Hyperledger’s new members include Deutsche Bahn, commodities platform

Yesterday enterprise blockchain consortium Hyperledger added an interesting and varied group of new members. They include DB Systel, the technology arm of Deutsche Bahn, Atomyze the commodities securitization platform initiated by NorNickel, and multiple projects with links to public blockchains.

It’s been two years since we first wrote about DB Systel, the digital arm of the Deutsche Bahn railway group. Even then, the company had some surprisingly advanced blockchain solutions, including an energy trading platform to sell excess solar and wind to large B2B customers.

NorNickel is a big fan of blockchain. The Russian company is the world’s largest palladium producer and a significant producer of nickel, platinum and copper. Last year it set up Atomyze by Tokentrust in Switzerland to tokenize commodities using Hyperledger Fabric. And it’s attracted some major commodities traders such as Trafigura.

Bertalan Vecsei, CTO at Atomyze said they plan to “enable them (commodities) to be traded in a simple and secure way, as well as provide accessibility to illiquid markets.”

Two new Hyperledger members, IOHK and IOVLabs, are known for public blockchains. The smaller of the two is IOV Labs, which is associated with the RSK protocol. It has an enterprise blockchain track record following two high profile projects in Argentina for gas distribution giant Gasnor and an interbank settlement solution.

Meanwhile, IOHK is associated with the Cardano blockchain, the public blockchain with a $2 billion market capitalization. IOHK CTO Romain Pellerin said: “IOHK firmly believes that a community’s overall success largely depends on its ability to collaborate. It’s great to be involved in an organization which shares that philosophy and is working towards utilising blockchain to create a better industry, and more open, accessible world.”

In a blog post Pellerin said that it wants to “provide visibility and share components of IOHK’s interoperable framework.”

The other two new full members are Public Mint and Japan’s Binary Star. Also, Hyperledger added two associate members, the token standards body InterWork Alliance and the Global Blockchain Business Council (GBBC).

Image Copyright: Ledger Insights


CFH developing EV IoT blockchain financing platform

Taiwan’s Cathay Financial Holdings (CFH) has disclosed its technology center is developing an electric vehicle (EV) IoT blockchain financing platform through cooperation with EV charging service provider ChargeSmith and blockchain startup BSOS.

The platform is based on Hyperledger Fabric, a modular blockchain framework for enterprises to develop blockchain-based solutions or application products, CFH said.

Hyperledger Fabric is a permission blockchain infrastructure that allows designated nodes to participate in operation and maintenance of a blockchain and enables efficient execution of consensus algorithms to enhance applicability and reliability of enterprise-use blockchains, CFH noted.

Hyperledger Fabric will be used to obtain EV owners’ permission to collect data on their driving behavior including time intervals of driving, speeds, running distance and braking, CFH said. Such data will be encrypted and immediately transferred to the platform for CFH’s property insurance and banking business units to provide real-time personalized financial services, CFH indicated.

The platform is in PoC (proof of concept) process and expected to come into operation at the end of 2020.

Besides CFH, CTBC Financial Holding has been in R&D of blockchain since 2016 and become a member of an international ecosystem led by US-based enterprise blockchain company R3. CTBC’s subsidiaries, including Taiwan Life Insurance, CTBC Bank and CTBC Securities, have applied in-house-developed blockchain technology to business operation.


Nike partners with Blockchain supply chain startup Pluton

As of recent valuations made in 2020, the Nike brand is valued at approximately US$34.8 billion, which comes after two billion USD in growth since 2019. The major American enterprise recently partnered with a London-based cryptographic asset start-up called Plutus.

The crypto venture has signed similar deals with AirBNB and Skyscanner. Discussing the new partnerships, Plutus CEO and founder Danial Daychopan stated “Plutus was approved as an affiliate partner for both Airbnb and Skyscanner at the start of the year, however all programs in the travel category have been temporarily paused by the company due to travel restrictions caused by COVID-19. Both of these partners were included to offer cash back to qualified Plutus members.”

Using the start-up’s native app, European Nike customers can earn 3% in crypto and 9% in cash back from purchases. Additionally, Nike shoe owners can earn further rewards by interacting with the Plutus app.

Nike partners with Blockchain supply chain startup Pluton (1)

Overview of the Plutus App

This will not be Nike’s first foray into blockchain-based supply chain solutions. Earlier this year the organization partnered with RFID labs of Auburn University). RFID, or Radio-frequency identification, is a technology that uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects.

RFID labs created a pilot program to test new versions of blockchain technology that may act as tools to exchange information between suppliers, retailers, and other supply chain stakeholders. The project was dubbed the chain integration project, or “CHIP.”

CHIP uses an automated process of leveraging serialized data between trading partners using automated data collection methodology that eliminates the need for human audits and counting. The successfully tested CHIP proof-of-concept has proven that suppliers and retailers can exchange serialized data using a blockchain to increase visibility into product flow.

The results of the blockchain-based RFID solutions trialed by Nike, and a number of other major international companies including Macy’s and IBM, were published as part of a proof-of-concept Whitepaper released in March of this year.

The CHIP whitepaper described a number of test cases, including ones run by Nike and one run by the department store Macy’s. CHIP integrated retailers ran blockchain-based Hyperledger Fabric nodes on a small portion of their otherwise enormous global supply chains.

Hyperledger Fabric is an interchangeable blockchain architecture framework that acts as a base for developing blockchain-based products, solutions, and applications. It uses plug-and-play components that are designed for use in private enterprises. The distributed ledger framework was launched by the Linux Foundation in December 2015.

Hyperledger uses a consensus-as-a-service mechanism, wish is an alternative to Proof-of-work or Proof-of-Stake, where the majority of the participants in a network need to agree about the state of a ledger on the basis of a previously agreed set of immutable factors, rules, and criteria.

Transactions conducted on Hyperledger Fabric must be endorsed by the peers in the network. They must confirm that the proposal is adequate, has not been used in the past, and that the signature and whoever made the submission agent is authorized to sign and submit the request.

Transactions are executed only when this process of validation is successful and confirmed by authorized peer signatures.

Alan Gulley, a blockchain research fellow at RFID labs, described the pilot blockchain supply chain solution built by his team for Nike. Every box of Nike shoes comes with an RFID tag that helps the athletics giant track its sprawling inventory. However, different retailers tags store data differently and there’s little to no data interoperability.

This gave RFID Labs two opportunities to help Nike. Firstly, in giving international Nike retailers a common language, and secondly, build them a platform to communicate with each other more easily.

Gulley says the language aspect of the project took up about 70 percent of the researchers’ time. His team built a “translator tool” that reworked different data streams into the EPCIS standard developed by Belgian non-profit GS1.

EPCIS is a standard business language tool that enables trading partners to share information about the physical movement and status of products as they travel throughout the supply chain. from business to business, and then eventually to consumers.

It is used to help supply chain stakeholders answer “what, where, when and why” questions, and meet consumer and regulatory demands for accurate and detailed product information.


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Blockchain Interoperability: The Holy Grail for Cross-Chain Deployment

As per a detailed report released by accounting giant Deloitte at the World Economic Forum on the subject of blockchain interoperability, this fast-evolving technology still has some distance to tread before it can be ported into action for mainstream purposes such as large-scale supply chain management, secure data sharing and other processes.

In this regard, a number of big-name web service providers such as IBM, Oracle, Azure Blockchain Services and SAP have been vocal in their support for cross-chain platforms and have made a firm commitment to solving many of the issues that currently plague this fast-growing technology.

For example, the World Health Organization in conjunction with the help of the aforementioned companies was able to deploy a platform called MiPasa, which has been built atop the Hyperledger Fabric framework, to enable the “early detection of COVID-19 carriers and infection hotspots.”

Similarly, tech giants Accenture and Fujitsu recently announced that they are currently working on an open-source software called “Hyperledger Cactus,” which will allow for the secure and reliable integration of multiple blockchains using Fujitsu’s proprietary security technology “ConnectionChain” and Accenture’s “Blockchain Integration Framework.” The project is aimed at fostering a new foundational framework that can enable faster asset transfers and streamline the recovery process associated with blockchain transaction errors.

With all these platforms already launched, there are still a lot of concerns around cross-chain technologies, such as, “Are they really feasible?” and, “How will their governance work?” and perhaps most importantly, “How can public and private blockchains be linked with one another without any security or privacy lapses occurring?”

Mainstream deployment of interoperable blockchains

As more enterprises and large-scale corporations continue to realize that they cannot exist in complete exclusivity, interoperability (in terms of seamless information transfer and data exchange) via the use of blockchain tech has become an increasingly attractive option for not only streamlining internal processes but also reducing day-to-day operational costs.

So far, most enterprise blockchain applications reside on private blockchains such as Hyperledger and Corda, but over the past couple of months, Hyperledger itself has started to move toward leveraging more public networks such as Ethereum.

However, with the Ethereum network still being subject to regular clogging, something that its evolution into a 2.0 proof-of-stake network is set to change, a number of other public networks that focus on interoperability and scalability like Cosmos and Polkadot have sprung up. In this regard, the Cosmos Inter Blockchain Communication, or IBC, protocol is currently undergoing an incentivized testnet and will most likely go live to mainnet by the end of Q3. Similarly, Polkadot’s Inter Chain Messaging Protocol will most likely go live in about a year’s time.

To get a more holistic view of cross-chain systems and whether there are current use cases that have demonstrated their viability, Cointelegraph reached out to Tushar Agarwal, CEO of Persistence, an institutional finance-focused enterprise chain within the Cosmos ecosystem.

Agarwal pointed out that his team recently performed an “Interoperability Transaction” test where they executed a non-standard IBC transaction. These transactions send and receive data between a network of industry-specific, specialized chains in a completely trustless manner. Furthermore, he also pointed out that the ZCash (ZEC) team is working on constructing interoperable “bridges” using Cosmos’ native framework.

Commenting on the subject, Michael Burgess, chief operating officer of Ren — an open protocol that enables the permissionless and private transfer of value between any blockchain — told Cointelegraph that his company is just weeks away from a production-ready interoperability solution for public blockchains like Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), and Zcash. On the potential downsides of cross-chain systems and feasibility, he added:

“All interoperability solutions will likely have trade-offs; so it’s a matter of designing systems that find a balance between security, governance, adaptability, and economic incentives that suit their target market.”

Solutions can never be perfect

When dealing with multi-chain systems, governance architecture needs to be the core focus, since the networks involved in any cross-chain transactions must have absolute trust in the central governance layer that ensures integrity of the participants. Also, there is a substantial degree of risk due to the possibility that a private chain could become completely centralized and hosted by biased third parties as compared to decentralized networks that rely on a distributed consensus. Providing his thoughts on the matter, Agarwal opined:

“Private chains operating without distributed consensus are more prone to data manipulation and the integrity of the data/assets being transferred from a private, permissioned and centralized chain to a more decentralized chain could be questioned. Overall, there is no one solution that fits all in terms of being public/private, centralized/decentralized — it is a broad spectrum with specific trade-offs.”

Lastly, since the governance rules handling privacy and security differ by blockchain, with participants having their own fee structures and entrusting various groups to validate transactions, participants may be resistant to any possible future rule changes passed by the central governing body of their cross-chain platform.

The challenges currently being faced by cross-chain systems

Regardless of whether a system is permissionless or permissioned, there seems to be a big divide when it comes to defining the term “interoperability.” For example, if one thinks of the term as a means of copying data between different ledgers, then the process is quite straightforward and can be facilitated in a relatively hassle-free manner.

However, if data is being transferred from a weaker trustable ledger to a stronger one, the latter becomes susceptible to various discrepancies as well as third-party manipulation. Elucidating his thoughts on the matter, Shin’ichiro Matsuo, research professor for the department of computer science at Georgetown University, told Cointelegraph:

“Imagine a scenario where we bring data from a blockchain with only three miners to a blockchain with 10,000 miners. It is essential to establish a framework and mechanism to deal with the difference of trust, though interoperability is strongly needed.”

Lastly, time is also a major issue when it comes to the deployment of interoperable blockchain systems, since it takes a lot of testing and patience for such platforms to become fully developed and matured.

Given that blockchain technology is a relatively new phenomenon, the fact that some existing cross-chain solutions are already viable is an encouraging sign. In the future, even more solutions should emerge as the crypto developer community gradually uncovers new issues not initially accounted for and ingenious ways to solve them.

Other technical challenges that can potentially cause an impediment to large-scale blockchain interoperability include the occurrence of “transaction rate bottlenecks” — when many chains are sending transactions to one particular chain, clogging its throughput capacity. Similarly, coming to a consensus on a common standard of transaction and state representation for native interoperability is another roadblock that can hinder research progress in this direction.

Cross-chain systems as potential game-changers?

Simply put, cross-chain platforms provide users with an immense amount of flexibility in that they are not locked into a single tech solution for addressing individual needs. Not only that, but with improved interoperability between private and public blockchains, it seems as though enterprises will be able to obtain the benefits that public blockchains provide in terms of having a third-party distributed consensus with disincentivization at play while minimizing or eliminating many privacy concerns, such as dealing with those who have not undergone the Know Your Customer check in a much more streamlined manner. On the subject, Agarwal opined:

“Overall this leads to greater adoption of Public Blockchain technology and demonstration of clear business cases for enterprises and corporations in terms of an increase in revenue or decrease in costs.”

Additionally, solutions that facilitate the exchange of assets and data between various cryptocurrency-powered decentralized networks have the ability to decrease the element of tribalism that the crypto industry at large is currently facing, wherein different networks are seeking to establish superiority over their competitors.

Time to break the chains?

In March 2020, Vitalik Buterin expressed his frustration at the fact that fully decentralized transfers of assets between Ethereum and Bitcoin are still impossible. This shows how even the relatively simple feature can be quite technically challenging to maneuver under a completely decentralized setup.

Commenting on this issue, Augusto Teixeira, founder and CSO of Cartesi — a Linux-based operating system for decentralized apps — believes that in order for such a problem to be tackled successfully, it is essential that one blockchain is able to follow the consensus protocol of the other. Moreover, users should be incentivized to feed correct and updated data from one chain to the other while guaranteeing security and good governance. He added:

“As we depart from the simplest case of asset transfers, things become considerably more complex. Naturally, end-users expect these systems to offer: low latency, high throughput, smart contracts capabilities, security, convenience, built-in authentication, and so on.”

With that being said, whether the global crypto community is far from realizing such a dream or such a vision is even feasible to begin with remains unclear.


Business identity org started by Financial Stability Board pilots blockchain identity

Today, The Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation (GLEIF) said it is working with self-sovereign identity firm Evernym to enable organizations to use digital identity on the blockchain. The two are piloting a solution for ‘organization wallets,’ which would hold digital credentials of an organization and verify the authority of employees to act on its behalf.

GLEIF, established in 2014 by the Financial Stability Board, is tasked with implementing legal entity identifiers (LEI), a global identifier for companies and organizations participating in financial transactions. The blockchain-based solution uses the organization wallet and verifiable credentials to connect an employee’s name to the organization’s LEI.

This blockchain-based identity management system improves the trustworthiness of a business process, so it’s known that an employee is authorized when they sign a contract with new suppliers, or submit information to regulators.

GLEIF and Evernym ran a proof-of-concept (PoC) for a regulatory filing and leveraged verifiable credentials on the Sovrin Network. As a global foundation, GLEIF registered its own public Decentralized Identifier (DID) on the Sovrin Network. There are several LEI Issuers, typically financial exchanges, that issue and maintain these identifiers. GLEIF accredits each of these issuers.

An organization is validated by the Issuer and assigned an LEI.

For the PoC, an organization requested verifiable credentials with its LEI from the Issuer and used that data to issue verifiable credentials for its employees. These credentials were stored in the ‘organization wallet’.

“By partnering with Evernym, we have extended the idea of self-sovereign identity beyond individuals to legal entities for the first time,” said Stephan Wolf, CEO of GLEIF. “The process of cryptographically recording credentials, linked to an organization’s LEI in a chain of trust rooted on distributed ledger technology, gives organizations full control over the issuance and management of their own employee’s digital credentials,”

GLEIF has previously trialed blockchain digital identity for LEIs on Ethereum and Hyperledger blockchains. The Sovrin Network, originally initiated by Evernym, is based on Hyperledger Indy.

Among its recent projects, Evernym is participating in the COVID Credentials Initiative. It is on the steering committee of Trust over IP (ToIP) Foundation, a standards initiative of the Linux Foundation.

Last year, the governments of British Columbia (BC), Ontario and Canada jointly explored decentralized identity and trusted credentials for businesses using Hyperledger Indy. The solution is called Verifiable Organizations Network (VON).