How Blockchain Is Helping China Go Greener

Blockchain has near-universal applicability as a distributed transaction platform for securely authenticating exchanges of data, goods, and services. IBM and the Beijing-based Energy-Blockchain Labs are even using it to help reduce carbon emissions in air-polluted China.

At the IBM InterConnect conference in Las Vegas today, IBM and Energy-Blockchain Labs announced a blockchain-based trading platform for "green assets" that's based on the Linux Foundation's open-source Hyperledger Fabric (which the foundation recently promoted from incubator to active status and elevated to version 1.0). A beta of the carbon trading platform will be released in May, the companies said, and the product will be commercially available later this year.

According to Cao Yin, Chief Strategy Officer of Energy-Blockchain Labs, the company estimates that the platform will use smart contract-based transactions to significantly shorten the carbon assets development cycle and reduce the cost of development by 20 to 30 percent. The blockchain-based exchange will let enterprises in China generate carbon assets more efficiently, in accordance with China's Carbon Emission Reduction (CER) quota and its 2020 reduction goals in keeping with the Paris Agreement. Blockchain's immutable ledger also makes it easier and less expensive for regulatory authorities to audit and oversee the carbon market.

China accounted for a whopping 28.2 percent of the world's carbon emissions in 2016 according to Statista. The US was second at 16 percent. China has a long way to go to reach its clean energy goals and to drastically improve air quality in its major cities and metropolitan areas, but tracking carbon assets on blockchain is a start.

IBM Bolsters BaaS With New Enterprise Tools

IBM also unveiled new open-source governance and automation tools for its enterprise Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) platform. The company announced a new version of IBM Blockchain based on the Linux Foundation's Hyperledger Fabric version 1.0, along with new governance and deployment tools, and a new open-source developer tool called Fabric Composer.

IBM has so many overlapping, interlocking cloud platforms that it's worth taking a moment to explain what the revamped blockchain service is actually built upon. At the base is IBM Cloud, the company's Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform. The blockchain infrastructure itself (meaning, the standards by which the blockchain network itself is created and managed) is built on the Hyperledger Fabric v1.0 framework, which enables a rate of more than 1,000 blockchain-based transactions per second.

The developer tools and services are offered through IBM Bluemix. IBM packages it all up with its IBM LinuxONE enterprise server infrastructure for added security. Bottom line: The service gives developers tools to build and host enterprise blockchain networks on IBM Cloud.

The new blockchain governance tools are now commercially available; they are geared toward setting up roles and permissions within a blockchain network. Members can set rules and manage compliance guidelines from a single dashboard.

IBM's newly announced Fabric Composer is a tool that assigns each network a "Network Trust Rating" of 1 to 100 when setting up a blockchain deployment. Fabric Composer is a developer automation tool that speeds up the time it takes to build a blockchain network on the Hyperledger Fabric. It includes a quick user interface (UI) creation tool and builds application programming interfaces (APIs) that integrate the blockchain network you're building with an enterprise's existing system of record. This first commercial deployment of the open-source Hyperledger Fabric is now available through a beta program on IBM Bluemix.

Blockchain: Moving and Shaking

In addition to the IBM and Hyperledger announcements, there's a lot happening in the blockchain space right now. Google, a tech giant that, until now, hasn't had much to say on the subject, revealed that it's using a private blockchain ledger to help its DeepMind AI ensure the privacy of confidential health data. After a new academic report citing "inexcusable" oversight and transparency errors in DeepMind's handling of confidential medical data from the UK's National Health Service (NHS), the company needed a better way to ensure data trust and compliance. Blockchain may be it.

We also saw a great deal of research and innovation news come out of last week's DC Blockchain Summit. The Chamber of Digital Commerce, the blockchain trade association that hosted the summit, announced the formation of the Blockchain Intellectual Property Council (BIPC), which aims to balance open-source innovation with protection of proprietary information as more companies begin to file blockchain patents. The council's inaugural members include blockchain startups (including Blockstream and Bloq), companies such as Microsoft and Deloitte, Ernst & Young, and Overstock's t0 platform. Bloq also announced the launch of BloqLabs, an effort to foster open-source blockchain development projects combined with enterprise innovation. Bloq CEO and bitcoin pioneer Jeff Garzik likened BloqLabs to a Bell Labs-type "idea factory" for the blockchain space.

The DC Blockchain Summit also served as a stage for the launch of the Blockchain Research Institute, a multimillion dollar research effort into blockchain use cases, opportunities, and implementation challenges that will span the next two years. The institute's founding members range from tech companies (Accenture, IBM, SAP) and finance institutions (Nasdaq) to blockchain startups, global corporations (PepsiCo), and even the government of the Canadian province of Ontario.

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