IBM is utilizing blockchain technology to solve some of the most complex business problems related to supply chain transparency and trust in open environments. Built on Hyperledger Fabric, their Blockchain Platform offers agility and value to businesses of all sizes.
International Business Machines, or IBM, was formed in New York in 1924. Today, IBM has operations in more than 175 countries with over 375,000 employees. Throughout the years IBM has continuously focused its business operations towards high-value and more lucrative markets.
As one of its latest developments, IBM has entered the world of blockchain. The company is actively contributing to Hyperledger, an umbrella project led by the Linux Foundation that promotes open-source blockchain. Hyperledger has several distributed ledger technology frameworks, and IBM leads the Hyperledger Fabric framework.
Read on to find out more about the role of blockchain in IBM business, the IBM Blockchain Platform, IBM Blockchain solutions for healthcare, life sciences, supply chains, the financial industry, and identity management, and some of the most successful client stories.
IBM and blockchain – a little bit of history
IBM got involved with blockchain and established itself as a leader in this field from the time of the first mass adoption of blockchain for applications other than Bitcoin. As one of the earliest contributors to the Hyperledger project, IBM joined with other organizations to form one of the main Hyperledger DLTs, Hyperledger Fabric. This DLT is mainly based on IBM’s OpenBlockchain, and IBM still remains the most active contributor to this open-source framework. IBM has adopted Hyperledger Fabric and now offers enterprise-grade DLT with privacy support as a service to its customers.
Through the introduction of IBM Blockchain, the company has solved some of the toughest industry-specific problems such as increasing transparency in supply chains and preserving privacy in healthcare. IBM has also implemented thousands of end-to-end solutions using blockchain technology.
Until recently, blockchain has concerned IT managers because the benefits, drawbacks, and general operating principles of the new decentralized system have not been fully tested. In 2020, IBM contributed to the resolution of many concerns by driving its business operations towards bringing blockchain closer to enterprise users and making its value clear in network applications that need trust and transparency to operate. IBM has shown that blockchain is becoming a critical acceleration tool for digital transformation.
IBM’s operations during 2020/21 coincided with various organizational needs due to the global pandemic. Supply chain disruptions re-emphasized the need for more transparent and visible logistics. IBM contributed to the resolution of such needs for medical equipment and supply by releasing their Rapid Supplier Connect. Powered by IBM’s blockchain platform, this solution helped US and Canada’s healthcare organizations and government agencies quickly find and onboard additional suppliers of medical equipment in times of need.
More recently IBM has been helping the government reinstall social operations through “new normal” regulations and tools. IBM launched Digital Health Pass, a tool that allows people to securely verify their health status before attending an event or crossing a border. An IBM-led consortium has secured a project with the German government to extend this solution to include vaccination evidence. The solution uses the IBM blockchain platform as a backend while the health pass is presented to the user as an encrypted digital wallet on their smartphones with full control over what they share and with whom.
IBM’s long-term relationships with financial institutions have been enhanced recently thanks to blockchain-based solutions. For example, the company has helped the Bank of Thailand launch the world’s first blockchain-based government savings bond.
IBM Blockchain: overview
The IBM Blockchain Platform is a full-stack, managed blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) offering. The platform can be deployed on-premise, on IBM Cloud, or on any other single cloud or multi-cloud hybrid solution. Multiple deployment options (OpenShift, Kubernetes) and containerization options build on the versatility of the platform.
The IBM Blockchain Platform offers many possibilities for blockchain network development, operation, governance, and expansion. One of the biggest advantages of the IBM Blockchain Platform is the simplicity it provides in creating and managing blockchain networks, channels, and smart contracts.
In addition, the platform gives opportunities to grow blockchain networks by inviting new members, creating new channels, customizing policies, and managing the identity credentials of new network participants.
IBM Blockchain Platform is founded on three main principles, which are also the main benefits of the platform: data finality, trust through transparency, and network privacy.
The data finality principle is based on the blockchain’s property of immutability. Once committed, blockchain ledger data cannot be altered or removed. The only way to update data on the ledger is through a new transaction that must be verified and validated through established consensus.
On IBM Blockchain Platform, all of the participants are known to other participants and are identifiable by them. This principle guarantees transparency and the building of distributed trust within a known business network. The principle also simplifies the fulfillment of regulatory requirements that dictate that certain information in a network is known (KYC). Thanks to the transparency principle, the blockchains on IBM’s platform do not require mining and inherently result in much faster transaction processing.
IBM Blockchain Platform can guarantee the privacy of transactions and transaction data. Privacy on the platform is enabled using dedicated channels, private databases, and zero-knowledge-proof technology. Channels allow the exchange of information in an isolated way so it’s not presented to the entire network but only to selected participants. Private databases store sensitive private data alongside the ledger data. Finally, zero-knowledge-proof technology enables the verification of information validity without revealing the information itself.
IBM Blockchain and Hyperledger Fabric
Hyperledger Fabric as a core underlying technology of IBM Blockchain Platform provides critical features that allow the building of reliable permissioned blockchain networks. The platform is intended for businesses of all sizes, large or small.
Through its modular architecture, Hyperledger Fabric allows the implementation of a variety of cryptographic algorithms, identity schemes, consensus protocols, smart contracts, and other features of blockchain. As such, Hyperledger Fabric provides a solid foundation for decentralized business networks.
IBM Blockchain solutions: health and life sciences
IBM Blockchain solutions for healthcare and life sciences focus mainly on the promotion of critical privacy, interoperability, and traceability principles. During the pandemic, healthcare systems have faced new challenges, especially related to the adaptation of existing supply channels to meet the rising demand for medical supplies, drugs, and life-supporting equipment. IBM is offering blockchain solutions to organizations, companies, and governments for better vaccination management and pandemic containment.
After the news about the success of the COVID-19 vaccine trials, the world is now facing the problem of how to distribute the vaccine effectively. A solution to this problem will have a huge impact on billions of people around the world.
Recent studies show that 3 out of 4 people in the US have concerns over the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. These concerns can be addressed through developing fast last-mile logistics and accountability for the vaccine and guaranteeing the transparency of the distribution system.
Blockchain solutions for healthcare logistics are the most suitable match for the task at hand. IBM is utilizing its blockchain platform to allow manufacturers to proactively monitor the lifetime of the vaccine and improve their recall processes when necessary. The blockchain solution by IBM offers real-time visibility into the supply chain and the ability to respond to its disruption. It also allows for easy and safe inventory management. Overall, the blockchain-based solution is helping society regain confidence in the vaccine.
The main benefits of the IBM Blockchain solution for vaccine distribution are real-time visibility, reduced risk, and safety assurance. Real-time visibility allows full insight into operations and the chain of custody starting at the manufacturing facility and extending right up to the administration of the drug at the consumption facility. The solution offers reduced risk through preemptive detection of any disruption in supply chain operations. The solution realizes this benefit through the proactive notification of involved parties about disruptions, adverse reactions, counterfeiting and fraud, and spoilage of the vaccine. Safety assurance benefits are delivered through environmental monitoring of the transportation and storage conditions of the vaccine. In addition, the solution offers traceability across the supply chain, which helps to build trust.
IBM is collaborating with Moderna on this solution. As well as blockchain, these two companies are exploring the application of AI and hybrid cloud services to deliver more effective management of the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain and sharing of distribution data.
Next to the effective delivery of vaccines as part of the fight against the global pandemic, organizations and businesses are seeking solutions that will enable the secure sharing of vaccination or test data. This is especially true for organizations that gather employees, visitors, or customers in large groups. They are seeking methods to create verifiable health credentials while preserving individual privacy.
IBM’s Digital Healthpass is a mobile passport that allows the verification of individuals’ health credentials related to the COVID-19 vaccine, tests, and other data. Healthpass is advertised as a smart way to return to society, as it has been designed to safely bring people back to a physical location during COVID-19.
Healthpass works on the privacy-first principle, and is built on the well-established blockchain infrastructure that allows users to maintain control of their personal health information while sharing it in a secure, verifiable, and trusted way.
IBM Blockchain solutions: supply chain
IBM offers blockchain-based solutions for supply chains that allow the sharing of data in a visible and trusted way. IBM Blockchain solutions for supply chains are permissioned blockchain solutions that guarantee product authenticity, responsible sourcing, and better visibility to minimize disputes.
IBM Transparent Supply is a blockchain-based solution that enables companies to collaborate securely and participate in a data-sharing ecosystem with their supply chain partners. Transparent Supply connects approved participants to the shared and distributed blockchain network providing an ultimate reference for data and documents regarding the products and equipment moving in the supply chain.
The participants of the Transparent Supply network can add data and documents to the blockchain and control the visibility of that data to participants. Once the data is in the blockchain, it cannot be manipulated, altered, or removed. These blockchain properties make Trusted Supply a reliable platform for secure data sharing between multiple companies, preventing counterfeiting and fraud. The solution offers the participants full visibility of the movement of products from production to consumption.
IBM Food Trust connects farmers, wholesalers, retailers, distributors, and end-customers in a network built on trust and transparency. IBM’s Food Trust enhances the visibility of food production and its movement through the supply chain. The solution is built on IBM Blockchain and connects network participants through permissioned, immutable, and shared records of food provenance, transaction data, food processing details, and more.
Authorized users who participate in the network have access to the food supply chain data including complete movement history and current location of any food item along with other information such as certifications, tests, and ambient data. As such, the solution addresses the increased complexity in the industry and builds trust.
Trust Your Supplier (TYS)
As businesses depend on the reliable supply of goods and services, the reliability of suppliers has become a crucial factor for success. Finding a good and reliable supplier is a costly and time-consuming process. IBM delivers value to its customers in this area through its Trust Your Supplier (TYS) solution. TYS is a blockchain network that improves supplier qualification, validation, onboarding, and life cycle information management. The solution is a joint project between IBM and Chainyard.
Trust Your Supplier brings several large enterprises to the governance board. The board includes leaders from technology, telecoms, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, and logistics, such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, Cisco, GlaxoSmithKline, Lenovo, Nokia, Schneider Electric, and Vodafone.
The TYS solution moves the supplier onboarding process away from email and spreadsheets onto a secure blockchain infrastructure where suppliers can promote their services and securely share information with the participants of the TYS blockchain.
In 2018, together with Maersk, IBM introduced TradeLens, a blockchain-based shipping solution. TradeLens, in essence, is an open supply chain platform built on the blockchain that enables convenient and secure information sharing, allows for better collaboration across supply chains, and promotes transparent and efficient global trade.
By utilizing blockchain technology, IBM can provide a single shared view of the whole supply chain without endangering privacy or confidentiality. Participants on the platform such as shippers, freight forwarders, port and terminal operators, and customs authorities can interact with each other easily and efficiently. In addition to that, those with viewing rights will have access to the relevant shipping data and documents, as well as IoT sensor data about the conditions of the shipment throughout the journey.
The TradeLens ecosystem now includes direct integration with over 300 organizations. More than 42 million container shipments, 2.2 billion events, and 20 million published documents have already been tracked.
Thanks to modernized automated record-keeping and data exchange and simplified communication, TradeLens has huge potential to grow into an even bigger consortium of enterprises, organizations, and even government bodies.
IBM Blockchain solutions: financial industry and identity
In the finance industry, blockchain technology is the most effective way of facilitating secure transactions in a decentralized environment. Blockchain can also be utilized for non-monetary transactions involving sensitive data. IBM helps to implement many different solutions for the financial industry and for identity management.
Letter of guarantee
A letter of guarantee is a form of contract issued by a bank on behalf of its customers. The letter serves as a guarantee that the parties involved in the trade will receive payments from the bank if customers do not fulfill the terms of the agreement.
IBM uses blockchain technology to revolutionize the letter of guarantee process. IBM’s solution makes the letter of guarantee paperless, digital, and transparent, eliminating fraud and forgery attempts. The solution utilizes permissioned blockchains where each transaction is recorded in an immutable, auditable ledger that does not have a central authority.
IBM offers blockchain-based trade finance solutions. The we.trade platform enables network enhancements and accelerates trade globally. IBM is the platform creator as well as a shareholder, along with 12 other shareholders which include Deutsche Bank, Erste Group, HSBC, KBC, UBS, and UniCredit. we.trade is already one of the largest blockchain-driven trade networks in the world.
At its core, we.trade improves the lending process in trade finance, a service often sought by companies wanting to grow their business and expand into new markets. This platform will play a key role in post-pandemic economic recovery.
The blockchain-based solution to trade finance offers benefits to both lenders and their customers. Lenders can explore new and alternative revenue streams, able to offer their services to small and medium-sized enterprises that would normally trade using open accounts. Blockchain security offers greater visibility and control of transactions as well as speedier settlement and approval of transactions. On the other hand, companies wanting to borrow can access offers more readily than through traditional financing, have end-to-end visibility, and increase the speed of their operations through digitization.
As more and more data is exchanged online, sensitive personal information is often breached by cyberattacks on centralized ID management systems. IBM offers blockchain-based solutions that address the growing concerns around identity management in business environments.
The main problem with sharing credentials that unlock the doors to our private information is that these credentials end up in centralized databases that often fall victim to malicious cyberattacks. As a part of its identity management solutions, IBM offers the blockchain-based identity management system IBM Verify Credentials. This solution is based on the decentralized ledger that gives power to the credential owners to decide when, where and with whom they share their credentials. The blockchain plays a central role in these solutions because it eliminates the need for an intermediary identity provider.
Overview of 10 client success stories
Due to the many benefits offered by blockchains and the business-friendly approach of IBM, the IBM Blockchain Platform has many great success stories, and its client base keeps expanding. Here are ten of them.
Multinational grocery giant Carrefour is a European leader in food traceability. Carrefour leverages the IBM Food Trust platform to implement global traceability standards in its food supply chain. The blockchain solution allows for the quick, reliable, and insightful tracking of food products as they move through the supply chain from supply to processing, packaging and distribution until they reach the end customer. The Food Trust solution helps Carrefour guarantee that only the highest quality and best-preserved products reach the customer. In the case of any anomaly, the company can trace the problem back to its origin and take action regarding the supplier in a confident and verifiable manner.
Similar to Carrefour in the EU, Walmart in North America is utilizing the IBM Blockchain Platform to increase the traceability of food products. Walmart’s primary motivation is to prevent foodborne illness and minimize its impact if it does occur. Secure food traceability could help save lives by allowing companies like Walmart to act faster in times of emergency.
Decentralized food supply ecosystems based on Hyperledger Fabric performed well on two proof of concept projects. In one project concerning the tracing of pork products sold at its China stores, Walmart allowed the uploading of product certificates to the distributed ledger, a move which increased trust in a network that was seriously mistrusted. On a separate project involving the tracing of mangos, Walmart was able to prove provenance in seconds where previously it took days. Processing time actually fell from 7 days to 2.2 seconds.
In addition to this, Walmart even encouraged its suppliers to use IBM Blockchain to more accurately identify problems in the food chain and further protect customers from foodborne illnesses. Frank Yiannas, formerly Walmart’s Vice President for food safety and now the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, once remarked,
“Our customers deserve a more transparent supply chain. We felt the one-step-up and one-step-back model of food traceability was outdated for the 21st century. This is a smart, technology-supported move that will greatly benefit our customers and transform the food system, benefitting all stakeholders.”
North American telco AT&T is creating a series of blockchain-based solutions that utilize IBM technology. AT&T’s enterprise customers use these newly created solutions to automate and digitize their business operations. With blockchain-based technologies in place, companies can better track and manage information across silos in the manufacturing, retail, and healthcare industries. AT&T sets a very high priority on solving complex business problems with proven technologies while reducing costs and risks.
The company utilizes IBM’s blockchain infrastructure to track the lifecycle and quality of goods as they move throughout the supply chain. For their retail customers, AT&T utilizes blockchain to ensure the authenticity of its products while reducing delivery times and waste. In healthcare, their solutions allow for the secure sharing of patient records.
DoshEx revolutionized the business of one of the largest commercial and industrial painting service providers in South Africa. DoshEx utilizes blockchain to tackle exposed liabilities on construction sites. The company is primarily interested in improving its value chain by digitizing onsite access management, medical filing, and attendance record keeping. DoshEx implements this solution using IBM Blockchain and MultiCloud technologies.
The solution offers many advantages for the company. Most importantly it reduces safety risk and liability with an onsite biometric fingerprint system. It cuts the administrative burden by addressing corruption, mismanagement and inefficiency, and it also reduces labor costs through biometric clocking.
Persol Career Co.
Persol Career is among the largest employment service agencies in Japan. The company utilizes IBM Blockchain to implement a more efficient method of verifying the qualifications of job seekers. In Japan’s modern job landscape, employees have a wider variety of work experiences, so it is harder for HR professionals to verify the applicants’ credentials. At the same time, job seekers need a better way to update and share their CVs with selected employers. Persol utilizes IBM’s permissioned blockchain infrastructure to store, verify and share employees’ work history with their consortium of employers, HR agencies, and employee organizations. Using the same system, job seekers can share their work history to the blockchain, and HR personnel can search the network for qualified candidates. The blockchain-based solution increases the efficiency of employment procedures while keeping personal data reliable and secure.
Online disinformation is used to drive public opinion. Fake news is damaging to everyday readers and has serious implications for businesses. Safe.press helps enterprises protect their brands and business from online disinformation. Block Expert, a blockchain development company, utilized IBM’s Blockchain technology to build a system for Safe.press that is capable of authenticating the source of news quickly and effectively.
One of the first and largest members of the consortium that uses this system is the telecom giant Orange. The system offers several benefits to consortium members. It provides easy proof of authenticity with a unique and tamper-proof digital footprint. The system is immutable and decentralized and helps to build trust, transparency, and reliability. News and sources go through the consortium-based certification process which uses protocols agreed by all members.
Syniverse is a global company that provides technology and business services to telecommunication companies and other multinational enterprises. Syniverse operates the leading international roaming transaction clearing and settlement service. With the support of IBM Blockchain, the company offers mobile operators a suite of cloud applications to manage roaming. With these solutions, Syniverse covers everything from data collection, clearing, invoice settlement, and financial transactions.
The company processes over 260 billion records and over 3 million invoices annually. The applications utilize blockchains and smart contracts to automate business workflows and the invoice settlement process. Blockchain also provides immutable storage of contractual terms and agreements and other transaction documents.
In the diamond industry, customers demand an assurance of authenticity, which is quite understandable. Everledger bases its business on filling the existing gap between customer demands and companies’ ability to assure consumer confidence. Everledger uses a blockchain solution that is built on top of the IBM infrastructure to track the provenance of diamonds.
Despite diamonds being the main line of business, Everledger offers the same solution for other high-value assets. The company has built a blockchain that retains authenticity certifications. Everledger delivers digital diamond grading reports to consumers. The grading reports are issued by the GIA (Gemological Institute of America), the leading independent diamond grading authority.
NuArca creates blockchain-based solutions for voting, the oil and gas industry, and several other application areas. NuArca’s voting solution enables voting event management and governance throughout all stages including conception, gathering, counting, and the presentation of poll results. The solution is blockchain-based and offers real-time confidence to event managers, voters, and other involved parties. NuArca’s system increases voting response rates and offers immutability as one of the most important benefits.
NuArca joined forces with IBM to implement a blockchain voting network solution based on the IBM Blockchain Platform.
Vinturas is a consortium of companies consisting of AutoLink (Baltics), Axess Logistics (Nordics), Banco Santander, Consumer Finance (Spain), Groupe CAT (France), Koopman Logistics Group (Netherlands), and NVD (Ireland). The main aim of the consortium is to increase the efficiency of the automobile industry by building a new type of relationship with OEMs, fleet owners, and logistics service providers.
Vinturas uses IBM Blockchain Platform to build a solution for a secure vehicle tracking ecosystem by making the vehicle supply chain more visible and authentic. The platform offers the following information to customers in a secure way: the exact location of the vehicle during its journey from the factory to the dealer, the estimated arrival time of the vehicle, proof of delivery once the vehicle is delivered, and a fully digital document trail.
Blockchain systems are revolutionizing the IT infrastructure of financial and other industries with their unprecedented security features. Many companies benefit from blockchain implementations in their business processes, and many have also developed blockchain-based services that they offer to other firms. IBM is one of these companies, but it stands out from the others. Despite earlier developments, IBM’s serious take on blockchain technology only started with Hyperledger, and the Hyperledger Fabric project in particular, in 2015. More than 5 years in, IBM is still the leading contributor to the Hyperledger Fabric project.
IBM Blockchain Platform offers a solution for many industries such as financial, logistics, healthcare, and others. Its main benefits are transparency, visibility, security, and information immutability, all of which build trust in open and distributed environments. Perhaps one of the most attractive opportunities of IBM Blockchain Platform is the power of consortium. By utilizing and building applications with IBM’s platform you are stepping into a world of financial, business and trade resources and harvesting both technological and business benefits.
Nevertheless, stepping into this promising world may not always be easy for companies that are not experienced with Hyperledger Fabric and other IBM technologies. For these cases, it is best to work with a successful blockchain company that can guide you through this technological maze and make sure that you attain the most business benefits in the shortest time possible.
Take a look at the PixelPlex rich project base, and when you are convinced, send us an inquiry. Allow our team to solve your business puzzles by utilizing blockchain, AI, and cloud technologies.