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What is a Blockchain platform?

Blockchain is perhaps one of the most overhyped technologies that has ever appeared. In fact, some experts suggest the technology is dying before it has even matured. However, the 2019 Global Blockchain Survey from Deloitte found that over half of respondents saw Blockchain as a critical priority for their business. So, like Mark Twain, Blockchain is alive and well. However, it requires an enterprise Blockchain platform if companies are to realise the full benefits of the technology.

Before we provide a Blockchain platform definition, we need to be clear about what Blockchain actually is–and that’s not as simple as it sounds.

What is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a trustless, immutable distributed ledger of information. So, that’s simple, right? No? Thought not. Let’s break that into its components:

  • Trustless– Every party has a complete copy of the ledger meaning they don’t have to trust a central authority to ensure the data is correct.
  • Immutable– Once data enters the ledger, it cannot be changed.
  • Distributed – All data in the ledger are stored and replicated across many systems in many places.
  • Ledger– This is simply a place to store information. Think of old-fashioned sales or accounting ledgers. A digital ledger is a flat representation of information, not relational in any way.
  • Information– This can include nut just the data but also metadata of an object or action.

Blockchain works by establishing a container or ‘block’ for a specific data set. Once a block is created, it can’t be changed. Instead, as changes happen or a transaction progresses, new blocks are formed that are connected together in a chain. This provides a complete, accurate and virtually tamper-proof record of any transaction. For example, tracking a product as it passes through the supply chain from factory floor to retail shelf.

If grasping the concept behind Blockchain is tricky, at least getting to grips with the idea of a Blockchain platform is more straightforward. But not without its challenges!

Providing an effective Blockchain platform definition

Blockchain came to prominence in 2009 with the launch of Bitcoin. It was the first cryptocurrency and also the first real Blockchain platform. So, you could describe a Blockchain platform meaning a platform that exists to support a particular flavour of Blockchain. If you look at any comparison of Blockchain platforms, you’ll see there are many types of Blockchain platforms that address different business needs–there are even free Blockchain platforms.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at a few of the top Blockchain platforms.

Ethereum

After Blockchain, Ethereum is probably the most popular Blockchain platform. It’s a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts on a custom built Blockchain.

Hyperledger

Hyperledger is a modular Blockchain platform designed to build a new generation of transactional applications that establishes trust, accountability, and transparency.

R3

R3 is an enterprise Blockchain platform, with an ecosystem of more than 300 firms working together to build distributed applications for use across industries such as financial services, insurance, healthcare, trade finance, and digital assets.

In addition, there are a wide variety of Blockchain platform companies delivering niche solutions for different use cases. With so many Blockchain technology platforms available–and more appearing all the time–selecting the best Blockchain platform will come down to your particular business requirements.

However, for this blog, we’ll look at the benefits that a broad-based enterprise Blockchain platform, such as Hyperledger or R3, can bring.

The benefits of deploying a Blockchain platform

There are a number of key benefits that the you can expect from deploying a Blockchain platform in your business.

Greater Transparency

Blockchain’s greatest characteristic is the transparency it delivers by allowing everyone with secure access can view the entire ledger. This means the Blockchain platform provides an unprecedented layer of accountability, holding each part of the business responsible for its actions and ensuring they act in the best interests of the organization.

Increased efficiency

Due to its decentralized nature, Blockchain removes the need for middlemen in many processes in fields such as the supply chain, payments and conveyancing. For example, in comparison to traditional financial services, a Blockchain platform can facilitate faster transactions by allowing cross-border transfers with a digital currency that take place in a fraction of the time.

Enhanced security

Blockchain is far more secure than other record keeping systems because each new transaction is encrypted and linked to the previous transaction. The data within the Blockchain platform is immutable and incorruptible so its incredibly safe from falsification and hacks.

Improved traceability

With the Blockchain platform, each time an exchange of goods is recorded, an audit trail is present to trace where the goods came from. This not only helps improve security, it can prevent fraud in exchange-related businesses. As the best Blockchain platforms can also help verify the authenticity of the traded goods and assets, this traceability lends itself to applications such as supply chain management.

Two popular use cases for the best Blockchain platforms

While Blockchain is still in its infancy within most businesses, there are two areas where Blockchain platforms are beginning to generate a great deal of interest.

Blockchain platforms for the supply chain industry

Blockchain helps organizations understand their supply chain and engage consumers with real, verifiable, and immutable data. Within the supply chain industry Blockchain platforms provide the transparency that builds trust between trading partners by capturing key data points and ensuring that all the parties can properly view all transactions. In addition, the best Blockchain platforms for the supply chain gives complete visibility and traceability of goods as they pass through increasingly global supply ecosystems.

Blockchain platforms for industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

As the amount of IoT devices explodes within manufacturing and process companies, the inherent weakness in much of the existing industrial IoT (IIoT) equipment is becoming apparent. Blockchain offers an effective means to guarantee the security of IIoT. As a result, organizations are increasingly examining the prospect of managing IoT devices using Blockchain platforms.

The move towards Blockchain platform as a service

While Blockchain has developed to enable the creation of different distributed ledger solutions, the growth of Blockchain as a platform has seen Blockchain platform providers develop services around their solution. The industry is now witnessing the emergence of Blockchain as a service and Blockchain platform as a service offerings. These solutions deliver key benefits as the Blockchain platform company can deliver the Blockchain skills and industry expertise that organizations would find challenging to replicate internally.

Find out more about the role that Blockchain platforms and other disruptive technologies are playing in the autonomous supply chain

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Mark Morley

As Director, Strategic Product Marketing for Business Network, Mark leads the product marketing efforts for B2B Managed Services, drives industry and regional alignment with overall Business Network product strategy and looks at how new disruptive technologies will impact future supply chains. Mark also has over 23 years industry experience across the discrete manufacturing sector.

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