Nearly every day, it seems, another technology company announces its vision for blockchain. But highly specialized startups aren’t the only ones playing around with distributed ledger technology (DLT). In this week’s Blockchain Tracker, PYMNTS looks at the companies — from banks to diamond giant De Beers — making headway in their own blockchain projects. And it’s not just the private sector, either: Governments from New York to Aruba to Russia have also offered updates on how they’re addressing the potential for blockchain to safeguard voting processes or boost profits from tourism.
Governments Get Involved
One of the largest question marks plaguing blockchain is the uncertainty over incoming regulation. The globe has seen significant support — or, at least, interest — in blockchain from various governments in an effort to encourage exploration and innovation of the technology. So far, the latest developments suggest regulators and government agencies are more interested in exploring blockchain technology, not restricting it via regulation.
In the U.S., Clyde Vanel, a New York assemblyman, introduced four bills into the New York Legislature pertaining to blockchain technology this week. Vanel (D-33) is looking to encourage the state government’s research into the technology and introduce legal terminology for DLT. Specifically, said reports in CoinDesk, the bills would define “blockchain technology” and “smart contract.”
One of the bills “directs the state board of elections to study and evaluate the use of blockchain technology” with a particular focus on protection of voter records and election results. The third bill calls for the creation of a blockchain task force by the state government, and the fourth aims to create a digital currency task force, reports said.
Meanwhile, government initiatives in Russia and the Ukraine that address blockchain are similarly underway.
In Russia, the government is reportedly testing blockchain with the goal of improving the voting system.
“The introduction of this technology will make voting in the [Active Citizen initiative] even more open,” Russian officials said in a statement released this week, reports in Coin Telegraph said. “It will be difficult to say that the administration incorrectly interprets the answers, changes the results of the voting when the citizens themselves can verify this information.”
In the Ukraine, the country’s National Bank said this week it is expanding its team that aims to move the national currency, the hryvnia, onto blockchain. According to news from CoinDesk, the National Bank of Ukraine did not reveal how many personnel it has added to the project, but did tell the publication that it has “reinforced our team with world-class professionals and [is] optimistic that the project will get a boost in upcoming months.”
Demonstrating the vastness of blockchain’s potential this week was Aruba, which is reportedly looking at DLT to improve tourism revenues. Reports in Coin Desk said Aruba’s ATECH Foundation is collaborating with Switzerland-based Winding Tree to develop a blockchain-based marketplace to facilitate travel booking to the island, an effort to regain some of the lost revenue that ends up with third-party service providers like online travel agencies and airlines. ATECH Foundation is looking to link travelers directly to travel suppliers, it said, which could help Aruba keep profits at home.
The Private Sector Continues to Target the Enterprise
Private sector innovators, meanwhile, continue to target enterprise use cases for their blockchain solutions.
This week, Nordic bank Nordea said it is joining we.trade, a consortium of financial institutions that are looking at how blockchain can address friction in cross-border trade. The consortium first launched earlier this year and counts Deutsche Bank, HSBC, UniCredit and other top FIs as current members that focus on enhancing trade services for European small businesses (SMBs). IBM is providing the cloud-based platform developed by we.trade.
Another financial institution, UBS, has reportedly filed a patent related to blockchain, reports in Coin Telegraph said this week. The Swiss FI’s patent is said to pertain to using blockchain for a smart contract validation platform, which would store data of all company activities and support stricter protocols.
“Blockchain technology can provide a ‘distributed ledger,’ or a database maintained not by a single actor, such as a bank, but collaboratively by a number of participants,” the filing stated. “As an example, blockchain-based techniques include multiple participant computer systems regularly agreeing on how to modify the database, after which the modifications they have settled on are rendered unchangeable with the help of complex cryptography.”
In Singapore, XinFin revealed its plans to integrate its XDC01 protocol into its existing Hybrid Blockchain solution, targeting blockchain standardization. The company’s Hybrid Blockchain solution is designed for the enterprise to keep financial transactions secure and verifiable. Moving forward, XinFin said it plans to implement its Hybrid Blockchain technology into various B2B apps addressing supply chain management, finance, procurement and settlement for business customers.
De Beers, world famous for its diamonds, is reportedly investing in a blockchain-based platform that can facilitate tracking of the stones, reports in The Financial Times said. De Beers Chief Executive Bruce Cleaver said the blockchain solution facilitates greater supply chain management and transparency for the company, while distributed ledger can provide greater security of transaction information. The company added that the platform could also embrace third-party development for additional services for diamond traders to be tacked onto the solution.