On Wednesday, American Express announced a blockchain application to its Membership Rewards program.
Using Hyperledger’s blockchain technology, merchants will be tailor customized offers using Membership Rewards points on their own platform with the goal of increasing engagement and usage rates with their customers. The pilot trial with Boxed will let members earn up to 5x the normal number of points on certain products, according to the press release.
This is a notable application of blockchain, as American Express’ Membership Rewards is one of the company’s most notable and strongest assets and exists in 21 countries.
The blockchain implementation is designed to keep all merchant and user data private, anonymized, and secure. It will also help increase transparency of what merchants are offering for American Express, as well as decreasing the onboarding time for new partners down from the months to “a matter of weeks”.
While many don’t immediately think of American Express as exploring and innovating within the blockchain realm, it’s worth noting that the company joined the Linex Foundation-led Hyperledger in January 2017. Additionally, American Express invested in Abra’s $12m Series A round in September 2015.
Mobility is an integral part of today’s business, adding tremendous flexibility that allows employees at all levels to operate more efficiently. But, all those mobile devices have to be managed from a corporate security and compliance perspective, which can add tremendous strain to an IT department’s already demanding workload. With all business functions dependent upon …
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) is teaming up with Accenture and The Floor, an Israeli fintech hub, to build a blockchain securities lending (BSL) platform aimed to allow direct lending of all financial instruments.
The BSL will act as a “one-stop-shop for all securities lending activities, permitting access to larger securities volumes within shorter time-frames, even operating in shorter-term positions,” a press release states.
With the use of distributed ledger technology from blockchain consortium Hyperledger, the platform is designed to reduce costs, increase security and provide more flexible lending activities. More specifically, the project is built on top of Hyperledger’s Sawtooth platform, with hardware-based Software Guard Extensions security provided by Intel.
Blockchain, the firms say, enables better data privacy between the parties involved in transactions, as well as peer-to-peer transactions, smart contract functionality and the security of an immutable ledger.
Ittai Ben-Zeev, CEO of TASE, said:
“Blockchain technology will present a new level of safety for securities lending and will support growth for transactions based on this new platform. Without a doubt, TASE is now, more than ever before, a global financial innovation leader.”
For its role in the project, Accenture will work on the platform’s smart contracts development, as well as offering other services to support the BSL platform, including project management, systems integration, cybersecurity consulting, and others.
“We are very pleased to provide our expertise and capabilities in blockchain, capital markets and fintech ecosystems in order to facilitate this exceptional collaboration,” said Jacob Benadiba, managing director of Israel Accenture. “This project will help TASE create an innovative end-to-end solution that addresses their business, security and technological needs under an extremely powerful new paradigm.”
The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.
Building solutions for various transaction verification as in supply chain (with and without IoT) with several different functionalities. Commodities (energy reserve), tracking of products (pop codes usage) and several others.
Who are the consumers/users of your app, product or project?
Using in logistics, with IoT, commodities, implementation with own docker images by changing peer values and organization as well as orderer.
What business or technology benefit do your users get by using your app, product or project?
Blockchain has 3 principles:
• Transparency & collaboration
• Decentralisation & consensus
• Security Immutability & Encryption
Blockchains benefit the supply chain sector in various ways, most notably by:
1. Automating the purchase process. With blockchains, automatic contracts (smart contracts) can be set up. Once the conditions agreed upon by the users are met, these smart contracts automatically execute their terms– service payment, shipment authorization, etc.
2. Improving transaction flow. Validation times for transactions between providers and clients (contracts, signatures, orders, payments, etc.) are drastically reduced. Result: virtually real-time management of flows and relationships with business partners.
3. Securing the supply chain. Attributing a tag to each product recorded in a blockchain enables you to secure your supply chain in the blink of an eye. Origin, place of storage, authenticity, property certificates, records: all the necessary information is in a single ledger!
4. Ensuring integral traceability. Blockchains ensure the traceability of flows and goods by recording all transactions made by users. These records are indestructible and constitute a tamper-proof evidence that guarantees the integrity of information.
5. Being more reactive. Blockchains can help you detect fraud by identifying problems from the very start of the transaction (inconsistencies with validation, suspicious identity of a party, etc.). In the event of product recovery, an alert is instantly sent.
6. Streamlining internal documents. The validity of information shared among partners prevents the creation of multiple versions of a document. Each party involved in the transaction thus has access to the same data
Which Hyperledger projects are you working with?
Hyperledger Fabric, Hyperledger Sawtooth and Hyperledger Cello
What were the most compelling features of Hyperledger technologies for this project?
Hyperledger Fabric considered the basic and perfect build.
How far along is the project?
I personally tend to put too much time into looking for a domain name too early in the project (because it’s fun to do, honestly). It’s much better to at the very least do serious research first (competitors, understanding and talking to possible customers, etc.), and have done proof-of-concept work for technical challenges, and done some design on your minimum-viable-product first version before worrying about a domain name, because it’s so frequent to find some serious problem during that process that will cause you to abandon the project (or perhaps realize that you don’t find it as interesting as you thought initially — if you don’t have some serious passion for solving this particular problem, it’s not likely you’ll have the motivation to get through the hard parts of building a business around it!).
I’m just working on the production level at the moment with usage of Hyperledger Caliper as to check latency rate and payload.
Companies such as Wind River Systems Inc., a developer of embedded software for intelligent connected systems, are already exploring Sawtooth for IoT applications. Others are embedding Hyperledger’s basic functions directly in hardware, such as Filament’s Blocklet Chip technology.
As the content of systems shifts to software, Wind River is seeing the value of the components of systems also increasingly attributed to software. This is, in large part, because hardware is set and unchangeable. Software, on the other hand, is dynamic and can be updated. “Now that systems are being connected through IoT, this is exacerbated,” said Jim Douglas, president of Wind River.
Within the software realm, it’s not uncommon to use components you didn’t develop, and maybe some with proprietary code you’d like to integrate or even open source. “One of the big challenges is how do you effectively manage all of these source inputs? How do you identify what’s in your code, what’s open source? How do you secure the right open distribution rights, and how do you identify and understand open source vulnerabilities?” Douglas queried. “If you’re exporting into restricted countries, how do you identify the crypto-technologies you have — especially in open source? And how do you do all of this when the system is changing all of the time?”
Wind River develops software and uses third-party components and open source in its products, so this is a constant battle for them. “We have competency doing this as a vendor, but saw an opportunity to improve how we do it,” Douglas said. “Then the brainstorm came: Everyone has this problem to an extent.”
So, the company embraced an earlier version of the Sawtooth open source blockchain platform and developed a “software parts ledger” that effectively establishes trust and accountability between all of the components and software. To be more specific, it can track all of the software parts from suppliers, each of whom provides parts to register with the ledger, so that each individual part is logged.
“All of the compliance artifacts, if you’re using open source, that are necessary to satisfy customer or regulatory agencies — such as source code or legal notices or open source bill of materials, or all of the crypto data — are identified,” Douglas explained. “And a ‘compliance envelop’ takes all of these things and provides a standard method for bundling and indexing them, which makes it much easier to deliver those artifacts. A ‘conductor’ manages the relationships between all of those entities by essentially monitoring and coordinating the supply chain of resources and entities and gives them all individual IDs so you can track them. It’s licensed under Apache and sitting on Github so people can download it.”
This is an example of how you can use blockchain technology — Hyperledger Sawtooth, specifically — to tackle the real-world problem of software growing exponentially, with content coming from multiple sources and, more often than not, some open source mixed in. “It can become a nightmare from a developer standpoint,” Douglas said. “But this gives you accountability from all of those sources and also the ability to easily demonstrate where those sources are and that you’ve got rights and any other attribute that’s compliance-related. You can quickly articulate that you’ve checked all of the boxes.”
Douglas pointed out that many people still have no real idea what blockchain is. “We made a mistake as positioning it as blockchain at first,” he said. “We got a lot of cross-eyed looks until I asked: Do you struggle with chain of custody issues?” Then it clicks.
“I love blockchain’s simplicity,” Douglas added. “Obviously, there’s some technology toughness behind it to ensure it works, but conceptually, it’s simple.”
This week, in West Virginia, United States, the 2018 local election ended, being the first voting session in the United States to be held on a blockchain platform. The pilot test was carried out on the Voatz blockchain platform which was built on the set of applications developed by the Hyperledger Project.
The participants of the test chose their candidates for the Senate elections which will be held in November. However, the test of the blockchain voting platform was limited to the foreign-based military and their families.
Blockchain voting platform received positive feedback from the officials of West Virginia
The pilot test was conducted only with foreign military personnel from Harrison and Monongalia Counties and, at the moment, Voatz and the West Virginia’s IT and Security department, are still auditing the data obtained in the test, so results and announcements are expected in the coming weeks.
In this regard, the office of West Virginia Secretary of State, Mac Warner, says the state government believes that “blockchain technology provides a higher level of security in this type of voting application.” Warner, therefore, hopes that the blockchain voting platform will soon be available to all the US military voters from all over the world.
It is important to note that Voatz is a native mobile platform that combines blockchain with biometric technology for identity authentication and is working together with West Virginia authorities since March 2018.
The West Virginia blockchain test has also received negative critics
A professor of computer science at the University of South Carolina, who specializes in voting systems and electoral integrity, says that one of the main problems with this idea is the fact that the code lines are not visible, so, according to him, Voatz can’t be fully trustworthy.
However, the blockchain voting platform is based on the code developed by Hyperledger Project which is an open source initiative with very positive feedback.
West Virginia is the first state in the United States to consider holding its elections on a decentralized and encrypted blockchain voting platform. A digitization of the votes that, according to a Benenson Strategy Group survey, almost 50% of the millennials consider more pleasant.
Jackson Bey was born and raised in Lethbridge Alberta but moved east when he was 22. Apart from running his own consulting firm. Jackson spends his time canoeing the many lakes of Ontario. As a financial journalist Jackson has published stories for CBC Business Online, as well as Buzz Feed and Motherboard. As a contributor to Billionaire 365, Jackson mostly covers markets and trade.
As it has been reported, today, on May 11, the world’s third-biggest handset maker Huawei starts offering Chinese users an access to a Bitcoin wallet via their native AppGallery. It means that smartphones users will have a chance to download Bitcoin wallets on their devices.
It will be possible thanks to the established partnership between Huawei and BTC.com that is the owner of the world’s largest Bitcoin mining pool and subsidiary of Bitmain. BTC dot com tracks cryptocurrency mining and block information and offers its digital wallet services.
This Bitcoin wallet created in collaboration with BTC dot com will be the first cryptocurrency mobile app that is offered by Huawei. All latest Huawei and Honor phones will have pre-installed AppGallery, that was launched in March, but it will be also available for older devices just in a few months.
Despite the fact that ICOs and crypto exchanges are banned in China, public interest to this sphere is still growing and the local people still own cryptocurrencies.
Launch of a new app is expected to have the greatest impact precisely in the Chinese market, where Huawei mobile phones can boast extreme popularity. Moreover, we should also take into consideration the fact that the Chinese government took a decision to block Google Play Store for Android and some parts of Apple’s App Store as a result access to some apps like BTC dot com’s is limited.
Thanks to collaboration with Chinese telecommunications guru Huawei, BTC dot com receives a chance to enter the massive and exclusive Chinese markets and to offer its crypto wallet to users.
Alejandro de la Torre, BTC dot com’s vice president of business operations, believes that the new initiative is “a good opportunity to tap into the Chinese market”. “The use of cashless payments with apps is very big and the traditional banking system is lacking, so there’s a good use case for crypto payments to grow there,” added he.
At the same time vice president of Huawei’s mobile services Jaime Gonzalo also has a lot of expectations. He said in his statement: “From our leadership position in China, the tip of the spear of mobile payments, we expect to see massive growth in global cryptocurrency adoption habits in the near future”.
“Cryptocurrencies have recently expanded the human understanding of digital economy at a large scale. We expect to see massive growth in global cryptocurrency adoption habits in the near future”, commented he.
It is not the first move of Huawei toward Blockchain integration. As we have earlier informed, in April, Huawei launched its own blockchain service platform named as blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS).
The platform is based on Hyperledger Fabric 1.0 technology developed by the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger blockchain consortium which Huawei joined in 2016. The BaaS platform gives companies an opportunity to develop smart contacts on top of a distributed ledger network.
It was good to be back at Microsoft’s annual developer conference, Build, for the second time. The event started off with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella claiming, “the world is becoming a computer” and that the impact would be like that of the Industrial Revolution. It was interesting to see how Microsoft’s vision and focus has evolved since last year. Similar to last year, Microsoft emphasized the move to technology powered by the intelligent edge and cloud powered by AI, the Internet of Things (IoT), and new to the list this year: blockchain.
This new focus on blockchain was highlighted by the public preview of Azure Blockchain Workbench, a new tool with a goal of reducing the time it takes businesses to build blockchain applications on top of existing blockchain infrastructure.
Before I get into their blockchain products, what is a blockchain? Well according to billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency built on the blockchain, is “probably rat poison squared.” His harsh view isn’t rare: Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy, discussing blockchain, has said that AWS does not “build technology because we think it is cool,” and JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon called Bitcoin “a fraud” claiming it is “worse than tulip bulbs,” referring to the tulip mania of the 17th century. (Dimon later said he regretted the statement.)
But for many, like myself, blockchain technology is not about the hype shown by the volatility of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin; it presents an opportunity to improve the world we live in, using smart computer science and innovative economics. Blockchain is the underlying technology behind many cryptocurrencies and is a distributed ledger that is immutable, allowing for transactions between two or more trustless parties to occur securely. Once blocks in the chain are verified, it is almost impossible to alter them after the fact.
To allow only authentic, authorized transactions and to avoid the double spend problem (an attack where someone attempts to send the same tokens to more than one person effectively spending more than they have), blockchains use a consensus algorithm such as Proof of Work in Bitcoin and Proof of Stake in others to decide which block to use in the chain of blocks when there are multiple contradicting blocks. This technology allows for secure, authorized transactions to occur, enabling many financial and non-financial use cases by business around the world.
Microsoft’s goal with Azure Blockchain Workbench is to enable developers who aren’t blockchain experts to be able to build solutions for those use cases.
“Workbench dramatically reduces development costs and accelerates time to value for developers, independent software vendors and integration partners alike,” said Matthew Kerner, a General Manager at Microsoft Azure. It does this by automating the deployment of the ledger and network using the Azure Resource Manager and connecting identity on the blockchain to Azure Active Directory for identity management and allowing for the creation of blockchain workflows using Logic Apps.
It also integrates many of the blockchain’s other features with existing Azure products. Initially, the Azure Blockchain Workbench will work with Ethereum but will also add support for Hyperledger Fabric and R3’s Corda distributed ledger platform.
This approach of connecting a cloud platform’s existing products to existing blockchain infrastructure is not new. Jassy’s past comments notwithstanding, Amazon Web Services launched AWS Blockchain Templates less than a month ago to help developers create and deploy blockchain networks powered by Ethereum or Hyperledger Fabric. It does this by deploying the blockchain in containers with the Amazon Elastic Container Service or through Docker containers in Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) service.
This approach can work extremely well for some users. As was shown by an Apttus demo at a session during Build, the Azure Blockchain Workbench simplified many of the toughest aspects of building a blockchain application such as identity management. Apttus, a quote-to-cash startup built on top of the Salesforce platform, was working with financial services firms to build a smart contract-based solution for loan securitization. Azure Blockchain Workbench gave them a simple solution for identity with single sign-on (SSO) and an easy way to deploy the applications and Solidity code. And Apttus isn’t alone, Microsoft gave examples of how companies like Maersk were using the tool to build solutions for problems they face with insurance. It is clearly a way to help developers build blockchain solutions on existing infrastructure such as Ethereum quickly and cost effectively.
Clearly these companies are focusing on their core strengths by offering developers ways to build blockchain apps using their existing cloud platforms and services. But the core blockchain infrastructure is still evolving. Ethereum is in the process of switching from a Proof of Work consensus mechanism to a Proof of Work and Proof of Stake hybrid consensus mechanism. This past year, the Bitcoin blockchain went through a hard fork to create Bitcoin Cash, which has an increased block size with the goal of speeding up transactions. These are just two examples of the changing blockchain infrastructure and I believe that there will be new blockchains that can form the basis for enterprise blockchain applications.
There’s room for improvement in communication between private consortium blockchains and public blockchains, blockchain throughput in transactions per second, and the cost of deployment in these networks whether it be for smart contracts or transaction costs.
We’ve seen companies like IBM, Facebook, and Google doing blockchain research and development into how the technology will impact their businesses and how it can be adopted. It would be fantastic to see a similar approach and investment from Seattle’s cloud behemoths in Microsoft and Amazon.
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