The blockchain is no longer niche. Once used only by cryptocurrency project, it is now a powerful tool utilized by some of the largest companies worldwide. In fact, you might already use some products and services of the companies using blockchain without knowing it.
So what are these companies? We listed the largest of them and how they use blockchain below.
Companies using blockchain for supply chain management
FedEx is a US-based shipping company. It processes millions of shipments daily. In every shipment, there is a big amount of parties involved. Due to miscommunication between these parties, parcels delivery can be delayed – something FedEx categorically does not want to happen.
In 2018, the company incorporated blockchain in order to better track shipments and solve these possible miscommunication issues. The shipping giant believes that the blockchain is the best solution, despite its shortcomings, such as the need for a large bandwidth and worse efficiency (but better security).
What’s more, tracking problems is not the only area blockchain will help the company in. Because the blockchain is decentralized, it helps the company to comply with EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
Another logistics company making active use of blockchain is Maersk. Maersk is a Danish company that has been the biggest container ship and supply vessel operator in the world since 1996. Chances are that some products or their details you have used today might have been shipped by Maersk at some stage.
The company created a platform called TradeLens in a collaboration with IBM. The platform extends far beyond these two companies.
Here are some of the more than 90 organizations that joined tech and shipping giant at TradeLens:
- 20+ port and terminal operators worldwide (including Port of Halifax, Port of Rotterdam and the Port of Bilbao)
- Custom authorities of at least 5 countries (including Australia an Saudi Arabia)
As you can see, this blockchain platform already works worldwide. Next time someone says that “Bitcoin is just a bubble”, remind them that they are probably using products that were shipped using Bitcoin’s underlying technology!
You wake up and make yourself a cup of Nescafe coffee. Eat some Nesquik Cereal for the breakfast. Take a bite of KitKat during your lunch break. Drink S.Pellegrino water in a fancy restaurant you decided to spend an evening at. Pour your cat a bowl full of Purina cat food.
Here comes the fascinating part: all the products mentioned are manufactured by Nestle.
It is easy to imagine that managing Nestle’s supply chains is a logistical nightmare. The food giant wants to solve this by using blockchain.
Currently, the platform announced in 2019 is used for tracking milk and palm oils from their production place to the end product. The system is based on IBM’s blockchain and will grow as the time goes.
Nestle points out that the customers nowadays want to know more about their food, and the transparent blockchain system can offer this kind of information.
Tech companies using or developing blockchain
If you are reading this story at your PC, chances are, it has an Intel CPU. Even if it’s not the case, the company still is the leading desktop and laptop CPU maker in the world. Its global revenue in 2018 was staggering 70 billion USD – how does that sound?
The company is serious about creating a direct competitor to Amazon’s and Microsoft’s blockchain solutions. Just like the products of these two companies, Intel’s blockchain – the Hyperledger Fabric – is a ready solution created for businesses wanting to implement blockchain without developing their own.
In order to further simplify distributed ledger deployment for businesses, Intel also offers all-in-one solutions that include not only software, but hardware as well. The hardware package includes Intel Xeon processors as well as Intel-made SSD chips.
Amazon is mostly known for its giant online store. It would only be logical if most of the company’s revenue came from it, right?
No, it’s wrong. Completely.
In 2018, the most profitable unit of Amazon was Amazon Web Services – AWS. What’s more, it was also the fastest-growing unit with 47% year-over-year growth.
The success of cloud services clearly shows that enterprise solutions have a great potential of generating profit. Understanding this, Amazon opened the next chapter: blockchain services.
Amazon Managed Services is the product the company came up with. It is compatible with both Hyperledger and Ethereum (however, the support for it will come a little bit later).
The service is designed to be easy to use and allow anyone to run a blockchain without experiencing all the hassles that come with it. It scales automatically, and makes it simple to invite new members to the network, as well as to manage and maintain it.
Facebook has its own blockchain project as well, and you’ve probably heard of it.
It’s called Libra.
Since the June announcement of Facebook’s Libra, it caused a lot of controversy. And why wouldn’t it? It is a global money remittance system deeply integrated with Facebook’s apps that is basically a competitor to the traditional banking services.
It is no wonder then, that unlike most other projects mentioned here, Libra’s launch is not going smoothly. Members are pulling out of Libra Association, regulatory organs are trying to ban the currency, users are expressing centralization and data security concerns.
With so many problems, only time will tell if the project will become successful. However, the fact that Facebook is interested in cryptocurrency and blockchain shows the importance of the technology.
Microsoft needs no introduction: after all, it is a company that has created the most popular desktop computer OS, Windows. These days, Microsoft also produces Surface line of hardware and develops Azure cloud.
Overall, the company seems to be getting on with blockchain technologies pretty well. Apart from accepting Bitcoin for some payments, Microsoft has launched Azure Blockchain Services.
In short, it is a fully managed service that allows for the formation, management and governance of consortium blockchain networks. Microsoft presents this solution as complementary to the databases and potentially more efficient in certain use cases for businesses.
Microsoft’s goal has been clear: to make this service accessible to anyone. Here’s how the company described it at launch:
“With a few simple clicks, users can create and deploy a permissioned blockchain network and manage consortium policies using an intuitive interface in the Azure Portal.”
IBM is a US company that has been on the forefront of technology for the last 70 years. It is a company that has quietly changed the world. It has played a major part in NASA’s Apollo mission that delivered Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon. What’s more, it is the same company that has created the supercomputer that defeated chess world champion in 1998.
Nowadays, IBM does research in fields like mathematics, AI and open source software. It also develops software for other companies.
IBM has been interested in blockchain since 2015. In the past 4 years, it has developed blockchain supply chain management systems for various companies (Maersk, for example).
The company is serious about the decentralized ledgers: it has a dedicated blockchain section on its website that explains the advantages of technology and potential ROI for business owners.
One of the quotes on IBM’s blockchain page states: “Early movers are winning.” Judging by the amount of companies embracing decentralized ledgers, it certainly seems to be the case.
Any gadget lover has likely used a program written in Java at least once. The majority of users use such programs frequently. Java is a cross-platform language, widely used in Android apps nowadays.
Who owns Java? That’s right, Oracle.
The company is constantly improving the language and making serious profits from cloud sector and license sales. It is no wonder then, that the software development company of this size wants to compete in the newly-formed blockchain sector as well.
Like many other solutions developed by tech industry titans, Oracle offers blockchain as a service. In a bid to cut costs, the actual technology used in Oracle Cloud is Intel’s Hyperledger Fabric.
While this means that Oracle didn’t actually develop a competitor to business blockchains, it also means that there will be less fragmentation in this sector. What’s more, with at least two influential companies backing Hyperledger Fabric instead of a single one, it has more chances to become the leader of the segment.
You guessed it right – yet another tech company, yet another blockchain as a service subscription for businesses.
VMware is mostly known for its virtual machine software – something that lets you run an operating system inside a completely different operating system. This can come in handy if you want a specific piece of software that is not supported on your preferred OS, for example.
The blockchain service offered by VMware is powered by the Project Concord – an open source distributed trust infrastructure. (Yes, that is a fancy way of naming a distributed ledger)
According to VMware, it is “Safe, Alive and Scalable” – probably referring to the blockchain trilemma. Project Concord supported 200 nodes during the testing; the number will likely grow in the future, making it possible for businesses to achieve higher levels of security and decentralization.
The company plans to add new components, such as an engine for executing Ethereum-based smart contracts in the future, which should make the platform even more functional.
Similarly to Amazon and Microsoft, Google offers cloud services. However, when it comes to blockchain, the company has decided to take a different direction.
Instead of creating a yet another blockchain-as-a-service platform, Google has decided to concentrate on integrating its own cloud services with different existing blockchains.
In this blog post, Google explained how Ethereum smart contracts can retrieve information from web services built with Google’s instruments. It involves using the Chainlink network, which connects the two parties mentioned.
Google sees its Cloud as complementary to smart contracts, meaning that the software giant believes in the future of dApps.
Financial companies using blockchain
Despite from pulling out of Facebook’s Libra, Mastercard’s foray into cryptocurrency and related technologies is far from being over.
MasterCard plans to develop a cross-border payment solution in collaboration with R3. The latter company is experienced in building enterprise blockchain solutions. Both firms believe that the platform will help to solve existing industry issues – for example, expensive payments processing.
Because the platform was only announced in fall 2019, it will not be released just yet. However, some of the details are already known. For example, it will be used by banks backed by Mastercard’s clearing and settlement network. What’s more, it will be just a technical solution that improves the existing system, not a radical new payment network like Facebook’s Libra.
Visa, the main competitor of MasterCard, couldn’t miss the opportunity to launch its own blockchain payment network. And it did!
First announced in 2016, Visa’s business-to-business payments service has launched in the middle of 2019. The service, called B2B Connect, allows Visa’s enterprise clients to bypass slow banking services. It is “near-instant”, according to the company, and is powered by Hyperledger Fabric (yes, too!).
However, it has to be noted that this network is not completely blockchain-powered, so do not expect it to be fully decentralized. In this case, the blockchain technology was mainly used due to the speed and security.
With more than 100 million customers, Santander is one of the largest banks worldwide. What’s more, the company with more than 200 000 workers is the 1st bank in Europe.
In September 2019, it became the first bank to issue a bond on the blockchain. The network used for this operation was Ethereum. Santander noted that this transaction was faster, simpler and more efficient than a traditional one would be, especially considering the size of the bond – 20 million USD.
However, this is far from the first time the Spanish banking giant explores the distributed ledger technology. In the beginning of 2019, the company has closed a partnership with IBM worth approximately 700 million USD. The deal will allow Santander to use the newest IBM’s tech, including its blockchain platform to improve Santander’s infrastructure.
Other companies using blockchain
Overstock is mostly known as a large online retailer. However, that could change in the future – the company wants to abandon retail and concentrate on blockchain tech instead.
In December 2017, Overstock CEO told CNBC that the plan is to sell or reorganize the retail business in the three following months. Obviously, that did not happen. However, the company is not abandoning attempts at restructuration.
Overstock has been crypto-friendly for at least 5 years, having started to accept BTC and LTC back in 2014. The company’s enthusiasm about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology has only grown since.
Overstock launched Medici Ventures investing firm, which focuses on the blockchain technology. What’s more, it also is developing tZero tokens for trading and e-commerce. So, even though Overstock is not yet all-in on crypto, it is making big steps in that direction.
Oh yes, and Overstock is one of the companies accepting Bitcoin!
Walmart is truly a giant company. With more than 2 million employees, it is the largest retailer in the US. It has more than 10 000 stores globally and 140 million customers in the US alone (more than 50% of country citizens!).
Similarly to Nestle, the company plans to use blockchain technology to track food supply chains. The technology the company plans to use is Hyperledger Fabric.
This makes a lot of sense for Walmart which was involved in one of the biggest food safety scandals back in 2008. That year, the retailer distributed large amounts of milk and infant formula contaminated with melamine. The accident, which happened in China, led to several people dying and 300 000 people being affected either physically or mentally.
The use of blockchain by Walmart will significantly reduce the chances of something similar happening again.
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