IBM has undertaken the development of blockchain in style. According to a recent article published by CNNTech, Big Blue currently has 1500 employees working on more than 500 blockchain projects worldwide. Unlike many companies that have recently entered the blockchain development game, IBM has been working on blockchain-based platforms for years.
With that number of irons in the fire, IBM is clearly developing platforms for many applications. IBM sees financial services, health care and logistics as the most promising sectors for blockchain. Although IBM has a track record of innovation, it has also struggled to translate the new technology into commercial successes.
Josh Olson, who is an analyst with Edward Jones, has commented to CNN about the challenges IBM faces in the technology market.
"Historically we have seen IBM invest in early technology with some initial promises, but then have had difficulty marketing good technologies or large-scale innovations."
He went on to cite IBM's Watson supercomputing program as proof of their inability to commercialize an innovative platform, but IBM sees the blockchain as much easier to translate into real-world success.
IBM is selling Blockchain today
Innovation is one thing and converting potential customers into your platform is another. IBM recently announced that its Blockchain-based TradeLens logistics platform has subscribed to more than 90 customers and is currently adding more than a million events to the ledger on a daily basis.
IBM has expanded the way TradeLens is helping a number of companies replace an archaic system that limits efficiency through a press release,
"During the 12-month trial, Maersk and IBM have collaborated with dozens of ecosystem partners to identify opportunities to prevent delays caused by documentation errors, information delays and other impediments – one example showed how TradeLens can reduce the transit time of a shipment of packaging materials by 40% in a production line in United States, avoiding thousands of dollars in costs. "
Unlike their Watson program, TradeLens had no trouble finding potential business customers. According to the same press release,
"PSA Singapore, International Container Terminal Services Inc., Patrick Terminals, modern terminals in Hong Kong, Halifax Port, Rotterdam Port, Bilbao Port, PortConnect and PortBase,"
has joined a list of more than 230 logistical gateways in the adoption of TradeLens for daily use.
Blockchain is useful right now
Blockchain has been called a bubble by many experienced investors and insiders. While the industry as a whole is probably overheated, IBM is demonstrating why blockchain technology is here to stay. Not all of the blockchain programs that IBM is developing have had the success of TradeLens, and some programs may take longer to enter the market.
Bridget van Kralingen, SVP of IBM's industry platform group pointed out how Watson and blockchain really are.
"The Watsons (potential applications are) very complex and difficult," he told CNN, and continued: "I would say that the blockchain is much simpler because it's a process flow … We have learned a great deal lesson in the implementation of new technologies: ease of use has become a very important part of adoption. "
Ease of use is an area where the blockchain seems to be second to none. Unlike complex paper systems that do not have centralized access, blockchain allows secure storage of data that can be easily shared with authorized parties. Blockchain not only creates new efficiencies, but also allows people to monetize information that otherwise would have been impossible to sell.
Another IBM blockchain is trying to develop "self-sovereign identity" technology, which allows people to have more control over their personal data. They collaborate with Hu-manity.co, which produces the app # My31. The app is available on iOS and Android mobile devices and implies that people must be entitled to their data. The thirty-first right to data ownership would be in addition to the 30 human rights that the United Nations already recognize.
Read: Putting personal identities on the Blockchain
The app # My31 tries to allow people to own all the data they create and monetize them as they see fit. Instead of just delivering the data that companies collect and then resell, IBM is apparently interested in allowing people to control access to their data track.
One of the potentially most profitable areas of the trade of sovereign data is clearly the health records, which could be used by researchers to conduct a meta-analysis guided by the AI of truly large amounts of human health data. For now the idea of the sale of personal data is a bit far, but with a large company involved, it could arrive on the market sooner rather than later.