Back last year, Deloitte's report “Evolution of Blockchain Technology” revealed that there were more than 26,000 new blockchain projects in 2016 alone. Although most open-source projects are later uselessly abandoned, this is still a vast number, and shows what inroads the blockchain movement is making both into the business consciousness and practical real-life application. Deloitte found a particularly high level of activity in Shanghai and Beijing.
But 2016's statistics don't show the overwhelming news of 2017. In 2017 new projects with far-reaching practical implications are being launched it seems every few days. The public blockchain “Waves” recently upgraded its protocol and is being billed as the fastest blockchain platform in the world yet. Oleg Safonov, head of Russia's Federal Agency for Tourism predicts blockchain technology will transform the country's tourism market. At the same time, Great Britain's Ministry of Justice technical architecture lead, Alistair Davidson, is touting blockchain as a guarantee for the authenticity of camera footage evidence in court trials.
Take a look at some of the big names on board the blockchain train.
UPS: The shipping giant joined a trucking consortium early in November 2017, seeing the potential of the alliance to speed up transactions and secure data transfers.
Oracle: The huge database and cloud provider will be offering blockchain-as-a-service, announced October 2017.
Mastercard: Selected financial institutions and merchants were given access to its blockchain technology. In this case transactions are only shared among participants, but a fully auditable ledger with all transactions is maintained. As well as transactions it can be used for payments, supply chain and trade finance operations.
IBM: Alongside Stellar and KlickEx Group they are using it outside of the pure-IT domain, specifically for real-time banking. It is live: it processes live transactions in 12 currencies, including the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands. Bloomberg also reports that IBM is working with Walmart to use blockchain for efficient food safety processes, including livestock tracking. Perhaps the most unusual idea for blockchain comes from IBM: if Canada legalizes cannabis next year, blockchain can be used to make marijuana sales visible.
BP, Shell, Statoil: Energy firms are partnering together in consortium to use a blockchain-powered platform for energy trading.
BHP Billiton, the world's biggest mining company, are using blockchain for their supply chain. They have a market cap of $112.92 billion.
Some lesser known names have some big ideas:
4New: an integrated waste-to-energy company, which raised $25 million within eight days of its pre-sale launch.
ShoCard: their $4 million funding is perhaps less impressive than the result of their enterprise solution, which would be to replace username and password verification with blockchain-based cross-domain identification.
The effect of blockchain is so pronounced, that when British technology services company On-line PLC announced that they would add the word “blockchain” to their name, share prices suddenly skyrocketed by 394%. Rumours abound that GE patent filings hint that blockchain is being looked at as a vital component within aircraft and maintenance systems.
But what about the banking industry? The movements in consortiums are happening so thick and fast that it easy to forget what is already going on. Here are just some of the ventures:
Financial Blockchain Ventures
ABN Amro, ING and Societe Generale are within the consortium mentioned above which tracks energy trading. ING representative Carolien van der Giessen shared the compelling results of the first blockchain prototype test in the sector:
"The experiment involved an oil cargo shipment containing African crude oil which was on its way to China. The results of the experiment demonstrated that a blockchain-based platform can greatly improve the efficiency of certain processes."
State Bank of India: SBI, also in November 2017, is employing smart contracts via a blockchain to self-manage KYC (Know Your Customer) protocols. With assets of over $460 billion the government-owned public sector bank is India's largest banking corporation.
Allianz: Allianz Global Corporate & Speciality SE successfully tested their blockchain prototype in the open. Yann Krattiger, Principal at Allianz Risk Transfer, said:
“Our captive insurance blockchain prototype demonstrates that regular transactions and cash transfer between fronting insurers and clients can be significantly accelerated and simplified. Automated processing replaces the exchange of thousands of emails and massive data files. Each process is transparent and can be tracked in real-time. Our customers benefit from increased speed, reliability and auditability.”
Citi's Treasury and Trade Solutions CitiConnect API has already been used to accept payment instructions. This allows Allianz to communicate directly with Citi, initially in dollars but with a plan to expand into more markets.
Hong Kong Monetary Authority / Monetary Authority of Singapore: HKMA and MAS signed an agreement to launch a fintech collaboration in late October. These are the two leading international financial centers in the region.
HSBC: Alongside other prominent banks BBVA, CIBC and US Bank, is using R3's Corda platform as an international payments solution. This solution has an adaptive architecture which would adjust to the appearance of central bank digital currencies. The prototype should be released by the end of 2017.
Barclays: Alongside Credit Suisse, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, HSBC, MYFG and State Street, Barclays joined the original network of UBS, BNY Mellon, Deutsche Bank, Icap and Santander who are expected to launch a utility settlement coin, a new asset-backed digital cash instrument, but this time implemented on distributed ledger technology.
Blockchain is Flowing
PSD2 and liquidity concerns, as well as customer-UX focused digital disruption are forcing finance down new corridors, and the un-encumberance of cash collateral by having a reliable distributed settlement which requires only a negligible collateral investment next to the antiquated centralized system, is giving financial investment a new lease of life.
One caveat is that banks are required to buy in to a new blockchain-based system, but under the cover of this intrabank distrust, major players are already exploiting the special purpose profitability potential.
Permanent cryptographic records, banking the unbanked, liquidity potential, and banks already prototyping and practically using blockchain technology, means that blockchain season is not coming, blockchain season is already here.
Other proposed uses for Blockchain:
As blockchain becomes more and more ubiquitous the potential uses become more and more inspired. Such an example is the humble CV. In this scenario the CV will no longer stand for Curriculum Vitae, but for Career Verification. Once an organization had verified a candidate's work position, the info will be there permanently. Overinflated job applications under this system would be a thing of the past, levelling the playing field for real candidates.
The start-up Civil similarly secured $5 million worth of funding to form news on a platform where blockchain's inherent transparency and verification capability could ensure more trustworthy news.
The one thing is sure by next year this list will be hopelessly out of data as new projects are developed.
Authenticated digital voting, real estate usage, cybersecurity, and even a new search engine to rival Google, with search algorithms more reliably verified by users, demonstrates that interest in ledger technology is only increasing.
ABN Amro will be applying a practical finance-focused demonstration in March next year in Rome, by which time our other innovative speakers will have plenty more to say about the blockchain revolution. See our event to learn everything from the basics of blockchain and ICO selection, to where blockchain will be by the year 2020.
Learn more about blockchain at Blockchain in Finance conference.