Category Archives: IBM

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Intel and Filament Push for a Blockchain IoT Future

Enterprise blockchain developer Filament, which receives significant Intel investment, has released an Internet of Things(IoT)-optimized, USB Blocklet chip.

Filament chief executive Clift-Jennings explained, “Many products, not all, have the ability to connect to USB. These are for manufacturing lines – we have a version of a USB product that plugs into the onboard diagnostics port in vehicles. It’s very much trying to drive toward machines being transactive in nature.”

Blockchain can be used to increase transparency between designers, service providers, and end users, making license management safer, providing production-quality data and becoming resilient against counterfeiting via secure design storage.

Counterfeiting and product integrity

According to BusinessWire, the global total of counterfeited goods has increased to USD 1.2 trillion. Counterfeiting of clothing and textiles primarily affects profits, whereas fraudulent components for machinery, cosmetics, and consumables can have a more detrimental effect by risking health and safety. It is believed that up to 10% of aircraft parts are counterfeit. The outsourcing of services causes difficulty in tracking the source and quality of components, as well as where maintenance is carried out.

The global distribution of manufactured components, must take steps to guarantee the security of plans, and provide data that is tamper-proof and in line with regulations and production standards. This must be achieved while preventing the misuse of plans to manufacture counterfeit goods.

Blockchain IoT shaping the future

Data drives innovation so the ability to share or sell manufacturing data on a ledger could fast track other businesses. Autonomous cars are going to rely heavily on driver data to increase safety in their transition to level 5 (the highest level of autonomy). Having existing hardware produced by IBM or Filament with a variety of companies from Microsoft to Amazon offering blockchain API frameworks, this could quickly accelerate blockchain proof of concept in the industry and change how data is shared an analyzed.

Big companies such as Mastercard are already looking at the applications for blockchain to track goods, providing consumers with product integrity. This could then extend right through to the manufacturing level with the use IoT-optimized hardware.

Intel’s investment in Filament is part of their blockchain initiative for large-scale industrial IoT deployments. The vice president and general manager of Intel, Doug Fisher said, “At Intel, we believe the future of IoT will be enabled by smart, connected, secure edge-devices that drive a data-based economy.”


Image source: Saginaw Future Inc. – CIGNYS Corporation has three advanced manufacturing facilities in Saginaw County.
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SAP Developing Blockchain Logistics Solutions

SAP, a leader in enterprise-level software solutions, is looking to expand into the supply chain industry by applying blockchain technology to agricultural supply chains. Its farm-to-consumer program is working alongside companies such as Johnsonville, Naturipe Farms and Maple Leaf. SAP has also partnered up with the Swiss supply chain startup

Issues and needs around the evolving global market

Currently, there is a global push towards improving the transportation of foods and goods around the world. As much as one-third of global fresh fruits and vegetables go to waste because their quality has diminished and is deemed no longer sale-worthy. Food can often be stuck in limbo in the supply chain due to documents being delayed or even lost. With a rapidly growing population and a push for a greener future, this has become simply unacceptable for the industry.

Alongside increasing profits by reducing waste, there is also a growing need for product details among consumers. Consumers are more conscious of products and are wanting to buy in confidence knowing that the item is part of fair-trade and has been ethically sourced. Almost 75% of respondents in a Nielsen global survey said that a brand’s country of origin was one of the most important factors compared with selection or choice, price, function, and quality. When it comes to food and beverages, local brands take precedence as spoilage is a primary factor, whereas for long-life products or other goods, consumers prefer global brands.

“For many categories, a global brand name is an indicator of quality, safety, and trustworthiness in emerging markets,” noted the report.

SAP among many in a movement towards blockchain logistics

SAP isn’t the first to explore blockchain logistics solutions. Mastercard is currently working on its Blockchain and Authorization Network which sets out to provide proof of provenance for goods with the ability to track items as they are created, transferred, purchased and resold, to prevent fraud. Recently, an Ethereum-based supply chain was used to track a Yellowfin tuna from the waters off Fiji to a conference where it was served as sushi. Samsung and IBM are already investing in blockchain solutions to manage shipping to streamline imports and exports.

SAP’s project lead, Torsten Zube, believes blockchain has the ability to update current food industry production models to a more streamlined, profitable iteration.

“If enterprises can access the complete version of product history,” he explained, “this could result in a shift from a central unilateral supplier-led production to a consumer demand-led supply organized by a consortium of peers.”


Image source: Flicker – William Murphy – Farmers’ Market Meeting House Square

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Facebook Reportedly Considers Own Crypto, but First Blockchain

According to online media company Cheddar, an anonymous source has reported that social media juggernaut Facebook is considering creating its own cryptocurrency in order to simplify online payments.

This consideration, apparently with little regard to its recent banning of cryptocurrency advertising, is surprising given that insiders have claimed that the company has no plans to hold an initial coin offering (ICO) and will almost certainly not launch any cryptocurrency in the coming year.

What is more likely though, given that large companies are adopting blockchain technology in increasing numbers, is that Facebook takes this direction long before it considers its own cryptocurrency.

Early Bitcoin investor, Messenger’s David Marcus, who has overseen Facebook development since 2014, in a shakeup at Facebook HQ, now heads up group tasked with exploring blockchain technology on behalf of the company. It was reported that an internal post this week announced the company’s blockchain initiative to employees, although it was non-specific.

When questioned, Marcus, who has now joined the board at giant crypto exchange Coinbase, refuted any immediate plans to integrate cryptocurrency into the FB machinery, commenting:

“Payments using crypto right now is just very expensive, super slow, so the various communities running the different blockchains and the different assets need to fix all the issues, and then when we get there someday, maybe we’ll do something.”

Bridget van Kralingen, IBM’s senior vice president of global industries, platforms and blockchain, suggests: “It’s a technology that fits very well with some of the business model challenges that they’re actually facing, and I think they’re very right to take this very seriously.”

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week ordered major administrative changes to the social network, giving more responsibility to his chief product officer and launching the blockchain division.


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IBM Pilots Blockchain Loans in Africa

Multinational giant IBM has launched a pilot blockchain-based project to support small businesses throughout Africa with a Kenyan logistics company.

The company, Kenyan-based Twiga foods, has used mobile technology to develop its supply chain for farmers and traders. To expand and offer microloans to its African clients, the company has joined IBM to employ blockchain technology to improve its current business model and deliver a more efficient and transparent service.

Skeptics have argued that it has been lenders who have historically benefited from such microloans, due to non-restrictive or in some instances a complete lack of barriers, which often translate to high-interest rates. The application of blockchain-based solutions to these loans is increasingly being cited by business as a way of addressing other microloan issues such as large overheads, slow delivery and corruption. The reason for using blockchain is that it is secure and transparent in nature. No individual or single entity can alter entries on the distributed ledger.

The IBM pilot project, developed at the IBM Lab in Nairobi, uses Hyperledger Fabric, a blockchain framework implementation that acts as a bedrock for developing applications and solutions.

The project simply requires African users to own a mobile and need capital to grow their business. The IBM blockchain program aims to fill the finance gap so small ventures can flourish on the African continent.

Isaac Markus, IBM researcher on the project, commented:

“After analyzing purchase records from a mobile device, we used machine learning algorithms to predict creditworthiness, in turn giving lenders the confidence they need to provide microloans to small businesses. Once the credit score is determined, we used a blockchain, based on the Hyperledger Fabric, to manage the entire lending process from application to receiving offers to accepting the terms of repayment.”

So far, the technology, which underwent an 8-week pilot, has processed 220 loans with a distributed average of KES 3,000 Kenyan shillings (KES), approximately USD 30, for recipients. These loans were disbursed with a repayment period of four or eight days that attracted a 1% and 2% interest respectively.

Andrew Kinai, the lead researcher at IBM research, suggested that the aim of the program was to offer the opportunity for small businesses to participate in an interdependent ecosystem based on SMS. Users, some with limited IT literacy would be better positioned to access financing for their orders.

As a result of the pilot, Twiga has benefited both from a boost in business and earned interest. Twiga, which started its business as a logistics company for bananas, has since expanded its operations to include more farm produce for distribution.

IMB now intends to spread the program throughout Africa.


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IBM and Marsh to Partner for Blockchain Insurance Platform

IBM and insurance broker Marsh are developing a blockchain-based platform to maximize efficiency in insurance verification. ACORD Corporation and ISN will also be working in partnership with them.

The system will be built on IBM’s blockchain platform as well as the Hyperledger Fabric code.

Why a blockchain-based insurance platform?

A blockchain-based insurance platform can help in reducing time, errors and finally costs. Distributed ledgers have the ability to reform the global insurance industry by maximizing efficiency, giving legal certainty and instant access to documents and mitigating the issue of a single point of failure.

The distributed ledger will replace dated, manual, paper-based systems or digital systems by making the records irrefutable as well as having multiple copies stored. Removing the need for reconciliations and other tasks from a central authority will further reduce costs.

In a world where interactions are time sensitive, instant access to data will result in higher productivity, benefiting businesses. Blockchain will allow multiple participants to view, record and add up-to-date records that will provide more legal certainty due to their tamper-proof nature.

Proof of insurance via a distributed ledger with timestamped transactions will contribute further to increased integrity.

With a decentralized system, there will be no single point of failure. If one party was to have downtime or connectivity issues all data is recorded on the blockchain as transactions and can be revisited upon reconnection.

A permission-based system will allow participants to decide who joins the chain to view or add data. The system will normally consist of the broker, the insurer and the regulator.

How will the system work?

The broker will create a policy while actively mining to contribute to the verification of transactions. The insurer can then create multiple offers based on the statistics from the broker. The broker will then accept the offer and create the insurance policy.

Each interaction is verified and recorded on the blockchain providing transparency among all three parties as they can instantly view the offers or tamper-proof policy.

How quickly will systems change?

Insurance companies are often slow in modernizing its business processes. With a general lack of expertise and awareness around blockchain, companies are outsourcing their IT needs to other firms such as IBM. As blockchain becomes more mainstream and companies develop competitive edges, there will be a wider adoption of the technology.

Expertise in blockchain and security will have to grow to match the demand for new systems, while companies will have to collaborate in order to migrate their interactions over to blockchain. With the current salary rising for blockchain developers, however, not all companies may be eager to migrate currently.


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Samsung Investing in Blockchain Shipping Technologies

Samsung is joining a number of other companies in exploring the idea of using blockchain logistics to streamline global supply chains. It is reported that the tech giant has already begun developing a distributed ledger system to monitor international shipments.

Recently, IBM has teamed up with Danish shipping giant Maersk and India’s JM Baxi, in order to digitalize their import and export process with blockchain.

Energy is one of the most frequently traded resources and the implementation of a more efficient system has captivated market leaders. BP was testing a gas trading platform, while E.ON and Enel, have also experimented with similar energy trading platforms.

Sinochem, one of China’s main oil companies, used blockchain to monitor and store data on a shipment of gasoline to Singapore.

Issues surrounding current logistics

The top 20 exporters of containerized cargo transport a total of around  127.6 million fully-loaded TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) globally a year. Countries with a higher level of human intervention can take up to 11 days to process logistics. OECD countries have managed to reduce this to about 9 hours but the process is still prone to human error.

Fraudulent goods are worth USD 1.4 trillion globally and tax avoidance continues to be an issue. Not only does this affect profits but health depending on the type of product and its use. There is a growing concern among consumers about imitations and problems with verifying the authenticity of a product.

Documentation can be held up or lost by middlemen, resulting in perishable goods being stuck in transit. This can end up costing up to a fifth of the total transportation costs as well as the price of the goods.

Benefits of blockchain logistics

Blockchain is set to help shippers, ports, customs offices and many other parties in the global supply chain by replacing paperwork with irrefutable digital records.

Blockchain could provide proof of provenance for goods by tracking them globally from the manufactures. Import details, fees, and taxes could all be programmed into smart contracts that release payments automatically once the conditions where met. Customers will see an improvement in services as the overall speed of the processes increase.  Tracking will include improved shipment data with timestamps and data being instantly accessible through a ledger.

Blockchain will benefit logistics by providing enhanced security and vendor management, as well as preventing the loss of goods.


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IBM Looking at Blockchain Alternatives for Cloud Testing

IBM’s blockchain testing future

A patent released this week describes how a test configuration using blockchain will provide a more secure testing infrastructure. In this method, miners allocated tasks will be paid in cryptocurrency on completion. A blockchain solution would reduce hardware requirements and maintenance while saving money for service providers and clients.

Cloud testing is where cloud computing is used to simulate an environment for testing web-based applications. The simulation can be used to test a variety of functional elements as well as performance in relation to user traffic.

Existing issues with current cloud testing

With an increase of applications in development, the demand for these services is growing. Applications continue to become more complex, leading to large hardware requirements and fluctuations in service use.

Suitable bandwidth must also be available to improve testing quality. Similar timings in development cycles can cause cloud resources to be diluted across many companies as their testing coincides with others. Additional costs are incurred as code is retested, due to no record of redundant tests. Finally, testing involves sharing data and information with outside parties, posing a security risk.

Possible benefits of blockchain

Using a blockchain-based environment would allow details of test packages to be publicly viewed via a public ledger. Testing requests and payments could then be processed using smart contracts. Smart contracts would submit requirements and payment details to the network, releasing rewards once all conditions are met.

Results would then be recorded on the blockchain for the client to view. All results and company data can also be encrypted and made exclusively available to the client using private keys.

A record of prior testing would also stop recurring fees for redundant tests. The ability to outsource work to miners would result in lower outlays on hardware to provide the testing services and better resource management at peak times.

World’s Smallest IBM Crypto Computer to Fight Fraud

IBM to Expand Business Cryptocurrency Applications

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IBM to Expand Business Cryptocurrency Applications

Computer giant IBM has been meeting with executives from central banks and large corporations this year to investigate possibilities of further utilizing cryptocurrency technology to save money and increase business revenues.

Over the past year, IBM is reported to have met with 20 central banks all exploring the potential of applying the new technology to their business model by issuing their own fiat cryptocurrency.

IBM head of blockchain development, Jesse Lund, was hired from Wells Fargo earlier this year as part of the company’s move towards integrating a cryptocurrency strategy. Lund sees increasing numbers demanding a “digital asset”, the most durable of which could be one, he suggests, “issued by a central bank that represents a claim on fiat deposits in the real world”.  This asset, Lund insists, would need to maintain some “semblance of monetary policy”.

This reflects a growing trend driven by many financial institutions around the globe in utilizing blockchain technology, as companies examine how to improve services by either adapting current methods or adapting to new, faster, cost-efficient and secure ways of conducting business.

IBM hasn’t revealed the names of most of the banks that they are currently meeting, although they appear to be mainly from the G20 forum with members including China, Russia, the US and from the EU.

Until now IBM’s work with cryptocurrencies has been limited to the Stellar network and its Lumens cryptocurrency which has served to digitally connect fiat currencies allowing for a rapid exchange without either consumer or buyer touching the cryptocurrency. The company maintains that it is using this technology to explore a wide range of tokens. Those most in demand, Lund believes, are securities, utility and commodity tokens.

Going forward, the company has indicated that is looking to work with a number of blockchains and is currently looking at forming a partnership with the non-profit Sovrin Foundation.

Lund has stated that he expects to see further business opportunities between public and private blockchains develop.


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World’s Smallest IBM Crypto Computer to Fight Fraud

On 20 March, the IBM showcase introduced the Crypto Anchor, a small PC no bigger than a grain of salt, which IBM hopes to use to prevent fraud in the supply chain industry.

It was introduced at the “5 in 5″ technologies summit was held in Las Vegas at the Think 2018 by Andreas Kind, head of the project, “Industry Platform and Blockchain” Zurich-based team.

IMB used bio-science linked with artificial intelligence (AI) to invent this highly sophisticated creation which can be embedded into vaccines or is already ingrained into the product. A grain of rice, for example, has its unique code DNA & RNA. Using a solution and some innovative AI technology to confirm if this signature is correct, it can show if the product is genuine and viable.

These digital fingerprints or “cryptographic anchors” will be used to authenticate shipments. The Crypto Anchors hope to create a verified ledger of transactions upon their blockchain.

“Almost everything has been copied, from cinnamon, boiled eggs to Gucci bags and cars,” said Kind.

These secure cryptographic ledgers have initially been developed for business purposes but there is nothing stopping them from reaching a public adoption phase.

IBM states that these Crypto Anchors will be rolled out for business adoption within the next 18 months, and hope within five years with the exponential technological advancements, users could obtain them for commercialization:

“They’ll be used in tandem with blockchain’s distributed ledger technology to ensure an object’s authenticity from its point of origin to when it reaches the hands of the customer.”

Tech Specs

Used alongside the Crypto anchor, these tiny chips, no bigger than a grain of salt, are able to play the 1990’s vintage game DOOM. Powered by one small integrated solar panel and communicates via a LED unit, this chip is to be embedded in products or packaging to serve as a tracker during shipment. IBM price forecasts that it will cost less than 10 cents to manufacture each chip.

IBM SVP of Hybrid cloud, Arvind Krishna states: “They’ll be used in tandem with blockchain’s distributed ledger technology to ensure an object’s authenticity from its point of origin to when it reaches the hands of the customer.”


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