Blockchain is a technological innovation that’s been with us now for over a decade. It initially entered the public consciousness due to its use in the world of cryptocurrency. However, blockchain now offers a wide range of other potential applications. Those other possible uses have been held back due to uncertainty surrounding how the technology has been abused by cryptocurrency fraudsters.
Many do not realize that there are huge corporations who are extremely confident about blockchain’s future. They’ve been investing time and money in developing and experimenting with blockchain capabilities. IBM is a prime example. Their experimentation has enabled them to establish five ‘blockchain for good’ principles, attempting to define what a trusted enterprise blockchain should look like. The question is whether they will provide a roadmap to bring this technology squarely into the mainstream?
Chip off the old block
Blockchain is a digital ledger for recording transactions and tracking assets. When a valid transaction occurs, it’s encoded into a block of digital data and given a unique identity. As more transactions take place, their blocks are connected to the one before in an irreversible and immutable chain. Every valid transaction is permanently recorded and can’t be deleted. It can also represent a shared system of recording transactions across a vast network, without reconciling disparate ledgers. And these benefits partly explain why companies like IBM are so invested in blockchain.
Years of experimentation have allowed IBM to determine what a trusted enterprise blockchain should look like. The firm has established five principles which it argues a blockchain must adhere to if it’s to benefit both the organizations involved and society as a whole:
‘Open is better’.
IBM believes blockchains must ‘foster diverse communities of open source contributors and organizations’ to promote innovation and ensure high-quality code across the board. Open-source frameworks must be favored over proprietary tech.
‘Permissioned doesn’t mean private’.
An enterprise-grade blockchain must align with the regulatory and fiduciary responsibilities of those using it. It must be designed around permissioned and trusted access, unlike the anonymous blockchains associated with cryptocurrency. That doesn’t mean it has to be private; it could be open to anyone willing to register and cryptographically validate their ID.
‘Governance is a team sport’.
Blockchains of the future must embrace distributed and transparent governance, to meet the needs of all participants.
‘Common standards are common sense’.
Most blockchains currently exist in silos, but the technology is evolving to support networks. Enterprise blockchain should be built around common standards, with interoperability in mind to ensure they’re future-proof, in the same way that W3C has attempted to standardize websites.
‘Privacy is paramount’.
Individual participants must have control over who can access their data, and when. No business or organization can ‘own’ a blockchain network, and the rights to the data residing on a blockchain always remain with its creator.
What do IBM’s blockchain principles signify?
IBM has demonstrated its commitment to blockchain technology by establishing the above principles, which represent the firm’s guidelines on how this technology should work in the mainstream. They’ve also filed over a hundred blockchain-related patent applications, which provides a strong indication about how the firm themselves intend to apply the technology.
Given the levels of investment that companies like IBM are investing in blockchain technology, it looks inevitable that it’ll eventually enter the mainstream, even if the timeframe remains uncertain. With the might of a multinational like IBM behind it, it seems ridiculous to suggest blockchain won’t become part of our daily lives…