IBM is a well-known technology company that produces enterprise level technology, and what many don’t realize with all the talk of cryptocurrencies and the like is that it is a big player in the blockchain space as well. In fact, IBM offers the highest number of blockchain-related jobs.
High Profile Partnerships
It was recently announced that the French commercial court would be using a blockchain-based platform to manage the legal statuses and changes in status of companies operating in France. The March 14th announcement explained how IBM and the National Council of Clerks had worked together to develop the technology that would later be deployed in 2019.
As with all blockchain-based innovations, the goal is essentially to increase transparency and efficiency. The legal space is historically quite “murky”, and if legal transactions could be executed in just a day, rather than the few days it currently takes, that would be a solid testing ground for the technology.
Highest Number of Patents
In other news, IBM put in an application for a patent on technology that helps improve the security of permissioned networks and protect them from replay attacks. Replay attacks are the “takebacks” of blockchain. Users send valid data transmissions and then maliciously repeat or “replay” it in order to manipulate the system.
“Resisting replay attacks efficiently in a permissioned and privacy-preserving blockchain network” is the title of the patent and it contains several security techniques that should protect against such attacks. On a permissioned network such as the ones IBM designs, specific security certificates would be released to verify transactions, which would prevent the replay attack problem altogether.
Another piece of news came last week regarding IBM’s partnership with CULedger to develop blockchain-based solutions for the credit union industry. We always seem to look to brand new blockchain startups to solve the big problems of the world, but perhaps an established innovator like IBM has the best chance of capturing the upside here.
Permissioned Versus Permissionless Networks
IBM has been developing and rolling out blockchain-related products at a commercial level for a while now. Many would question how a clearly “centralized” company can develop software that depends on decentralized ethos, such as blockchain. This is where a more heated debate emerges regarding what it means to be decentralized and to what degree it is necessary.
The difference between permissioned blockchains and permissionless blockchains is deemed to be a binary one by many in the industry, but IBM engineer Chris Ferris disagrees. He believes that permissions exist on a spectrum. A perfect example of his view is how Bitcoin operates. Many view it as the holy grail of permissionless blockchains, but when you drill deep into it, there is a centralization of power with the core developers.
For example, a bug was discovered in 2018 and only 11 people knew about it and worked on finding a solution. Where decentralization is all about finding a collective solution, Ethereum and Bitcoin both yield examples of times where a centralized governance mechanism emerged in the last few years. It may not be present in the day-to-day, but it is relevant as the debate continues about whether companies like IBM should be designing centralized blockchain solutions for private companies.