For many, the term ‘blockchain’ is still shrouded in mystery — although the definition of blockchain and how it will impact business is simple enough to grasp. The problem is that when blockchain first emerged, it became (incorrectly) synonymous with the term cryptocurrency because it was helping to facilitate cryptocurrency transactions. However, while that is one use case for blockchain, but it's potential spans much further across the world’s economic spectrum.
What Is Blockchain? So let's dispel a myth: the blockchain is not inherently tied to cryptocurrency. “It is crucial to understand that [Blockchain] technology is an architectural methodology and there are many possible applications for it. Separating the cryptocurrency aspect from the underpinning Distributed Ledger rails is key,” explained Geraldine Balaj, Global Distributed Ledger Tech Lead at Paris-based Capgemini.
Don Tapscott Co-founder and Executive Chairman at Blockchain Research Institute, gave a solid blockchain definition in 2016, “The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” But while blockchain is a revolutionarily powerful concept, it’s a little too public and open for certain forms of enterprise usage. according to Shidan Gouran President & COO of Toronto-based Global Blockchain who offers this example, “On a public blockchain like the one used by Bitcoin, full visibility of transactions on the network comes naturally. If an investment bank wanted to use blockchain technology for some aspect of their operations, this would be unacceptable as a matter of privacy."
That’s why the world is now seeing the emergence of projects — both open source and proprietary — to help give the blockchain some boundaries in preparation for usage in enterprise industries.
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What Is Hyperledger?
One such project, is San Francisco, California based Hyperledger. Hyperledger is an open source blockchain project under the Linux Foundation. It’s a collection of blockchain rules designed to enable a wide array of customized blockchain applications. It empowers developers with the protocols they need to design unique private blockchains that can be tailored to meet privacy requirements, comply with data protection regulations and process thousands of transactions per second. Once again, this suits the big business, a world that can marvel at the power of the public blockchain like the rest of us, but which cannot use it due to its uber-public nature. “Hyperledger is an umbrella term that refers to many different projects that optimize the use of blockchain technologies, the most common of which is Hyperledger Fabric. These projects are not themselves part of a blockchain but rather, they represent an effort to tailor the blockchain's performance and behavior by creating protocols and frameworks that better suit blockchain applications to specific purposes,” explained Gouran.
CMSWire's Kaya Ismail reached out to Hyperledger’s Director of Ecosystem at Hyperledger Marta Pierkarska for deeper insights into what Hyperledger is, and how it can aid enterprises trying to adopt blockchain technologies. “Hyperledger incubates and promotes enterprise-grade, open source business blockchain technologies, including distributed ledgers, smart contract engines, client libraries, graphical interfaces, utility libraries, and sample applications,” she explained.
She went on to describe how Hyperledger provides the underlying open source software, on top of which anyone can set up apps to meet business needs. And indeed, some of the largest names in the game already have. For example, Digital Asset and IBM were the initial contributors to Hyperledger Fabric, one of many Hyperledger projects.
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Blockchain For The Enterprise
Blockchain in the enterprise world isn’t theoretical, it’s already in full swing. “For instance, Walmart is piloting blockchain technology for supply chain management. They are leveraging distributed ledger technology to track and trace pork in China and produce in the U.S. — two high-volume product categories with large markets. The technical platform that Walmart is using is based on Hyperledger Fabric,” Pierkarska said. She also outlined how blockchain technologies are changing the way big pharma is cracking down on counterfeit medicine, recalling drugs and improving service delivery. Additionally, she mentioned how Danish shipping enterprise Maersk is currently trialing blockchain to simplify the processes that help send trillions of dollars worth of products around the world.
But blockchain’s potential for the enterprise doesn’t stop there. An infographic published by NewsCo depicts how blockchain technology can transform industries such as travel, hospitality, education, food, retail and the energy sector. As for the future of Blockchain for the enterprise, and how projects like Hyperledger may help facilitate its growth, Gouran once again had his say, “Blockchain technology is still in its infancy — and Hyperledger plays a key role in making all of the blockchain's strengths usable for even the most rigid and change-averse organizations."
“Since Hyperledger is a way of doing things and not a technology by itself, getting its results into actual use will take time beyond the commitment to undertake projects using Hyperledger. Since many commitments are now in place and development is well underway, we are confident that 2018 will see many productive use cases of Hyperledger, having an overall uplifting effect on blockchain as a whole,” he said.