IBM, China UnionPay complete block chain pilot project on bank loyalty points

Markets Reuters

  • The logo of Dow Jones Industrial Average stock market index listed company IBM (IBM) is seen on a computer screen in Los Angeles, California, United States, April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

    The logo of Dow Jones Industrial Average stock market index listed company IBM (IBM) is seen on a computer screen in Los Angeles, California, United States, April 22, 2016. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (Copyright Reuters 2016)

  • Logos of China UnionPay are seen on bank cards in this photo illustration taken in Beijing December 5, 2013. Picture taken December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Barry Huang

    Logos of China UnionPay are seen on bank cards in this photo illustration taken in Beijing December 5, 2013. Picture taken December 5, 2013. REUTERS/Barry Huang (Copyright Reuters 2016)

IBM said on Friday it completed a pilot project with Chinese credit card company China UnionPay that will facilitate the sharing of loyalty bonus points among banks using block chain technology.

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Bonus points earned through purchases on bank cards have long been an effective tool to attract and encourage customers to use specific cards. But since bonus points cannot be freely exchanged among different banks, offering various rewards, many go unused.

IBM's collaboration with China UnionPay will enable consumers worldwide to exchange bonus points from their various banks in less than a minute to select rewards they want.

Block chain, the underlying technology in digital currencies such as bitcoin, has become one of the hottest innovations in the financial services world. Technology companies and banks have been exploring the use of block chain in all facets of both the financial and non-financial industries.

Dr. Shen Xiaowei, director of IBM Research-China and chief technology officer of IBM Great China Group said the company also is partnering with the Hyperledger Project to build a block chain platform and help clients develop more uses for industry.

Hyperledger is a cross-industry collaboration started in December by the Linux Foundation to support block chain-based applications designed to support global business transactions, including major technological, financial, and supply chain companies.

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(Reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss; Editing by Dan Grebler)