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Distributed Ledger 150: The Year’s Biggest Enterprise Blockchain Stories

This marks The Distributed Ledger’s 150th issue. That may add up to only a few years of publication, but in blockchain time, it feels like eons. To mark the occasion, we’ll take a look at some of the top stories from the world of major blockchain advancements and enterprise use cases that the Ledger and have covered so far this year.

1. Blockchain Voting in West Virginia

When West Virginia announced this fall that it is partnering with Voatz to allow overseas voters to vote in a statewide election using a blockchain-powered mobile app — a first in the United States — the news was notable for government agencies and enterprises alike. 

As we noted in our coverage, the state government’s main motive for the plan appeared to be enabling people overseas, such as soldiers, to vote via a secure mobile app. State election administrators have had little to say about the blockchain part of the equation, and critics point out that Voatz’s centralized voting app doesn’t fully deliver on the theoretical benefits of blockchain-based voting, which would require full decentralization of the voting and recording process.

Still, if you think blockchain technology is uniquely positioned to increase transparency and accountability, then this story is one you’ll want to follow as it continues to unfold — whether or not you believe the Voatz solution actually provides better transparency or immutability than conventional voting.

2. Walmart's Blockchain-Based Delivery System

A blockchain may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about how to fight the scourge of porch pirates and ensure that items that you order online are safely delivered to your home or business. But Walmart thinks it should be. In July, the company filed a patent that mentioned using a blockchain to help coordinate the delivery of items to lockboxes.

There is a big difference between filing a patent and creating a solution. It’s unclear whether or when Walmart’s vision might come to fruition, or how extensive a role the blockchain might play in it. But this is certainly an initiative to watch if you’re interested in the future of enterprise blockchain use cases. 

3. IBM and Maersk Partner on Blockchain-Based Global Shipping Solutions 

Global shipping is an activity that almost begs to be improved by blockchain technology. When you are moving goods across borders, usually with multiple shipping providers involved in the process, keeping reliable, accurate records is challenging.

Early this year, IBM and Maersk announced an effort to help solve those challenges using a blockchain. The move was the latest in a blockchain-centric partnership that the two companies have been pursuing since 2016.

At the time of the announcement, neither company offered many details about which specific technology the blockchain-based shipping solution would leverage or how easily third parties might benefit from it. But it was notable as an example of two major companies applying distributed ledger technology to a real-world use case. 

4. VeChain Leverages a Blockchain for Tracing Vaccines

Accurately tracking the origins of vaccines can be a matter of life and death. To help reduce the chance of error, VeChain announced this summer that it is working with the Chinese government on a system that uses IoT devices to record data to VeChain’s blockchain during the vaccine production process.

If you’re looking for real-world examples of the use of blockchain technology in the healthcare industry, this is a prime example. 

5. Akamai and MUFG Plan Blockchain-Based Payment Network

The jury is still out on whether Bitcoin will deliver on its core promise of enabling faster, frictionless, border-agnostic payments. And, for now, blockchain technology won’t do much to help you pay with a credit card.

But cloud service provider Akamai and Japanese bank MUFG hope to change that by building a payment processing network that they say will be faster and more scalable than anything that has been produced to date. It won’t be built on Bitcoin, and the infrastructure that hosts it will be controlled by Akamai — so it’s not going to be a fully decentralized network. But if the two companies make good on their promise, they’ll use a new cryptocurrency to enable processing speeds of as high as 10 million transactions per second.

Distributed Cartoon: Is There Still Room in the Lifeboat?

According to ICORating, 64 percent of all attempted ICOs failed and startups raised 48 percent less through ICOs as 2018 came to a close. As a result, many companies are now pivoting to raise money through security token offerings (STOs), but there are questions about whether investor demand is going to be any different.

Breaking Down Smart Contracts

When talking about blockchain technology, there are a few buzz terms that seem to be imperative. What is one we hear again and again? Smart contracts.

Google Adds Bitcoin Symbol to iOS Keyboard

Source: Reddit

Google has added the Bitcoin symbol to its keyboard on iOS, making it one of several alternative currency symbols available when users hold down the dollar symbol key.

Germany Opens Industry Consultation Process for Blockchain Strategy

Source: Reuters

Ahead of announcing an official strategy for leveraging blockchain technology more widely, the German government has opened a process for receiving recommendations around the technology from local companies and industry groups. Germany is Europe's largest economy and Berlin is home to numerous blockchain startups. The solicited recommendations could lead to official legislative action in the near future.