In the first days of February 2020, information technology giant IBM (IBM) announced a wide array of new blockchain initiatives that it is planning as part of a wider effort to develop sophisticated distributed ledger technology.
IBM has come out swinging, demonstrating dominance in the world of creating and implementing novel use cases for distributed ledger technology. Having secured the position as the private firm with the most new patents in blockchain technology in 2019 — notably including new measures to further improve security — IBM appears poised to retain that title with a barrage of new efforts in this space.
IBM’s Latest Blockchain Announcements
Continuing its work on the IBM Food Trust — which attempts to use blockchain-based record keeping to allow consumers to easily access the entire production and transportation history of common food items — IBM told the press on February 3, 2020, that it was preparing for a feasibility test with international food regulators, giving the company a chance to get valuable certification for the world of international produce shipping. Setting aside more than $200,000 for the project, IBM is showing regulators how the use of its new software can revolutionize the shipping industry worldwide.
Many of IBM’s other recent developments are largely unrelated to the Food Trust, showing the multifaceted nature of its blockchain strategy. Also on February 3, 2020, for example, IBM rolled out its distributed ledger solution for contract laborers, claiming to automate many of the more onerous tasks of payment processing. Automatically tracking things like time sheets, invoices and purchase orders, IBM is seeking to create a ready-made solution to not only streamline the process of employing outside contractors with a company, but also to show the wide ranging ways that blockchain technology can revolutionize modern society.
Going beyond these two fields, IBM also partnered with Walmart and Merck on what it is calling the Pharmaceutical Unity Network.
Working to keep all their technologies compliant with the upcoming Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), the companies have been building an open-source platform to help pharmaceutical companies stay within the boundaries of this legal framework. By tracking the life cycle of drugs themselves in a similar manner to its food export initiative, IBM hopes to combat the problems of counterfeit drugs being sold to consumers and legitimate drugs being turned over to underground markets. Exploring a number of other areas where the blockchain framework could prove useful, IBM has been investigating things like drug recalls and clinical trials for further uses of this project.
This massive investment into blockchain technology stems from the very highest levels of IBM’s corporate structure. On January 31, 2020, it was made public that IBM’s previous CEO was stepping down, and his replacement would be Arvind Krishna, the senior vice president for cloud and cognitive software, who has been intimately involved with not only the strategic development of IBM’s mad drive on blockchain technology, but also the development of many relevant technologies themselves.
In other words, even as IBM has enthusiastically supported these moves in the past, one of the principle architects in getting IBM’s blockchain efforts off the ground is now steering the entire company. Looking toward the future, it seems more and more likely that 2020 is going to blow IBM’s 2019 record for blockchain development out of the water.