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by Christopher Tozzi, Aug 30, 2018

Chinese Retailer JD.com Builds Blockchain-as-a-Service App Store


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Chinese companies have a new Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) option for building custom blockchain applications, thanks to the recently launched JD Blockchain Open Platform. 

The platform was announced on August 17 by the Beijing-based e-commerce company JD.com, also known as Jingdong. JD.com noted that the offering is designed to “help companies streamline operational procedures such as tracking and tracing the movement of goods and charity donations, authenticity certification, property assessment, transaction settlements, digital copyrights, and enhance productivity.”

The JD BaaS offering includes an app store that features blockchain-based applications and tools created by JD.com as well as solutions from independent developers, according to the company. 

“JD Blockchain Open Platform, a BaaS platform, houses an application store that provides multiple blockchain bottom layers, tools and software that are developed in-house and by Independent Software Vendors (ISV),” per the announcement.

So far, JD.com has been tight-lipped about exactly which tools and technologies power its blockchain platform. The company has also not detailed what makes its BaaS offering “open” (although the integration with third-party applications is perhaps what it has in mind). It says only that the platform “is built on multiple underlying technologies.” 

JD does, however, have at least one major user for the platform. It said in announcing the offering that China Pacific Insurance Company (CPIC), a major Chinese insurance company, has deployed an invoice-tracking system using the BaaS solution. 

JD Blockchain Open Platform is the latest hosted platform that JD.com has developed within what it calls its “Retail-as-a-Service” category of offerings, which is designed to help external companies leverage services from JD.com. In addition, the company has already been using a separate blockchain tracing platform to allow customers to track the goods that they purchase.

Not Just Another Enterprise BaaS 

It’s 2018, and offering BaaS platforms designed for enterprise use is no longer truly novel. Solutions like IBM Blockchain, Azure Blockchain Workbench and AWS’ blockchain service, which all fall loosely into this category, have been around for some time. 

However, JD Open Blockchain Platform is notable for a few reasons:

  • It is being launched in China, where the highly regulated nature of blockchain technology — not to mention the challenges faced by American tech companies like IBM and Microsoft in the country — has made this type of offering harder to envision.
  • It’s designed for retailers (although it’s conceivable that other types of companies could take advantage of the platform). That makes it different from existing enterprise blockchain development platforms.
  • It’s offered in the form of what JD.com is calling an “app store.” That approach also makes it different from cloud-based enterprise blockchain development platforms and places it within the emerging category of app stores for tools that use a blockchain. 

So far, it’s unclear whether anyone besides CPIC is actually using JD Open Blockchain Platform. But this is news worth following if you’re interested in blockchain technology development in China, blockchain applications for retailers and/or the future of a blockchain/app store concept.