What’s Coming for Enterprise Blockchain in 2021

January 14, 2021 | 5 minute read
Mark Rakhmilevich
Vice President, Blockchain Product Management
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(Adapted and extended from 101 Blockchains Conference Keynote delivered jointly with Deloitte’s Wendy Henry on Dec. 15th – our part starts 1:15:35 into the recording.)

Enterprise Spending Priorities in Post-COVID World

As pandemic swept the world this year, many companies saw a significant drop in their business, and anticipating a prolonged economic contraction focused on cost savings and optimizations. Unsurprisingly, enterprise IT spending overall and emerging technology spending in particular has re-focused on generating near-term savings, risk reduction, and business optimizations. The organizations are looking at blockchain initiatives that can deliver these, for example, B2B reconciliations using a distributed ledger and smart contracts, which can reduce the time and costs of manual exception handling, speed up time to settle, and automate variety of B2B transactions based on single source of truth provided by transparent access to a distributed ledger and pre-agreed smart contracts.  Time being equal to money in most cases, news of Tesla pilot with COSCO SHIPPING LINES and the Shanghai International Port Group to expedite its cargo release process highlights the speed and process optimization benefits when the ocean carrier can share trusted shipment data with the terminal operator and easily verify the consignee and the shipping agent using CargoSmart-developed applications as part of the Global Shipping Business Network (GSBN) blockchain consortium

At the same time we see the shift to remote work being extrapolated beyond employee interactions, and leading some organizations to explore more touch-less business models with their clients and suppliers as well. For example, on-line e-KYC within groups of financial companies and across multiple organizations help streamline bank account openings and identity verification (e.g., Ahli Fintech’s instant “Bank Account – Opening” service), touch-less vendor on-boarding and due diligence helps to increase agility in supply chains, particularly when existing suppliers cannot meet their commitments and replacement sources must be quickly found.  On the broader topic of sustainable supply chain visibility and ethical sourcing, there’s growing need for multi-tier visibility so disruptions 2, 3, 4 levels down in the supply chain can be quickly discovered and their impact rapidly anticipated and remedied. Some remedies involve bringing on new suppliers, and this is where blockchain-verifiable ethical sourcing can speed up the due diligence and ease ongoing compliance checking and reporting, particularly in areas such as traceability of conflict minerals and other extracted resources in manufacturing or industries where labor conditions can be improved through transparency.

Blockchain is also getting more attention in the retail space. As more retail in all product categories shifts on-line, consumers are increasingly concerned about the origin and content of the products they previously purchased in a brick-and-mortar store. 

Hence, authenticated provenance and trusted information about the product origin and journey is a key contributor to maintaining or increasing consumer confidence, whether in diamonds traceability provided by Oracle partner Everledger or in milk supply chain network recently launched by another partner, Trace Labs, as part of EU’s SmartAgriHubs initiative. For types of products or groups of consumers, who previously didn’t shop on-line at all or for particular product categories, ability to provide more tracking information about product origins, ingredients, manufacturing processes, and storage conditions helps make people more comfortable buying on-line. A particularly interesting approach by another partner, Tracifier, has focused on sourcing the quality information at a leading European analysis laboratory for the Food and CPG industry, who’s looking to enable wider access to and verification of the test reports and certifications it issues by using blockchain.

Government Initiatives Driving Blockchain

Of course, we should also highlight government-driven initiatives and priorities. With the increasing role of government, whether in fighting COVID-19 or supporting their countries’ economies, blockchain technology is getting a boost where it can deliver significant benefits in trusted and open government, solve visibility or tracking challenges, and provide new capabilities to sustain struggling economies. This includes first and foremost pandemic-related initiatives, such as data provenance solution for pandemic-related datasets from health authorities all over the world on Mipasa.org, Oracle's real-time tracking of COVID-19 test results solution recently awarded Gold prize in the US HHS design-a-thon, ensuring visibility in the distribution of testing supplies, therapeutics, and vaccines, and other areas where single source of truth and immutable trusted transactions are relevant.

On the economic front we see interest in leveraging blockchain as part of broader supply chain disruption management for government’s own procurement and introducing risk-free on-line payments via Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) as highlighted at a virtual IMF event by Christine Lagarde, President of the European Central Bank (ECB) and more recently discussed at the ECB Forum on Central Banking.

We’ll explore some of these areas in follow-on posts in this series, including:

The final posts in this series will discuss the evolution of enterprise blockchain technology overall and Oracle's blockchain managed service in a number of areas, such as:

  • Changing enterprise perspectives from experimentation to production, low-code chaincode development capabilities and other enablers for broader adoption,
  • Significant momentum in standards and interoperability, including use of tokens for non-financial asset representation on Hyperledger Fabric, deployments in multi-cloud network topologies, Hyperledger Cactus open source project for blockchain interoperability middleware, and orchestration of cross-ledger updates over different blockchain technologies and frameworks,
  • The growing confluence of blockchain, IoT, and AI/ML as these technologies are used together to add their unique value to a whole greater than the sum of its parts, e.g., using blockchain to track AI/ML training datasets and models to help support "explainable AI" requirements, or registering IoT device identity on blockchain for security and non-repudiation.

Look for new posts in this series to be published and linked here weekly.

Mark Rakhmilevich

Vice President, Blockchain Product Management

Mark is responsible for Blockchain strategy and products. He focuses on evolving Oracle Blockchain Platform and Oracle Database Blockchain Tables in the cloud and on-premises to meet the needs of customers and partners for scalable, secure, production-ready platform to support blockchain solutions. He helps to guide customers and partners around the world in applying blockchain technology to deliver on key business outcomes – accelerating growth, reducing costs and friction in business ecosystems, reducing risk and fraud, and bringing to market innovative solutions that solve real-world societal challenges. Mark facilitates customers’ journey from rapid experimentation to live production through discovery, sharing industry use cases and best practices, and advising on solution architecture.

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