May 6, 2020

IBM bets on growing blockchain usage during COVID-19 pandemic

This article was originally published on Silicon Angle

As the world becomes more digital as the coronavirus pandemic forces many to work remotely, companies and individuals need to share more and more data. This sharing can be more efficient if the data and the sources that provide it are confirmed, verified and trusted.

ThatÔÇÖs why computing giant IBM Corp. is betting on blockchain as a solution for now ÔÇôand for the future.

ÔÇ£Blockchain brings a platform for trusted data exchange while preserving privacy,ÔÇØ said┬áJerry Cuomo┬á(pictured), vice president of blockchain technology at IBM Corp. and an IBM fellow. ÔÇ£And that provides a foundation to do some amazing things┬áin this time of crisis.ÔÇØ

Cuomo spoke with┬áDave Vellante, host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE MediaÔÇÖs mobile livestreaming studio, during the┬áIBM Think Digital Event Experience. They discussed the importance of blockchain in the digital world, as well as some applications of the technology during the coronavirus pandemic.┬á(* Disclosure below.)

Combating supply shortages using blockchain

IBM was one of the first blockchain providers and has more than 1,000 customers now using┬áits┬áIBM Blockchain Platform, which is powered by The Linux FoundationÔÇÖs┬áopen-source Hyperledger Fabric. Among these users, more than 100 have created production networks, according to Cuomo.

ÔÇ£ItÔÇÖs been great to see┬ásome of the proprietors of those networks now repurpose the networkÔÇÖs towards hastening the relief┬áof the COVID,ÔÇØ he said.

One of the applications of blockchain during the pandemic has been to┬ácombat supply shortages. Because of the lockdown caused by the crisis, some suppliers were left without key goods, and buyers realized the need to expand the network of providers of these products very quickly.┬áHowever, current laws and regulations can cause a new supplierÔÇÖs integration into the network to take many weeks.

ÔÇ£In IBM, for example, we have over 20,000 suppliers┬áto our business, and it takes 30 to 40 days to validate┬áand verify one of those suppliers,ÔÇØ Cuomo said. ÔÇ£We donÔÇÖt have 30 to 45┬ádays ÔǪ think about a healthcare company┬áor a food company.ÔÇØ

To shorten this process, IBM used the Trust Your Supplier blockchain-based identity platform built by Chainyard Supplier Management Inc.

ÔÇ£If they [suppliers] are part┬áof the Trust Your Supplier network,┬áand theyÔÇÖve already onboarded to IBM,┬átheyÔÇÖre well on their way to being visible to all of these┬áother buyers that are part of the IBM network,ÔÇØ Cuomo┬áexplained. ÔÇ£And instead of taking 40 days,┬ámaybe it only takes five days.ÔÇØ

Aggregating data to help fight the pandemic

Another blockchain use case focuses on aggregating valid data to help authorities fight the pandemic. The idea is to tackle one of the main problems that scientists and researchers face when trying to map and contain the crisis, which is the lack of integration of verified data sources that can be used with confidence.

To help solve this problem, the IBM Blockchain team joined the MiPasa project, from enterprise-grade blockchain platform Hacera, in creating a verified data hub.

ÔÇ£With MiPasa being a data hub┬áfor verified information related to the┬ácoronavirus, [it is] really laying a foundation now for a new class┬áof application that can mash up information to create new┬áinsights,ÔÇØ Cuomo explained. ÔÇ£Perhaps applying artificial intelligence and machine┬álearning to really look not just at any one of those data┬ásources, but now to look across data sources and start to make┬ásome informed decision.ÔÇØ

A third application of blockchain in this pandemic is for digital identity verification. ÔÇ£YouÔÇÖre working remotely; youÔÇÖre using tools like Zoom; thereÔÇÖs a huge spike in calls and online requests┬áfrom telehealth or government benefit programs,ÔÇØ Cuomo said.┬áÔÇ£So, this is all happening and everything behind the scenes is: ÔÇÿIs this user who they say they are?ÔÇÖÔÇØ

The Verified.Me solution by SecureKey Technologies Inc., which runs on IBM Blockchain, aims to facilitate identity verification. It allows users, through a mobile application, to invite institutions to represent and verify them. Users control their own information and the terms and conditions under which it will be used.

ÔÇ£The provider doesnÔÇÖt know who the requester is, requester┬ádoesnÔÇÖt know who the provider is ÔÇö that is double blind.┬áAnd then the network provider doesnÔÇÖt know either,ÔÇØ Cuomo explained. ÔÇ£But somehow trust is formed, and thatÔÇÖs the magic of blockchain, allowing that to happen.ÔÇØ