IBM launched a new blockchain operation in Singapore, adding to the company's efforts to support the use of blockchain ledger technology around the world.
In its latest effort, IBM announced plans to establish a Blockchain Innovation Center in Singapore to help businesses and the Singapore government adopt blockchain technology in the region.
"Singapore is one of the financial hubs in the world and they came to IBM and asked us to help the Singapore government as well as other major companies that do business in Singapore to help them innovate their financial products with blockchain," said Donna Dillenberger, an IBM Fellow and global of enterprise systems for IBM Research. "And it's not only financial products, but manufacturing and trade companies as well."
IBM said the first projects for the new center will focus on improving the flow of multi-party trade finance processes and transactions.
Blockchain is a permissionless distributed database based on the bitcoin protocol that maintains a continuously growing list of data records hardened against tampering and revision, even by its operators. The initial and most widely known application of blockchain technology is the public ledger of transactions for Bitcoin. IBM has been one of the technology's major proponents.
"Blockchain is a technology for a new generation of transactional applications that establishes trust, accountability and transparency while streamlining business processes," said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director of IBM Research, in a post on the IBM THINK blog last December. "Think of it as an operating system for interactions. It has the potential to vastly reduce the cost and complexity of getting things done."
In this latest endeavor, IBM is collaborating with the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
IBM said its researchers will work with the Singapore government as well as academia and industry—including small and mid-size businesses—to create new solutions and opportunities based on blockchain, cyber-security and cognitive computing technologies. These are three key areas of focus for IBM of late.
Last year, IBM joined forces with the Linux Foundation to help advance blockchain technologically and also to advance its adoption in the industry. As part of that effort, IBM has contributed 44,000 lines of code to the Linux Foundation's open source Hyperledger Project to help developers easily build secure distributed ledgers that can be used to exchange most anything of value.
IBM also launched an entirely new business unit in the IBM Cloud organization to focus on blockchain, and placed Jerry Cuomo, one of Big Blue’s favorite sons, in charge as vice of the unit. With a background in IBM Research, Cuomo has been instrumental in some of IBM's most significant software achievements, including WebSphere, IBM's cloud initiatives, IBM's mobile technologies, Bluemix, IBM's Internet of Things (IoT) strategy and now blockchain, among others.
The practical effects of the new IBM center in Singapore revolve around using blockchain, cyber-security and cognitive technologies to improve business transactions and processes in multiple industries, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.
However, the larger goal is to position Singapore as a forward-thinking proponent of innovative, next generation business practices, he said.
"If these efforts succeed—and there's every reason to think they will—they will strengthen Singapore's reputation in local, regional and global markets for years to come," King added.
Meanwhile, in a statement, Robert Morris, vice president of Global Labs at IBM Research, said the Singapore effort is IBM's first collaboration with the private sector and multiple government agencies within the same country to explore the use of Blockchain and cognitive technologies to improve business transactions across several different industries.
"Now with new cloud services that make these technologies more accessible, leaders from all industries are beginning to take note of the resulting profound and disruptive implications in a range of settings including finance, banking, IoT, healthcare, supply chains, manufacturing, technology, government, the legal system, and more," Morris said.
Moreover, as part of its blockchain project in Singapore, IBM said it will work with PSA International, which maintains the Port of Singapore Terminals, to create a trade ecosystem involving blockchain.
"We will work with IBM and other partners, as well as through our new incubator program PSA unboXed, to explore the development and use of blockchain technology for trade, finance, and logistics," said Tan Chong Meng, group CEO at PSA International, in a statement.