Blockchain will do for trusted transactions what the Internet did for information. As IT moves to the Cloud, transactions must be trusted by all parties involved because the global digital economy depends on trust—not faith.

That is why IBM is building a complete blockchain platform for business. Blockchain brings together shared ledgers with smart contracts to allow the secure transfer of any asset—from a physical asset like a shipping container, a financial asset like a bond, or a digital asset like music—across any business network.

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Solutions for clients

IBM is working with hundreds of clients to pioneer blockchain solutions for business.

The potential goes well beyond financial services. Blockchain solutions have great potential whenever goods, parts, medical devices, or any other assets of value need be tracked and traced, typically involving several parties in a business network with limited mutual trust.

Transparency of transactions as well as the immutability of the shared blockchain ledger are key features when it comes to proofing the provenance of assets, auditing business processes, detecting counterfeit attacks in a supply chain, or investigating incidents in aircraft operation.

Use case

Aircraft maintenance

The grounding of a commercial airline because of missed maintenance can cost millions in revenue as flights are delayed or cancelled. But what if aircraft maintenance could be predicted and scheduled in advance in a fully automated fashion? Using blockchain, advanced analytics, the Internet of Things and Big Data, this can be done.

At IBM Research in Zurich, we use blockchain as an irrefutable ledger to record flight events, operational conditions and maintenance actions. These events are captured in a blockchain and shared across ecosystem partners, including the original equipment manufacturer, the airline, and the maintenance provider. Alerts are raised automatically using “smart contracts” that run on the blockchain when an inspection or maintenance check is due.

Combining these capabilities with a machine-learning algorithm that uses flight schedules, weather data, landing history and the quality of the runway, one can forecast well in advance when mechanical parts, such as landing gear, will need to be serviced.

Moreover, the availability of all relevant transactions in a common ledger allows the extraction of provenance trails for parts and entire airplanes in a matter of minutes or even seconds, a task that otherwise can take days, weeks, or even months if the information must be collected and curated across many parties.

Use case

Traceability of pharmaceutical products

There is currently a big push in the pharmaceutical industry towards protecting patient safety and ensuring product integrity. International legislation is fighting the counterfeiting / falsification of medicinal drugs through the introduction of serial numbers for each individual pharmaceutical trade item and the requirement of full supply chain visibility for item traceability.

Additionally, there is a growing need to transport and maintain specialty pharmaceuticals in temperature and humidity-controlled environments to avoid damaged products and life-threatening situations for patients.

We are using blockchain technology to record all events from birth to death of a pharmaceutical product, ranging from the product commissioning through the transport and storage, all the way to the final dispensing at a pharmacy or hospital. The link between the physical and digital world is established through product marking by a 2D-barcode containing the serial number and additional information.

In this use case, smart contracts can be used not only to represent the business events, but also to detect non-compliant states of the products such as incorrect handling and storing conditions, recall events by the manufacturer, expiration date violations or even the non-genuineness of a product.

Ask the experts

Jens Jelitto

Jens Jelitto
IBM Research scientist

Gero Dittmann

Gero Dittmann
IBM Research scientist