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IBM’s Blockchain Division Largely Unscathed After Layoffs of 1,700: Report

Only a handful of the 1,700 layoffs recently announced by IBM affected its blockchain division, according to a report.

Only a “very, very tiny percentage” of this month’s 1,700 job losses at IBM affected its blockchain division, The Block reported on June 20.

Jerry Cuomo, the vice president of IBM Blockchain Technology, told the website that the tech giant is prioritizing blockchain skills when making hiring and firing decisions — adding it was “full steam ahead” for his department.

The layoffs have been described as a “realignment plan.” The consulting arm of IBM’s blockchain business experienced some losses of  redundant positions, but its engineering side reportedly escaped unscathed. A source told The Block:

“The product team had no layoffs, there was nothing out of development. It was very limited on the blockchain side.”

IBM currently has about 340,000 employees, meaning that it let go of roughly 0.5% of its workforce. As CNBC reported on June 7, this doesn’t mean a hiring freeze is on the horizon. More than 7,600 openings were listed on IBM’s website at press time, many of them for newer areas of the business.

Earlier this week, the company announced upgrades to its IBM Blockchain Platform so it can run on multiple cloud networks including Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

IBM has also been involved in a blockchain platform known as “Device ID,” which officially launched last week. The solution is designed to authenticate digital signatures to clamp down on financial crime, and is set to be used by nine banks across Brazil.

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Exclusive: Microsoft Registers Blockchain and AI Platform for Agriculture in Brazil

Microsoft’s technology, known as FarmBeats, uses blockchain, drones and AI to improve productivity and reduce water consumption on farms.

Microsoft has registered a suite of applications in Brazil that are designed to improve efficiency in the agriculture sector, according to an exclusive report by Cointelegraph Brazil on June 6.

The technology, known as FarmBeats, uses blockchain, drones, IoTartificial intelligence and big data to improve productivity. It has already been rolled out on farms in the United StatesIndiaNew Zealand and Kenya, achieving a 30% reduction in water consumption.

Ranveer Chandra, the scientist who created FarmBeats, recently said that the agriculture sector had been left behind by the benefits big data, AI and blockchain can bring — even claiming that hunting had seen more digital transformation despite being a smaller industry. He told business and economy magazine Epoca Negocios:

“Brazil is one of the first countries that comes to mind when we think of agriculture. We developed FarmBeats so that its technology could be applied here and in other developing countries.”

The technology is regarded as crucial as farmers struggle to make a living while competing with a changing climate and growing demand for produce, Epoca Negocios writes. Chandra explains that production needs to increase by 70% in the next 30 years if global food requirements are going to be met.

The scientist has called on Brazil’s government to embrace the technology and subsidize it in a similar way to farming equipment and fertilizer. Besides helping farmers use resources more effectively, FarmBeats claims it can enhance accuracy and yield by delivering vital statistics about the temperature, moisture and nutrients in the soil.

Microsoft has made several forays into the blockchain world of late. Last month, the United States giant released the new Azure Blockchain Development Kit for the Ethereum blockchain — aiding developers who are building apps on the network.

Also in May, the company announced it was building a decentralized identity network using the Bitcoin network known as the Identity Overlay Network (ION.)

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Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior Owner Unveils Blockchain Platform to Verify Luxury Goods

LVMH brands including Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior are already involved in the platform.

ConsenSys has teamed up with LVMH and Microsoft to build a blockchain-powered platform that allows consumers to verify the authenticity of luxury goods, according to a news release on May 16.

The consortium says the system, known as Aura, is designed to “serve the entire luxury industry with powerful product tracking and tracing services.”

LVMH brands including Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior are already involved in the project — and discussions are underway to extend Aura to other high-end names within the group. The news release added:

“AURA makes it possible for consumers to access the product history and proof of authenticity of luxury goods — from raw materials to the point of sale, all the way to second-hand markets.”

The technology sees unique information about every product stored on a shared ledger. Customers are then able to use a brand’s official app to obtain a certificate offering details about its provenance.

According to the group, Aura — which is based on the Ethereum blockchain and utilizes Microsoft Azure — will also offer ethical and environmental information, instructions for product care and warranty services.

The team behind Aura hope it will eventually be used by rival luxury brands too, enabling them to offer a tailor-made service or strengthen customer loyalty. Ken Timsit, managing director of ConsenSys Solutions, added:

“AURA is a ground-breaking innovation for the luxury industry. ConsenSys is proud to contribute and to work with LVMH on an initiative that will serve the entire luxury industry, protecting the interests, integrity, and privacy of each brand.”

Reports that AURA was in the works first emerged in March.

High-end brands are increasingly turning to blockchain to confirm the provenance of their products. Recently, reports suggested that premium liquor brand Ailsa Bay was planning to release a scotch whisky tracked with a blockchain-based system.

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Over 50 Banks Simulate Letter of Credit Transactions on R3’s Blockchain in 27 Countries

Over 50 banks participated in the simulation of letter of credit transactions on R3’s blockchain platform in 27 countries on six continents.

Over 50 banks participated in the simulation of letter of credit transactions on R3’s blockchain platform in 27 countries on six continents. The company announced the development in a press release published on May 8.

Per the release, 96% of the participants said that the system — dubbed Voltron — will accelerate and reduce the cost of their letters of credits procedure. Furthermore, 86% of them reportedly believe the inefficiencies of the traditional system are becoming intolerable.

The company claims that Voltron cuts the execution time of the procedure from 5-10 days to under 24 hours. R3 states that, as a result of the adoption of the new system, 61% said that they are likely to move trade flows to “open account,” an option which is reportedly riskier for exporters.

The participants of the six-weeks-long trial reportedly include CIB, MUFG, National Bank of Egypt, RBI, Standard Bank and Societe Generale. The system was delivered through a partnership of Bain, CryptoBLK and R3 on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. Voltron is designed to be compatible with both Corda and Corda Enterprise, aiming to replace the traditional finance links and networks with a shared ledger.

As Cointelegraph reported in March, United Kingdom-based banking giant HSBC is seeking banking partners in South Korea to deploy Voltron in the country.

Kuala Lumpur-based Bursa Malaysia, the country’s stock exchange, is also working on a blockchain-enabled security borrowing and lending proof-of-concept in partnership with Hong Kong-based Forms Syntron Information, the stock exchange’s technology partner.

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Microsoft Releases New Azure Blockchain Development Kit for Ethereum Blockchain

Microsoft’s development kit is designed to aid developers using the newly-released Azure Blockchain Service.

Microsoft has released the new Azure Blockchain Development Kit for the Ethereum blockchain, according to an announcement from Microsoft Azure blog Build Azure on May 6.

The new offering is reportedly an extension to Microsoft’s source-code editor Visual Studio Code, and has been designed to aid developers who are building apps using Microsoft’s newly-released blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) platform, Azure Blockchain Service.

The new extension can also reportedly be used for building apps on the public Ethereum network, and enables developers to use open source blockchain tools such as Solidity and Truffle.

While community-published Solidity and other blockchain tools for Visual Studio Code already exist, the blog post notes that this is the first official set of such development tools officially released by Microsoft, stating:

“This proves even further the investment and dedication that Microsoft is putting forth towards the use of Blockchain ledger technologies in the Enterprise, or even on the public blockchain networks.”

The extension, which is compatible with both Windows and MacOS operating systems, is notably hosted as an open source on Github.

As reported, United States-based coffee chain Starbucks announced this week that it would be using Microsoft’s Azure Blockchain Service to track coffee production as part of its  blockchain-powered “bean-to-cup” pilot.

Azure Blockchain Service currently supports Quorum — the open source Ethereum-based platform backed by JPMorgan Chase —  and purports to streamline the use of consortium blockchain networks, from creation to modification.

In May 2018, Microsoft Azure had released its blockchain app creation service Azure Blockchain Workbench, which is designed to streamline blockchain app development by providing readily available infrastructure.

In October 2018, Nasdaq announced it would be integrating Azure blockchain technology into its financial framework with the expectation that it would speed up transactions.

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Microsoft Releases Blockchain Manager App

Microsoft has released its fully managed Azure Blockchain Service.

Microsoft announced its fully managed Azure Blockchain Service in a press release on May 2.

The new blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) platform will purportedly allow users to build blockchain applications on preconfigured network. 

According to Microsoft’s head of corporate communications, Frank Shaw, this service “simplifies the formation, management, and governance of consortium blockchain networks.”

Shaw further noted that Azure Blockchain Service can create a new consortium network “in a few simple clicks,” or let the user perform basic operations like adding new members to the network.

Quorum, an open source blockchain platform backed by JPMorgan Chase, is the first platform that can be managed via Azure Blockchain Service. Azure CTO Mark Russinovich explained the choice:

“Because it’s built on the popular Ethereum protocol, which has the world’s largest blockchain developer community, Quorum is a natural choice.”

Microsoft Azure released its blockchain app creation service Azure Blockchain Workbench in May 2018. This platform was also designed to automate aspects of blockchain-related work — in this case to streamline blockchain app development by providing readily available infrastructure for the developer.

In October 2018, Microsoft Azure joined forces with Nasdaq. Nasdaq opted to integrate Azure blockchain technology into its financial framework with the expectation that it would speed up transactions.

On April 30, Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing wing of retail giant Amazon, released its own BaaS platform dubbed Amazon Managed Blockchain.

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Food Tech Giant Bühler Reveals ‘Blockchain-Ready’ Tools to Combat Salmonella and E. Coli

Swiss food technology giant Bühler introduced two “blockchain-ready” food safety products.

Swiss food technology giant Bühler introduced two food safety products that can potentially integrate blockchain at the Microsoft booth at the Hannover Messe industrial event in Germany on April 1. The company reported the news in a press release published the same day.

The so-called “blockchain-ready” products presented by the company are a tool aiming to reduce microbial contamination in dry goods, dubbed Laatu, and Tubex Pro, a scale system that self-optimizes and produces a constant flow of production data. Both solutions are connected to the Bühler Insights Internet of Things service, hosted on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.

The company claims that Laatu is able to destroy over 99.999 percent of salmonella while maintaining the quality nutritional value of food by exposing dry foods to low-energy electrons. The system is also reportedly effective on E. Coli, spores and the exposure only lasts milliseconds. As the press release notes, “with a potential link to blockchain, it [Laatu] is capable of providing an accurate and secure audit trail for food producers and all players in the supply-chain.”

Per the release, Tubex Pro self-optimizes its measuring algorithm and steams data to the Bühler Insights platform in real-time. According to the company, the data generated by both the systems can be linked to a blockchain to provide a transparent and secure audit trail for everyone involved in the supply chain.

Nicolas Meneses, Laatu Project Manager at Bühler, noted that data stored on blockchain would not only allow for the verification that the food has been decontaminated within company’s system:

“Using blockchain you can see if a food ingredient has been properly processed in seconds rather than days – and with a high degree of certainty. You can then quickly take action. This helps reduce the number of people exposed to potentially unsafe food and also to cut food waste as the specific batch can be traced.”

Bühler Group was founded in 1860 and is a multinational corporation, operating in 140 countries. The firm saw an annual revenue of about 3.3 billion Swiss francs ($3.3 billion) in 2018.

In this week’s press release, the company claims that its machines currently process 70 percent of the world’s chocolate, 65 percent of the world’s grain products and 30 percent of global rice and pulses.

As Cointelegraph reported last week, the Coffee Board of India has launched a pilot blockchain-based e-marketplace in order to integrate coffee farmers with markets.

Also during last week, news broke that premium scotch whiskey brand Ailsa Bay is reportedly about to release what it believes to be the world’s first scotch whiskey tracked with a blockchain-based system.

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Report: Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior Owner Develops DLT Project With ConsenSys and Azure

French luxury brand conglomerate LVMH is reportedly building a project on JPMorgan’s Quorum blockchain platform.

French luxury goods giant Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE (LVMH) is reportedly working with ConsenSys and Microsoft Azure to develop a blockchain platform for tracking its products, crypto media agency CoinDesk reports on March 26.

Dubbed AURA, the blockchain-powered platform is reportedly scheduled to go live in May or June 2019 with two major LVMH subsidiaries: Louis Vuitton and Parfums Christian Dior.

Louis Vuitton is French fashion house founded in 1854 and known for its signature LV logo, while Parfums Christian Dior is the perfumery and cosmetics line of other French fashion house Christian Dior.

According to the report, the AURA platform is based on JPMorgan’s Quorum blockchain platform, which is running on the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain.

In the initial stage, AURA is expected to prove the authenticity of LVMH’s luxury products, allowing for the tracking of origins to the point of sale, an anonymous source familiar with the matter told CoinDesk. At the next stage, the company intends to explore the protection of creative intellectual property, as well as exclusive offers, events for customers and anti-advertising fraud, the source revealed.

In order to deliver the blockchain-powered platform, LVMH has reportedly hired a full-time blockchain team that has been working on the AURA project for more than a year, allegedly working with blockchain development entity ConsenSys and Microsoft’s Azure cloud service.

After AURA is successfully piloted, the project is planned to be extended to LVMH ‘s other brands, as well as eventually to its competitors, CoinDesk learned.

Recently, major United States-based postal carrier UPS has announced the launch of a blockchain-enabled platform to improve merchant supply chains. Dubbed Inxeption Zippy, the new blockchain project is developed along with e-commerce technology company Inxeption, and is set to improve the system of products distribution as well as to track the entire supply chain from product listing to delivery.

Earlier today, over 130-year-old liquor company William Grant & Sons also announced that one of their brands would release whisky on blockchain in order to confirm its provenance.