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Intel Co-Sponsors New Hyperledger Transact Project

Global tech giant Intel continues its blockchain endeavors by co-sponsoring a new blockchain programming project by Hyperledger.

Global tech giant Intel has co-sponsored a new blockchain programming project by major blockchain tech firm Hyperledger, according to a Forbes report on July 3.

Officially released on June 27, Hyperledger Transact is a new tool that aims to boost the compatibility of blockchain networks by providing a standard interface, or a shared software library for smart contracts execution.

Michael Reed, Intel’s blockchain program director, said in an interview with Forbes that the main purpose of the company’s efforts in blockchain development is to ensure that distributed ledger technology solutions “run well on Intel silicon.”

Reed noted that the company is also working to find out the requirements or standards for blockchain developers in consortiums such as Enterprise Ethereum Alliance.

Hyperledger Transact involves a number of companies specializing in different industries, including global tech giant IBM, Intel, as well as tech service firm Bitwise IO and global food supplier Cargill.

Intel is a member of the major blockchain standards consortium, the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA), which counts over 500 participants, including the United States’ largest bank JPMorgan Chase, blockchain incubator ConsenSys, Big Four auditor EY, as well as tech giants Microsoft and IBM, and blockchain consortium R3.

On June 18, IBM introduced updates on its IBM Blockchain Platform, enabling it to run on multiple cloud networks including Microsoft’s Azure or Amazon Web Services.

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Canadian Blockchain Company Signs Contract with Seoul Ministry of Transportation

The Canadian firm Graph Blockchain Inc has partnered with Seoul’s transportation ministry.

Canadian tech firm Graph Blockchain Inc. has partnered with the Ministry of Transportation in Seoul, South Korea, to run a pilot program for blockchain-based traffic data storage, according to a news release on June 24.

Graph Blockchain reportedly signed a contract for around $55,000 CAD, or approximately $41,695 at press time, to run this pilot program as part of the “Smart City initiative.” 

According to the CEO of Graph Blockchain, Jeff Stevens, the company intends to use its blockchain solution to “streamline and protect” traffic data. Graph Blockchain purportedly uses the open source Hyperledger Fabric framework to develop its blockchain solutions. 

Near the end of 2018, Seoul’s mayor, Park Won-soon, announced the “Blockchain City of Seoul”: a five-year plan to grow the blockchain industry in South Korea’s capital. Park also remarked that blockchain solutions would be integrated into Seoul’s administration systems, including a voting system, charity management, and vehicle history reports. In May, Park further announced integration of blockchain tech into its citizen ID cards. 

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, South Korean banks are also developing blockchain-based solutions, but are not supporting the use of cryptocurrency. Korean crypto influencer Hyun-sik ‘Soso’ Choi commented, saying:

“Korean banks are jumping into the blockchain field. While this proves there is huge interest in the technology from traditional finance, all the attempts are on the tech side. They are ignoring the cryptocurrency part.”

Soso cites governmental support for blockchain innovations, but not cryptocurrencies, as one of the main reasons for the banks’ current approach.

South Korea currently has a ban on initial coin offerings (ICOs), as does China. Japan, however, remains as one of the East Asian countries currently attempting to regulate ICOs, keeping coin offerings and crypto exchanges legal.

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A Blockchain System for Azerbaijan’s Digital Economy

A Caucasian nation is on the path to digital transformation, and blockchain-powered identification system is one of its cornerstones.

Azerbaijan has been a hotbed for a series of ambitious fintech-related announcements over the past several months, as the nation’s authorities were apparently moving to implement a series of innovative technological solutions in banking and e-government systems.

Repeated statements by government representatives suggested that at least part of the program relied on blockchain infrastructure. Most recently, as Cointelegraph reported, the chairman of Azerbaijan’s State Customs Committee revealed plans to implement blockchain technology to build an online-accessible cargo transportation database. Earlier in May, a high-ranking official for the Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA), speaking at the Fintex summit in Baku, mentioned the forthcoming implementation of a “blockchain system and artificial intelligence in the banking sector.” How are these disparate elements supposed to work together, and what is the scope of these blockchain-based solutions’ intended uses?

Early announcements

The snippets of news about a massive government initiative involving blockchain technology being underway in Azerbaijan began to pop up here and there back in October 2018. Farid Osmanov, CBA’s chief information officer, first announced the five-year program for the digital transformation of the economy — including a partnership with IBM on a distributed ledger system to be used in the banking sector — at the Azerbaijan-Germany Business Forum on Energy and ICT. In November, chairman of the Azerbaijani Internet Forum, Osman Gunduz, told the press that a few other state agencies were on the course to implement distributed ledger-based solutions in areas such as housing, utilities and even the court system to facilitate record-keeping and notary services.

While it became clear from early statements that the pilot blockchain system was to be built in collaboration with IBM on Hyperledger Fabric, it was not until April 2019, when media reports began to surface, that a branch of another big-name technology firm — Lenovo Professional Services — was also involved in the project on the hardware side. With two major industry players on board, it became clear that a comprehensive state program is at work here.

Government services hit X-Road

According to Nijat Asadli, manager of Azerbaijan’s Digital Trade Hub (DTH), there are three main areas in which the government seeks to boost innovation by deploying digital infrastructure: the DTH itself, the e-Government portal and central bank operations. The DTH is an electronic public-private partnership platform designed to facilitate the development of e-commerce in Azerbaijan and the broader region. It connects a number of governmental agencies, banks and private companies to provide a range of domestic, international and electronic services for businesses and private citizens alike.

One of the solutions available on the DTH platform is called the Single Export Application. It allows local producers to obtain all the documentation they need to hit the international markets — including licenses, permissions, customs declarations and even to apply for a government export subsidy. Another unique service available through DTL, Asadli told Cointelegraph, is electronic and mobile residency:

“Azerbaijan is the second country in the World after Estonia to offer electronic residency and first ever to offer a mobile residency. This service allows non-residents to establish a company online within a day in Azerbaijan and use all of the e-Services in the country. All they require is a smart phone — and they can start a location-independent business in Azerbaijan.”

The e-Government portal, integrated with all the user-facing government organizations, provides online access to more than 400 additional governmental services.

It has to be noted that both the DTH and the e-Government portal are built on open-source X-Road technology, a data exchange layer (DXL) solution that enables organizations to communicate over the internet and offer online services. Originally developed in Estonia in the early 2000s, X-Road underpins the Baltic country’s e-government infrastructure, as well as integration with neighboring Finland’s data exchange layer.

While X-Road developers describe it as a “distributed integration layer between information systems,” which led to speculations that it relies on blockchain technology internally, it is, in fact, not the case. As the Nordic Institute for Interoperability Solutions (NIIS), the organization responsible for developing the X-Road core, went on to explain, both blockchain and X-Road use cryptographic hash functions for linking data items to each other, otherwise they “serve very different purposes and use cases.” Each X-Road server maintains its own message log archive and stores it locally; other participants of the ecosystem, unlike the nodes on a distributed ledger network, do not have access to those archives.

Blockchain for digital identification

Right now, the only digital infrastructure initiative of the Azerbaijani government that relies on blockchain technology is the one that the nation’s central bank is overseeing. As the CBA’s chief information officer, Farid Osmanov, told Cointelegraph in an email, the government enacted a document in September 2018 entitled the State Program on Expansion of Digital Payments for 2018-2020 — a roadmap for coordinating technological advancements in digital banking. According to Osmanov:

“By implementing new financial technologies in the market, they believe they can boost the cashless economy and extend digital services, making them transparent and available for citizens.”

As a key condition to enable digital banking services, the program outlined a “private blockchain framework with trusted nodes, permissioned access and consensus services” for user identification.

The pilot project that the CBA embarked on to advance the goals of the state program has three prongs: the development of a strategic digital innovation plan, the creation of the blockchain-based digital identification system, and the deployment of the blockchain hardware. Lenovo was summoned to advance the latter goal in October 2018. According to Osmanov, the infrastructure that they put up relies on some of the company’s most innovative tech:

“The solution uses Lenovo ThinkAgile HX7820 Appliance software and hardware, which is the first 4-socket HX system installation in the world. The solution operates on the latest Intel Xeon Scalable processors from the Skylake generation and Acropolis OS from Nutanix is chosen as the virtualization platform. This solution is based on the RDMA technology, and this installation was the first in the world, where RDMA configured in productive environment.”

The open-source Hyperledger Fabric protocol, hosted by the Linux Foundation, serves as the software foundation for the identification system. Having used Hyperledger extensively to develop numerous corporate blockchains, IBM is now contributing expertise to the Azerbaijani government’s initiative. Its sponsors expect that the system will see full operational implementation by the end of 2019.

The main use of the prospective identification system will be in enabling citizens and businesses to deliver their personal data to banks and credit organizations in the form of digitally signed documents. Essentially, the blockchain system will automate the Know Your Customer (KYC) process, all the while dramatically decreasing processing time. The digital identification system will be incorporated into the e-Government system, and the open API architecture will allow banks to integrate it with their digital infrastructures through a standardized process.

Another remarkable efficiency that the system is expected to introduce will be a high level of user control over what data — and how much — they would like to share with financial organizations, Osmanov noted:

“Banks will have access to required personal data only after customer’s confirmation, so individuals and legal entities can personally control and authorize data sharing.”

The central bank’s CIO also mentioned that the authorities recognize the need for an improved legislative framework that comes with such massive technological developments. The CBA is already doing its research on international best practices and benchmarks, and is engaging with other state agencies in a conversation regarding regulatory improvements that the new system’s advent could evoke.

Limited use

With the new digital identification system on the way, Azerbaijan is about to take its place among the ranks of countries that have implemented permissioned blockchain solutions to improve the efficiency of a certain aspect of government operations. The expansion of this effort might well see the state’s performance in other domains of record-keeping — like the customs database announced recently — benefit from the introduction of distributed ledger technology. Still, yet another adherent of the “blockchain before crypto” approach, the nation is only ready to go so far: According to a November 2018 statement by the CBA’s first chairman, issuing a state-backed digital currency is out of the question for Azerbaijan.

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Microsoft and Ethereum Foundation Swell the Hyperledger Ranks Amid Growing Cross-Industry Blockchain Collaboration

Microsoft, the Ethereum Foundation and Salesforce join Hyperledger as new members, seeking to create open-source enterprise blockchain solutions.

United States tech giant Microsoft and the Ethereum Foundation are among the latest companies to join the ranks of the Hyperledger greenhouse hosted by the Linux Foundation. Many notable names in the tech and wider business fields today are developing enterprise-grade solutions based on the expanding set of tools built on Hyperledger.

These institutional blockchain projects cut across both financial and nonfinancial distributed ledger technology (DLT) utilization. Presently, there are pilot projects geared toward identification systems, supply chain management (SCM) and provenance, to mention a few.

On the whole, members of Hyperledger appear to be at the forefront of a renaissance in open-source project development, facilitating a more decentralized approach to project building. Such a trend evinces a return to a more decentralized internet with blockchain technology living up to the hype of being a disruptor of the global business process.

There are, however, some drawbacks to the emerging open-source project building trend, especially for startups that have yet to earn significant pedigree within the industry. Also, while DLT constitutes a technological breakthrough, kinks such as scaling need to be worked out before DLT-based systems can realistically upstage their mainstream centralized counterparts.

New members join Hyperledger

Microsoft, Salesforce and the Ethereum Foundation are among eight new members of Hyperledger, as announced on June 18. These companies already have a history of blockchain adoption, with several DLT-based projects across diverse business processes.

There are now more than 270 members of Hyperledger developing their own enterprise-grade blockchain solutions. Commenting on the collaboration with Hyperledger, Marley Gray, Microsoft’s principal blockchain engineering architect, declared:

“Our journey in the blockchain ecosystem has brought us a long way, and now is the time for us to join the Hyperledger community. We are proud of our contributions to such a diverse blockchain ecosystem, from our Azure service offerings and developer toolkits to our leadership in driving open specifications.”

Microsoft is by no means a new entrant to the blockchain arena, with the company already developing an ecosystem for blockchain as a service (BaaS) on the Azure cloud computing service.

In the BaaS arena, Azure competes with other offerings by the likes of Oracle and AWS. These platforms allow businesses to create bespoke DLT-frameworks to fit their operating purposes without having to navigate the skill, knowledge and cost barriers associated with building decentralized apps (DApps) from scratch.

Related: Decentralized Identity: How Microsoft (and Others) Plan to Empower Users to Own and Control Personal Data

Teams working on the Azure BaaS infrastructure get access to preconfigured modular networks that simplify the process from conception to deployment of their DLT-based solutions. By joining Hyperledger, Microsoft Azure now offers three different enterprise blockchain development environments, with the other two being Corda and Ethereum.

The Ethereum Foundation joins the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance (EEA) as a partner of Hyperledger. For Hyperledger CEO Brian Behlendorf, the decision of the Ethereum Foundation to join the expanding Hyperledger enterprise blockchain greenhouse will be a positive one for blockchain developers in the industry.

Data from StateOfTheDApps — a platform that tracks decentralized apps — shows that Ethereum hosts the highest number of DApps. Of the total 2,667 DApps tracked by the platform, 2,505 run on the Ethereum blockchain.

Apart from the newly announced members, others include notable tech giants like IBM and Oracle. IBM, Walmart and Alibaba are among the companies with a significantly high number of blockchain-based patents, which is indicative of their activity in research and development (R&D) efforts in DLT-related enterprises.

Hyperledger projects supporting enterprise blockchain development

Hyperledger, for its part, is a collaboration between enterprises and the open-source community facilitated by the Linux Foundation. The Hyperledger greenhouse acts as a bridge that connects developers, nonprofit organizations, academia and all other stakeholders interested in developing and implementing enterprise-grade blockchain technology solutions.

Cointelegraph spoke with Marta Piekarska, director of the Hyperledger ecosystem at the Linux Foundation, about how the partnership works. According to Piekarska, Hyperledger doesn’t develop code or provide consulting services. Explaining further, Piekarska said:

“We support them in terms of PR and marketing for their projects. Not all of the developers creating solutions using Hyperledger tools are members of Hyperledger. You don’t have to be a Hyperledger member to use our technology, participate in our special interest groups, or to download and use the code. There is no technological barrier to using Hyperledger frameworks and tools.”

There are numerous projects around the world based on specific Hyperledger frameworks, such as Hyperledger Fabric and Hyperledger Iroha, to mention a few. Back in May 2019, Cointelegraph reported on the partnership between Iran’s central bank and Tehran-based blockchain firm Areatak to create a DLT platform for the country’s banking and finance markets using Hyperledger Fabric. According to the report, the Borna blockchain platform, when fully realized, should help revamp Iran’s outdated banking sector.

Matt Milligan of Milligan Partners — a blockchain-based startup focusing on toll interoperability and one of the newest members of Hyperledger — highlighted the benefits of joining a vast collaborative effort like Hyperledger. Milligan, the managing partner at the company, said:

“Joining Hyperledger is tremendously valuable to us as we develop blockchain solutions for Mobility as a Service. By working in this diverse open source community, we can be more creative and more innovative than we could ever be on our own.”

The fact that Hyperledger is open-source, means developers can learn from one another, trading ideas in an environment increasingly being populated by teams working on cutting-edge DLT protocols. This collaboration serves to achieve Hyperledger’s aim of fostering cross-industry blockchain development.

By so doing, stakeholders at Hyperledger are hoping that blockchain technology can move away from the realm of being a marketing buzzword to more tangible utility cases. In an interview during the Brainstorm 2019 conference organized by Fortune, Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse drew attention to the existence of too many economically inviable projects with the term “blockchain” slapped on them. According to Garlinghouse, “There is a lot of noise in the blockchain industry.”

Focus on nonfinancial DLT utilization

Apart from financial products, many of the blockchain protocols being built using Hyperledger tools involve nonfinancial use cases. This trend reinforces the narrative that DLT is a disruptive technology capable of affecting several facets of the global business process.

From a nonfinancial perspective, blockchain technology seems to be getting a great deal of adoption in protocols that require trust networks and provenance. Together, these two broad application cases cover much of the mainstream business arena — from SCM to health care and identity management.

Cointelegraph asked Piekarska about the major nonfinancial enterprise blockchain solutions being developed using the different Hyperledger framework tools, to which the director responded:

“There are quite a few markets that we are seeing as very big and potential markets. We are currently seeing a lot of interest in blockchain technology from stakeholders in supply chain management. We have the food trust project for IBM and Maersk. We have Everledger which is a blockchain project based on Hyperledger Fabric to track the provenance of diamonds and now also wine. There are at least 200 live networks based on Hyperledger Fabric alone. Digital identity is another space where we see a lot of interest. This is mostly as a result of Hyperledger Indy which is our framework for building digital identity solutions using zero-knowledge proofs. One of the main contributors here is Sovereign Foundation. They have the largest running network that is based on Hyperledger Indy.”

Right here for the taking

The combination of immutable data record-keeping and the ability to create trustless networks that do not require expensive third-party authenticators continues to be a pivotal aspect of the blockchain appeal. However, these projects still need to scale for them to be able to provide robust functionality on enterprise-level protocols.

Blockchain technology also seems to be having a material impact on open-source project development for both notable tech firms and smaller startups. According to Piekarska, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of projects listed on GitHub since the emergence of blockchain technology.

It isn’t inconceivable to imagine that DLT is creating easier avenues for open-source collaboration among development teams across the globe. Piekarska said:

“I think the coming of blockchain has caused a renaissance in open source project development especially for enterprise-grade software. It is changing the way enterprises see open-source project development which is reflected in the influx of notable tech giants like IBM and Microsoft into the Hyperledger environment. All projects in Hyperledger are under Apache license. It also lowers the barriers for small companies that can now take the code and build useful protocols.”

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Visa Set to Join the Expanding Field of Blockchain-Based International Payment Providers

Visa launches a blockchain-based centralized payment settlement service for international business transactions, challenging USC and Ripple.

Visa has launched a payment system for business-to-business (B2B) transactions partially based on blockchain technology. The United States payment behemoth says its platform, called Visa B2B Connect, offers seamless cross-border payment processing for institutional clients without going through the complex web of third-party intermediaries.

In doing so, Visa becomes the latest entrant into the blockchain-based payment processing arena. This move brings the company into direct competition with cryptocurrency startups like Ripple and mainstream players, such as Barclays and BNY Mellon with their Utility Settlement Coin (USC) project under the aegis of the Fnality Consortium.

Visa B2B Connect — three years in the making

Visa first announced plans to build a blockchain-based network for business payments back in 2016. At the time, the credit/debit card payment giant said the service would be developed in partnership with blockchain startup Chain.

According to a statement issued by the former executive president for strategic partnerships and innovation, Jim McCarthy:

“The time has never been better for the global business community to take advantage of new payment technologies and improve some of the most fundamental processes needed to run their businesses. We are developing our new solution to give our financial institution partners an efficient, transparent way for payments to be made across the world.”

Visa’s initial timeline included a pilot launch in 2017, but the company had to navigate a more complicated route than initially envisaged. The company replaced Chain as its partner on the project, electing instead to go with fintech firm FIS, e-payment operator Bottomline Technologies and IBM.

Starting in 2017, the company began to announce job vacancies for crypto and blockchain experts to work on a new payment gateway. In March 2019, the company also published another job listing for specialists in crypto payment solutions.

Three years on, Visa has finally gone ahead with the launch of its payment service, which promises near-real-time settlement for B2B transactions. In a blog post published by Visa on June 11, the company described its platform as the answer to the issues plaguing cross-border transactions for businesses.

An excerpt from the company’s statement reads:

“Visa B2B Connect takes a different approach, turning weeks into one to two days. The non-card-based platform — the first of its kind — removes friction from the process by expediting transactions directly from the origin bank to the beneficiary bank — no intermediaries necessary.”

Simplifying interbank transactions for businesses

According to the company, the newly developed system aims to simplify the process of business payments around the world, eliminating the convoluted transaction flow process involved in interbank settlements for commercial payments.

Kevin Phalen, head of Visa’s Global Business Solutions, hailed the project as one capable of establishing a new paradigm for international business payments. “With Visa B2B Connect, we are making commercial payments quicker and simpler, while enhancing transparency and consistency of data,” Phalen declared.

Transaction Flow Process

In the June 11 launch announcement, the company revealed that the Visa B2B Connect platform is now available in 30 markets across the globe. Visa has plans to triple the reach of the service, making the platform operational in 90 markets around the world before the end of 2019.

From a technology standpoint, the platform isn’t a fully realized blockchain network. Rather, Visa B2B Connect takes certain elements of distributed ledger technology (DLT) to create an interbank network for business transaction settlement. The development team utilized the open-source Hyperledger blockchain base layer, created by the Linux Foundation.

Details released by Visa show that the platform is a non-card-based network made up of companies and participating banks. It allows businesses to transact directly with one another across the globe via their banks, with the Visa B2B Connect acting as the single connection between all transacting entities.

In a phone interview with Cointelegrah, Marta Piekarska, director of Hyperledger ecosystem at the Linux Foundation, explained the role of the company in the project, saying:

“We [Linux Foundation] provide the base layer on top of which developers can build their projects. Visa has integrated with the Hyperledger Fabric 1.0 to create the B2B Connect platform. They [Visa] partnered with IBM to implement the payment technology infrastructure.”

In legacy interbank transactions, there can be as many as three third-party intermediaries, each with their own fees and contribution to the throughput time of the process. Rather than a settlement occurring in 24 to 48 hours, interbank payments for business can take much longer.

A typical flow process for a payment transaction from Company A in Country Y to Company B in Country Z would look like the image below.

Legacy Banking Infrastructure Vs. Visa B2B

First, the funds move from Company A’s bank to a domestic correspondent bank (the first link in the intermediary chain). The next “handshake” involves a transfer to the main transaction authenticator (the second link in the intermediary chain) — which is most likely a regional clearing house — before arriving at the account held by the foreign correspondent bank in Country Z. Finally, the funds will move to the Company B’s bank account.

The Visa B2B Connect platform eliminates unnecessary handshake procedures and replaces them with a centralized service that connects companies and their banks across the world. Aside from reducing cost and throughput time for interbank payments, Visa says its platform solves the problem of inconsistencies in the flow of data.

By employing elements of DLT, the payments giant believes Visa B2B Connect creates an infrastructure with immutable record-keeping capabilities. If this proves true, participating businesses can utilize the predictable cost matrix inherent in the system to improve upon the accuracy of their cost and budgeting documentation. Furthermore, the system will have all the fee calculations indicated before the commencement of each transaction.

According to Visa, the new service even provides far greater payment flexibility for “one-to-many” business transactions. In such instances, Company A would wish to transfer funds to multiple businesses around the world at the same time. With so many participants involved, the usual flow process would become even more convoluted with a geometric increase in the number of intermediaries and handshakes involved.

However, with the Visa B2B Connect system, the company would need only interface with a centralized platform that handles the disbursement of payments to the receiving entities in the different banks across the globe. Participants will also be able to track the progress of the transactions in real-time, which could vastly improve the transparency of international business payments.

Blockchain technology in cross-border payments

Visa is the latest mainstream actor in the payment processing arena to announce a product that utilizes DLT in its settlement infrastructure. At the start of the year, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) unveiled the launch of its blockchain-based platform for institutional payment settlements.

As reported by Cointelegraph at the time, the U.S. banking giant also plans to launch its own cryptocurrency, dubbed “JPM Coin,” which will serve as a stablecoin facilitator of transactions between major corporations. Reports also indicate that the early iterations of the project will involve internal settlements between JPM clients.

The decision by the Wall Street behemoth struck a chord across the industry, given the sentiments previously espoused by its CEO, Jamie Dimon. Back in 2017, Dimon infamously characterized bitcoin as a fraud.

Apart from JPM, banking giants from Japan, Europe and the U.S. recently launched the Fnality Consortium with a $63 million Series A funding round. Fnality will utilize a system of USCs to facilitate cross-border payments involving many of the major fiat currencies in the world today.

Related: Bank to Basics: USC Project Seeks to Disrupt Traditional Wholesale Banking

The USC project extends even beyond payment settlement, as it aims to establish a network of blockchain-powered distributed Financial Market Infrastructures (dFMIs). These dFMIs will allow for full-spectrum value exchange transactions.

Much like Visa B2B Connect, the USC project has been four years in the making, and reports indicate that the system will be up and running by mid-2020. Some of the major banks involved in the project include some big companies, as seen below.

Fnality Stakeholders

However, not everyone believes that decentralized technology can disrupt the global payments arena. Tweeting on June 14, Henry Blodget, the CEO of Business Insider, maintained that the legacy digital payment systems worked fine and do not need to be replaced with cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. For Blodget, decentralized technology could find some application in cross-border payments, but beyond that, the mainstream avenues were still the more superior technology.

Serious competition for Ripple?

Given the target markets of these newly emerging payment networks, there is a question of whether these projects might constitute serious competition for cryptocurrency startup Ripple. Since it began operations, Ripple has consistently reiterated its intention of becoming the de facto global standard for international payment processing.

Ripple continues to sign partnerships with banks across the globe, encouraging the use of not only its ledger and payment products, but also the XRP cryptocurrency — in so, boosting its utility. With Wall Street banks and major corporations entering the blockchain-based payments arena, Ripple could face increasing competition for relevance in the evolving digital payments arena. It is, however, too soon to say which company will establish dominance when the landscape becomes fully realized.

The question could ultimately be decided by the strength of the technology offered by these different projects. Settlement layers that offer faster, cheaper, more efficient and more secure payment environments should see increased patronage, irrespective of the pedigree of the companies offering the technology.

For example, the Visa B2B Connect platform promises transaction settlement in 24 to 48 hours. This throughput time is significantly slower than that being offered by SWIFT’s Global Payment Initiative (GPI), which settles payments within an average of 24 hours.

Still, even SWIFT, the international payment network, has its sights set on blockchain technology adoption to further improve the operational capabilities of its GPI. In January, SWIFT announced a partnership with R3 to develop a blockchain-powered upgrade to its GPI technology in the hopes of further reducing the throughput time for international payments.

On the Ripple ledger, the average settlement time is around four seconds, and it can handle close to 1,500 on-chain transactions per second. Ripple also charges significantly lower fees — even when compared to other blockchain networks — with a median transaction cost of about $0.0004.

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IBM Announces New Multicloud Update to Blockchain

IBM has announced updates to its Blockchain Platform, designed to support greater use across diverse networks.

IBM has announced upgrades to its Blockchain Platform, according to a report by Ledger Insights on June 18.

The new IBM Blockchain Platform will reportedly be able to run on multiple cloud networks, such as major tech corporation Microsoft’s Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS).

This is apparently the main upgrade over its previous iteration, which was available solely through IBM’s cloud. The multicloud platform will be available via Kubernetes, a container program that will reportedly allow users to scale their blockchain networks as needed.

One of the main upshots of its new multicloud framework is that IBM Blockchain Platform 2.0 that IBM boasts on its website is its interoperability. According to the website, the multicloud platform lets the blockchain participants provide governance across multiple cloud networks, even those with differing privacy environments.

IBM Blockchain CTO Gari Singh commented on this cross-network advantage, saying:

“We want to bring on XYZ company, but XYZ has a contract with Azure or AWS or Oracle,” he said. “How do we allow those guys to connect up a peer [node] to join the network and how can you support that?” […] We can now actually leverage all the great things that are in Hypeledger Fabric, and we can support you wherever you need to be. And we can also help to support networks that want to work with IBM, but they have other members that don’t.”

According to the report, IBM’s platform is a variation on the open source blockchain platform Hyperledger Fabric, which is fundamentally the same but with the addition of ease-of-access tools provided by IBM. The tools reportedly streamline the process of launching a permissioned network, assisting with necessary tasks such as assigning governance and creating consensus mechanisms.

As previously reported by Cointelegraph, IBM recently partnered with Brazilian payments non-profit Câmara Interbancária de Pagamentos to release a blockchain ID platform built on Hyperledger Fabric.

The platform, called “Device ID,” will reportedly act as an authenticator for digital signatures on mobile devices, presumably aimed at preventing fraud and other criminal activities. Nine banks and the Brazilian Payment System are reportedly set to make use of the new blockchain verification platform.

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Hyperledger Gains Microsoft and Ethereum Foundation Among Raft of New Members

Microsoft already uses Hyperledger Fabric, while the Ethereum appearance forms part of a wider outreach plan, says a senior executive.

Microsoft, Salesforce and the Ethereum Foundation are among the major new companies joining enterprise blockchain platform Hyperledger. The company’s executive director, Brian Behlendorf, confirmed the news to Cointelegraph ahead of a public unveiling at the ongoing Synchronize Europe conference in London on June 18.

Part of a monthly update on new members of Hyperledger, Behlendorf said June’s rollout included the Ethereum Foundation as a non-profit member, while supply chain standards body GS1 is also now on board.

Hosted by the Linux Foundation, Hyperledger already counts IBM, JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Boerse and others among its participants.

“It shows the expanding footprint that we have out there in terms of not only concentrating on the core which has been the use of Hyperledger Fabric,” Behlendorf told Cointelegraph. He added:

“Microsoft has Hyperledger Fabric as a service offering on Azure; that’s starting to get traction there, and they wanted to deepen that relationship.”

Continuing, Behlendorf noted Salesforce — which offers a range of cloud-based software solutions for businesses — was joining on the back of releasing its software-as-a-service product built on Hyperledger late last month.

The company already has a partnership with the Ethereum Enterprise Alliance, he added, making it a natural step for the Ethereum Foundation to join as part of efforts to become closer to the largest altcoin’s community.

“[What] we’re hoping to do is really tap into the creative energy and developer passion that’s in the Ethereum community and figure out how […] we even more tightly talk about the full spectrum from permissioned to unpermissioned out there in the blockchain space, and what role we could play in facilitating that whole spectrum,” he concluded.

Other companies will also join Hyperledger at the same time, with full details due in the formal announcement.

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Brazil Central Bank Debuts IBM Blockchain Interbank ID System on Hyperledger

Brazil has released its blockchain solution on schedule, with participation currently involving nine domestic banks.

The central bank of Brazil has officially launched its blockchain ID platform via a partnership with IBM using Hyperledger Fabric, Cointelegraph Brazil reported on June 12.

The identity solution, dubbed “Device ID,” will see participation from nine banks, and is reportedly integrated into Brazil’s domestic clearing system, the Brazilian Payment System (SPB).

Its aim is to authenticate and verify digital signatures using mobile devices, ostensibly to guard against financial crime and unauthorized use of the financial system.

“Brazilian banks have been studying blockchain technology applications for a long time, but they weren’t all together. So we decided to create a group and unify all actions, which is very important to achieve standardization to all banks,” Joaquim Kiyoshi Kavakama, director of Febraban, Brazil’s national banking association, commented. He added:

“We are now in the forefront when it comes to blockchain.”

The platform had already come to light during its development phase, with Brazil’s biggest bank, Bradesco, confirming it would receive an official launch this week at the CIAB Febraban conference.

The move comes as Brazil sees attention from within the cryptocurrency industry itself, Ripple opening a dedicated office this week ahead of plans to expand further into Latin America.

At the same time, authorities remain vigilant about malpractice within the space, taking down a notorious fraud scheme involving 55,000 investors last month.