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by Pete Harris, Apr 20, 2017

Analysis: Spoilt For Choice, Enterprise Distributed Ledgers (Part Two)


Block City

As was noted in part one of this analysis, 2017 will see companies looking to implement their first live pilots of applications built on blockchain and distributed ledger technology.

A big difference between a proof-of-concept and a pilot is that in the latter deployment scenario, the blockchain platform needs to be enterprise ready in terms of scalability, security and manageability. Hence the focus from the more established players (as reviewed in part one) and an increasing number of startups on providing a winning offering.

This part two aims to review a number of startups that are contenders. The disclaimer is that this is a fast-moving space, so if a company has been missed, please contact Distributed for inclusion the next time this article is updated. Now, to begin…

 AlphaPoint

 Launched in 2014 as a digital asset exchange provider, AlphaPoint added a distributed ledger to its product range a year later with a focus on financial markets players. While the company has been generally tight-lipped about its customers, it did recently announce that it had completed a trial with ScotiaBank. It also highlighted its involvement with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the U.K.’s Royal Mint on the creation of the RMG blockchain for gold trading.

Axoni

 A spinout from the TradeBlock digital asset market data and trade management vendor, Axoni has often been in the news over the past year with several trials of its distributed ledger technology. These included focuses on processing of foreign exchange, equity swaps, corporate bond reference data and credit default swaps. Notably, its work in the credit default swap (CDS) marketplace has led to a proposed production, the Trade Information Warehouse to be implemented by the Depository Trust & Clearing Corparation (DTCC) in 2018. As part of the DTCC deal, Axoni is expected to open source its platform, or at least a version of it.

Chain

 A former bitcoin tools vendor, Chain became one of the first blockchain platform vendors to emerge in 2015, and quickly signed up the likes of Citi, Nasdaq and Visa as investors and customers. Recently it open-sourced a developer version of its Chain Core platform while pointing its enterprise version at production deployments.

 Coin Sciences

 Developer of the MultiChain platform, Coin Sciences has a proprietary product that it offers for free download to developers. Having just entered beta release mode, the company has signed up a number of partners to work on production opportunities including Accenture, Boston Consulting Group and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

 Digital Asset Holdings

 Led by former J.P. Morgan executive Blythe Masters, of blockchain is “nothing much more than a fancy kind of database,” fame, Digital Asset has acquired technology from a number of startups and, fueled by more than $60 million of investment, is working on significant projects with the Australian Stock Exchange, SIX Securities Services and the DTCC. A significant contributor to the Hyperledger-managed Fabric open-source platform, the company is also planning to open source its Digital Asset Modeling Language for the creation of smart-contract-like agreements.

Gem 

Gem formed in 2014 as an early bitcoin tools vendor that transformed into an enterprise blockchain platform player with its GemOS offering. Much of Gem’s focus has been on the healthcare and supply chain markets, in areas including health data management and identity, claims processing and the management of carbon offset credits in the natural gas marketplace.

Guardtime

Formed in Estonia in 2007, Guardtime has been building keyless signature infrastructure — “blockchain without a ledger” is one reported explanation of its technology — for a number of industry verticals and applications, including defense, financial services, government, healthcare and telecommunications. Work with the Estonian government, GE and Ericsson has led the company to characterize itself as the world’s largest blockchain company by “revenue, headcount and actual customer deployments.”

Manifold Technologies

Drawing on the cyber security expertise of its founders, Manifold Technology is focusing its efforts on creating blockchain technology that offers improved security, privacy and scalability. The startup can now count Royal Bank of Canada among its clients, which is implementing its loyalty rewards program using its technology.

Monax Industries

Formerly known as Eris, this startup has focused on creating a smart contracts platform based on a modified version of the Ethereum virtual machine and marrying it with blockchain technology from Tendermint. In an interesting move, the company decided to open source its technology under the guidance of the Hyperledger project, which could see its smart contracts layer married with other blockchain underpinnings, and perhaps even closer cooperation between the Ethereum and Hyperledger communities.

OTC Exchange Network (OTCXN)

While OTCXN is primarily building a blockchain-based service for peer-to-peer foreign exchange trading, it is also actively exploring making its core technology available to others as a general purpose platform. Assuming its foreign exchange service performs well, it could be a useful showcase to persuade prospects to adopt the underlying technology for other asset classes.

Paxos

Formed as a split off from bitcoin exchange itBit, Paxos has built its Bankchain distributed ledger platform and is focusing it on the post-trade securities space. In addition, via a partnership with clearing network Euroclear, it is building a blockchain-based settlement system for the London gold market.

PeerNova

A one-time bitcoin mining company, PeerNova pivoted to blockchain software in 2015 and has developed trading applications for Overstock.com (which is an investor) and addressed data provenance-related issues for State Street Bank.

Sawtooth Lake

Intel’s contribution to the open-source Hyperledger project is Sawtooth Lake, designed to tackle security, privacy and scalability issues by leveraging the Proof-of-Elapsed-Time (PoET) consensus mechanism. To date, it has been tested for bond trading in a trial run by R3, and also for a music industry rights management application. Its supporters suggest, though, that its sweet spot is in implementation by industry consortiums.

SETL

Formed by financial market veterans in London, SETL has built distributed ledger technology, dubbed “OpenCSD,” that is being deployed for equities settlement by Computershare in Australia and post-trade foreign exchange processing by Cobalt DL in the U.K. It has also worked with Metro Bank and Deloitte on a smart card-based, contactless payments pilot, which looks set to be deployed more widely. 

Symbiont

Focusing on smart contracts running on its proprietary Assembly distributed ledger technology, Symbiont has been involved in a number of pilot projects, including the management of syndicated loans, the issuance of securities for companies forming in the State of Delaware and the digitization of gold.

t0

The blockchain subsidiary of online retailer Overstock.com, t0 — or “T Zero,” a name chosen to reflect real-time securities settlement — might be thought of in the same way as Amazon’s AWS cloud division is viewed. Both parent companies use the technology developed for their own business (albeit, Amazon has a few year’s head start) and offer it for others to leverage.

For its part, t0 has acquired order routing software and brokerage licenses in order to roll out its securities trading system, through which it has issued its own stock and now supports secondary market trading. The plan for the future is to list other companies as well as open up the platform to additional asset classes.

To state the obvious, there are currently many options to choose from when considering blockchain and distributed ledger technology for an enterprise rollout. Probably the first decision to be made is whether to go with an open-source offering or proprietary technology. The big picture determination, though, has to delve beyond the quality of the platform. It also has to include a business assessment of whether a particular startup or project can survive a general market belief that vendor consolidation will begin in 2018, as winners and losers emerge in the race for production pilot implementations.

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