IBM Developing Blockchain Apps for Business

Blockchain is evolving from its original use in Bitcoin transactions to deployments in more traditional industries such as telecommunications, media and entertainment.

Uptal Mangla, vice president and partner for Blockchain, IBM Telecommunication Services, says: "Blockchain is one of the technologies within the telecommunications industry that is having a significant impact because the clients are seeing this tool and technology as a way to get transparency, security and meet immediate business requirements including cost optimization and revenue generation."

The driver for blockchain applications in telecommunications is the 5G network adoption happening globally. Providers are looking to get into businesses such as mobile payments and blockchain offers a way to do that by providing secure and accountable transactions for business and customer alike.

Other industries are also pioneers in the technology.

"Most of the blockchain work started in financial services and then evolved into other industries," Mangla explained. "Entertainment is classic because it brings trust, accountability, and transparency for digital transactions."

In an article he wrote on LinkedIn, he explained: "In the media industry, we all know how difficult it is for artists and music labels to track the revenues that are due to them from streaming and video platforms." Blockchain can provide a way to make sure entertainment companies and artists are paid when they songs and videos are played.

Blockchain is attractive to a variety of businesses because it provides security, transparency and reduces the middle layer in transactions, he said.

The way blockchain is designed makes it very difficult for hackers to break into and tamper with because any change to a data block is immediately apparent to all the peers on a network because the hash code changes. (If you are not familiar with the basics of blockchain there is a YouTube video How does a blockchain work - Simply Explained that will give you an overview of the technology in about six minutes.)

IBM started in AI 10 years ago with Watson and began working on blockchain technology seven years ago. Working with partners and clients is key to building blockchain business apps because "for blockchain to be effective in a network, you need to create an ecosystem and you need to get carriers and consumers into the ecosystem" he explained. "We are using the IBM Garage Method to co-create, co-operate and co-execute with our partners."

IBM Garage Methodology
IBM integrates practices that are grounded in experience -- from implementation at global scale through culture change -- into a single, seamless end-to-end approach, the IBM Garage Methodology. The Methodology drives Enterprise Design Thinking at scale, is built on agile principles for co-located and distributed teams, leverages DevOps tools and techniques for continued delivery and operations, fosters digital talent and culture change, and enables Site Reliability Engineering.

The Methodology describes how to start implementing the practices in your organization. Workflows describe a set of activities that you need to complete to realize an outcome. For example, a workflow that describes how to define a minimum viable product (MVP) describes activities and related practices to create an implementable MVP.

Using this methodology, IBM is creating use cases showing how blockchain can work for business.

"We've created a set of use cases with the Garage Method such as supply chain optimization," Mangla explained. "Mobile number portability is a example. Media buying platform is another example. We do digital supply chain optimization, custom identities, know your supplier. What we are doing in these situations is through the IBM Garage helping the companies scale their business innovation through experimentation and proof of concept to creating scalable industrial strength solutions."

As an example of a use case, Mangla pointed to one done by IBM in partnership with Syniverse, a Tampa, FL-based provider of technology for mobile operators and businesses to manage and secure their mobile and network communications.

"By securely sharing data and creating a permanent, transparent record of digital transactions in a security-rich environment, blockchain helps pave the way for mobile service providers to operate more effectively within their business networks," according to a press release on the project. "For the processing of roaming charges, this provides each participant of the network with the same verifiable proof of events, billable usage or executed transactions."

Blockchain can also be used with other AI technologies such as IoT to automate workflow and processes, Mangla said.