I recently spoke to a friend in Silicon Valley regarding a topic in AI. He is an AI expert, and is trying to solve a tough problem in the space. But he was ranting over the fact that all the top AI talent are already working at Google, Apple and Facebook and any meaningful break throughs in AI required a lot of capital to be spent on infrastructure.
I pride myself on my AI knowledge, but that was news to me in some ways. If a reasonably capitalised startup based out of Silicon Valley struggled with producing break throughs in AI, that showed the monopoly some of these tech giants had in the field.
I would have expected the same when it came to Blockchain, but Silicon Valley and the US innovation eco-system have missed the Blockchain bus. But, recently we have had several headlines, which makes me think if some of these tech firms would use Blockchain to get into Financial Services in a big way. Lets take a glimpse at what Google, IBM, Microsoft and Amazon are doing with Blockchain.
IBM, earlier this week announced the launch of their payment platform that uses the Stellar network. The payments platform is capable of settling cross border payments in real time. The platform called IBM Blockchain World Wire, can integrate with any payment system, and can do micro payments of any size – a typical Stellar use case.
IBM has probably got its nose ahead of the rest of the tech giants in the Blockchain race. Earlier this year, IBM announced a partnership with Stronghold, another Blockchain firm who created a stable coin pegged to the USD, using the Stellar network.
Much before all this IBM offered Blockchain as a service for a wide range of use cases. They were a big user of the Hyperledger platform. Also, as per the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), IBM have 89 Blockchain related patents, only second to Alibaba’s 90. They definitely seem to have got it going with Blockchain.
Microsoft were the first firm to take Blockchain to the cloud – their Azure platform.
They made an announcement last month that they were launching a platform called Bakkt along with ICE (Intercontinental Exchange) and BCG (Boston Consulting Group). The Bakkt platform would be an open and regulated, global ecosystem for digital assets.
They have developed a platform called Confidential Consortium (CoCo) on their Microsoft Azure platform using Ethereum. In May this year, they launched Azure Blockchain Workbench that allowed enterprises to do self service Blockchain app creation.
They are also working on integrating their apps such as Outlook, SalesForce, Sharepoint and CRM Dynamics to their Blockchain infrastructure – and I just hope they don’t do a clunky job of that.
Amazon have been relatively quiet when compared to IBM and Microsoft in capturing Blockchain headlines. They do offer Blockchain as a service using Hyperledger and Ethereum infrastructure. Users will be able to create Blockchain apps on AWS without having to go through the infrastructure set up.
Commercially they allowed Bitcoins on their platform, but apart from this, I feel they have been pretty muted in the Blockchain space – may be the calm before the storm.
Google recently launched Blockchain as a service on the Google cloud platform. They made the announcement in July 2018. The platform is based on Digital Asset and Blockapps, with Hyperledger and Ethereum support coming up in a few months time.
They have also used their Big data analytics app BigQuery to create a view on the flow of tokens within a Blockchain network.
Of all these attempts from the tech giants, only IBM seem to have done enough to come close to providing a meaningful Blockchain service for Financial Services. When I was speaking to @efipylarinou a couple of days back, we discussed how IBM may have missed a trick with making it big with the Fintech wave, but they certainly seem to have it right with Blockchain.
Arunkumar Krishnakumar is a VC investor focusing on Impact investments, a writer and a speaker.
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