With this huge body of support for distributed ledger technology, how long will it be before it is at the core of everything?
Blockchain is a technology that works on the basis of a distributed ledger, a database that is shared and continuously added to with new records; these are all marked with a timestamp and connected to the preceding block.
With each new record or block added to the chain, information placed within becomes immutable; it cannot be altered or removed. The nature of the technology makes it highly secure in theory, and it can be used for carrying out real time, verifiable transactions between two parties.
It is thought that this dynamic could allow many areas of business across all industries to function more efficiently, having a huge disruptive impact on areas such as shipping, for example. Shipping obviously requires international transactions to be made, and it is weighed down by legacy processes, a large percentage of which are still very much paper based.
Blockchain is the technology behind the globally recognised cryptocurrency Bitcoin, governing all transactions made using the currency.
Excitement regarding the technology’s potential has been growing constantly since it was first conceptualised in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto, and now work towards global implementation is at full speed.
Here is a list compiled by CBR of the most influential organisations participating in the furtherance of the cutting edge technology, including banks, consortiums and tech giants.
J.P. Morgan Chase
The major American investment bank has displayed massive interest blockchain technology, FinTech, and tech more generally.
J.P. Morgan invested $9.5 billion in tech in 2016, with a huge $600 million spent on FinTech alone, and they bank has put a great deal of work into blockchain.
Having initially been a founding member of the major R3 blockchain consortium, the bank transitioned, jumping ship to join the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, which boasts high profile members including Accenture and Microsoft.
Ethereum is an open-source, distributed computing platform based on blockchain technology; a well-established, working example of what can be attained by leveraging the new technology. It was brought about in 2013 by Vitalik Buterin.
It offers a decentralised platform for smart contracts, aiming to provide the expected characteristics of efficiency and immutability while transferring important information.
Ethereum is also responsible for a digital currency, the units of which are called ‘ethers’. This company is driving ahead with the technology, and is integral in the integration of it on a wide scale. Last year Ethereum split to create another blockchain, this newer blockchain is called Ethereum Classic, and is the smaller of the two.
R3 is itself a company based on distributed database technology, but most importantly it heads up a consortium of major bodies including some of the world’s biggest banks and other investors set up for the purpose of developing the technology.
Having started out with founding members including the likes of J.P. Morgan, the group experienced somewhat of an exodus in recent months that saw some integral members leave, including the American investment bank, and another, Goldman Sachs.
Despite the loss of some big members, R3 still triumphed by pulling in $107 million in a funding round, keeping the consortium firmly in the running as a major player in the development of blockchain technology.
The tech giant is a provider of blockchain, with a notation beneath the IBM Blockchain on its website reading ‘I can see the past, present and future of 70 million shipments’.
Linking to the example of the shipping industry in the introduction to this list, IBM is in partnership with the shipping behemoth, Maersk, to work on a way of delivering the technology to the industry.
Particular areas of improvement that blockchain could make to the massive industry include transparency, security, and overalls improved efficiency. Due to significant human involvement and paper based processes, costly mistakes are common.
Coinbase are able to provide all manner of services using blockchain technology that pertain to the movement, acquisition and use of bitcoin.
It is an online platform that aims to offer security when storing, transferring or dealing in cryptocurrency. The creators of Coinbase are targeting the creation of an open financial system for the conversion of digital currencies to or from local currency. This could also have huge benefits when carrying out international transactions.
Another reason Coinbase is so important is that it has been able to provide its own API for the development of numerous other applications.
The provider of financial messaging services built for security is a huge influence in the world of blockchain because it has gained attraction from the likes of Lloyds Bank and JPMorgan to test a proof of concept of a Swift blockchain application.
This initiative is targeting another area that is ripe for disruption, the management of international nostro accounts in real time. Processes connected with this are highly complex and real time monitoring of the action is impossible.
There are in fact 28 organisations involved in the testing process, other members of which include Standard Chartered and Deutsche Bank. The nature of the participants is indicative of the importance this new application may prove to hold.
Linux are the driving force behind a project called Hyperledger 1.0, a project within which 27 organisations are working with 159 developers. The concept is to boost the development of cross-industry blockchain technologies.
The collaboration provides separate strains of Hyperledger with a focus on providing business blockchain frameworks. For example, Hyperledger Fabric has been created to be at the core of new blockchain applications.
Another framework is Hyperledger Indy, providing information through libraries, along with tools and other components. Forming one massive database of knowledge, this project puts Linux among the frontrunners of blockchain development, as it will ultimately contribute to a great breadth of different uses.
Reuters recently announced a new incubator for startups working in areas including distributed ledger technology, AI, and big data.
This programme will span a six month period in which a great deal of resources are provided. Included in the initiative will be access to experts, networking opportunities, and the necessary facilities that allow for acceleration.
With Reuters keenly engaged in the furtherance of technologies including blockchain, it is fitting that they would join our list, seeing as the company is providing energy to new companies that can carry the torch to full implementation of the technology.
Accenture will not be a surprise member of our list, having been extremely active within the blockchain space, not least for being a structural member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, joined in which by Microsoft and JPMorgan.
The main way Accenture are involved in boosting the progress of blockchain technology is by providing its clients with an all-encompassing view of the blockchain landscape. This influences significant decision making regarding the technology, including investment.
Accenture are also a great believer in the potential of technology, seeing it as a driver of positive change. With this outlook Accenture work alongside governments and academic communities, sewing seeds of understanding regarding blockchain.
Another tech giant, Microsoft goes further than simply advising or testing, as the company supports Blockchain as a Service (BaaS).
In addition to the direct work Microsoft do in regard to Blockchain, the company is also an important member of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, which may be the most influential consortium in existence.
Azure is behind Microsoft’s approach to the technology, and the company specifies that it supports numerous distributed ledger technologies. Blockchain as a Service from Azure is geared toward delving into new businesses processes while being supported by the leading cloud system.