flavored patent is one of many for Big Blue. According to data published in September, IBM was behind only Chinese internet giant Alibaba in the number of blockchain-related patent filings. The 89 figure quoted at the time has certainly gone up in the past two months.

*This post is credited to Coindesk

S&P 500 executives are dropping blockchain buzzwords less on earnings calls and during presentations to analysts and investors. Analysts are also asking about it less.

Why it matters: The hype was just that. The odds of a company turning blockchain “headlines into reality” are slim, as Forrester Research predicts.

The prospect of incorporating blockchain technology or cryptocurrency into businesses excited investors and drove up share prices temporarily — just look at Kodak, beverage company Long Blockchain, or Hooters franchisee Chanticleer Holdings — so it’s no wonder executives wanted shareholders to know that they too might get in on the new technologies.

  • At the peak earlier this year, “blockchain” was mentioned 173 times, according to an analysis of company transcripts by Axios. The number has since fallen as much as 80%.
  • Bitcoin was never as popular. Dropping that word or “cryptocurrency” was most common in the first quarter of this year — with a mere 68 mentions.

Bitcoin can’t exist without blockchain, but one is clearly less controversial than the other. If you buy the way IBM sells it, the benefits of blockchain in business include “reduced time,” “decreased costs” and “alleviated risk.”

  • Cryptocurrency, meanwhile, has loud critics plus a reputation for volatile trading.

Two corporate examples:

  1. IBM, which is responsible for over 70 mentions of “blockchain” in the first quarter of 2017, is throwing a lot of cash at the technology, with a 1,500 blockchain-specific staff. It even recruited Walmart.
  2. Then there’s technology consulting company DXC Technology. Executives there dropped “blockchain” five times during a May earnings call, without offering any concrete plans of investment. The company hasn’t mentioned it in the two earnings calls it has held since then, and did not respond to a request for comment.

Yes, but: That doesn’t mean in all cases companies’ that bought into the blockchain or bitcoin hype haven’t followed through on their announcements.

*This post is credited to Axios

Singapore’s largest shipping operator – Pacific International Lines (PIL) – has entered into a collaboration with IBM to use blockchain technology to digitize the most vital of shipping documents, the Bill of Lading.

There are countless projects open around the world at varying stages of application and development that involve improving supply chain management processes by way of blockchain technology. This latest trial is no less significant given that the Bill of Lading is a crucial document in the shipping world. It acts as a conclusive proof of the goods having been loaded, evidences the terms of the contract of carriage and serves as a document of title to the goods.

It has been a physical document for centuries and it’s one which banks rely upon to facilitate trade financing. There are inefficiencies with this system in that the document needs to be mailed to the various stakeholders, original documentation may be lost and there’s a potential for fraud. Handling costs are implicated and it’s not the most time efficient system.

This has led to IBM & PIL collaborating to utilize blockchain technology to produce an Electronic Bill of Lading or E-BL. Executive Director of PIL, Lisa Teo, shared her thoughts on the development;

“As an international shipping company, we believe we have a role to play in enhancing efficiencies within the international transport logistics ecosystem. Working with a complex logistic network comprising ports and terminals, agencies, government entities, banks and shippers, systematic supply chain management is increasingly important to lower costs through the chain by cutting unnecessary expense, movements and handling.”

Teo also explained that using blockchain tech – and specifically a decentralized network – facilitates transparency in the process, eliminating potential for disputes and fraud, whilst cutting out the paperwork at the same time. She clarifies that the supply chain slows when so many points of communication have to be acknowledged in a manual, paper-based system – and that an E-BL over blockchain reduces the friction.

In November, the extent of the initiative will be broadened to shadow a shipment in real time – end-to-end. The ultimate objective over time is to facilitate an integrated blockchain based system over the entire course of the supply chain.

The collaboration is being supported by Singapore Customs, Singapore Shipping Association, Bank of China (Singapore) and the Port Authority of Singapore. This E-BL initiative follows on from a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by IBM Singapore and PIL in August 2017.

There have been a number of collaborations to investigate, trial and deploy blockchain based solutions in the shipping industry in recent times. Rival international container shipping company, Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) carried out a similar trial of blockchain technology last year. Earlier this year, shipping giant Maersk indicted they were going to form a joint venture with IBM with the objective of creating a blockchain based platform for the shipping industry and extended supply chain. The end to end electronic supply chain system will be deployed using Hyperledger Fabric.

It seems that all of the major shipping companies have been making efforts at deploying one blockchain-based solution or another. This led to shipping companies Hapag Lloyd and CMA CGM to call for one standard system – the point being that deploying multiple systems in international shipping would be unworkable in terms of regulatory governance. Furthermore, it would just add to the cost and complexity as someone would have to build systems to integrate them.

There’s no doubt that there is a lot of activity globally in terms of open blockchain-based projects looking to reduce friction and costs and provide transparency in various supply chain processes. This work is ongoing and whilst there have been some real world deployments, we have not yet arrived at a matured and consolidated application of the technology. However, the fundamentals for the application of the technology appear to be sound, and it’s only a matter of time before blockchain-based applications become an integral part of the supply chain process.

*This post is credited to The Bitcoin Mag