TradeLens Blockchain Supply Chain Project Has 94 Firms Join Already

It is no secret that IBM is betting a lot in the blockchain technology. Together with the shipping giant Maersk, the company has recently recruited a long list of companies as partners for the new global trade blockchain platform that both companies are developing.

It was revealed this week that a total of 94 companies have already signed for the new platform, which will be called TradeLens.

TradeLens will use the scale of Maersk and the tech of IBM, which have attracted a lot of potential partners, ranging from port operators and customs authorities to logistics companies. All of these platforms have been testing the new platform so far.

Right now, the pilot stage is complete and other companies will be able to test it by participating on an early adopter program. It is expected that the product will be available for commercialization at the end of the year.

TradeLens Will Be A “Joint Collaboration”

The two companies have been describing the project as a “joint collaboration” instead of a joint venture in order to message that this is a new and open platform.

The head of global trade of Maersk has recently told the media that both companies are making an effort to describe this new platform as something that is not a Maersk or an IBM-solution, but a joint offering. Both companies remain as the two only shareholders of the company and both jointly own the property and the technology, but White emphasized that the ecosystem will be open to all.

An IBM spokesperson has also stated that the old 51/49 model will not be applied in this case and that the two companies are going to use a collaboration model instead. They will sell access to their new platform. The companies will be able to pay to use the structure. According to them, this new model can bring solutions to the market faster and be more flexible than traditional models.

TradeLens Was Built Using Hyperledger

TradeLens was built on top of the IBM Blockchain, which uses Hyperledger Fabric, an open source relative of Linux, which opens the possibility of IBM using this product together with other Hyperledger projects.

According to Todd Scott, vice president of global trade at IBM Blockchain, the company has devised solutions to be very easy for the information to travel among the blockchain. You can send information from TradeLens to IBM Food Trust, for instance. TradeLens is already publishing public APIs to help in fostering this open supply chain ecosystem.

IBM will develop a total of over 125 APIs that will give to developers access to the program, so the community can build interesting things using this technology.

However, not everybody is so positive on this stance and Sean Edwards, the chairman of the International Trade and Forfaiting Association and legal head of the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation Europe, stated that it is harder than it looks to make these things happen.

According to him, blockchain has many possibilities, but it may come to a situation in which universal systems will have to be created so that every system can speak a common tongue. He believes this is not a new problem and it happens from time to time when new industries emerge.

He also defends that, just as consumers use different passwords and platforms, it may come a time in which the banks will have to present in all these platforms if they do not want to lose their space in the market.

Possible Problems Down The Road

TradeLens will face some problems down the road, that’s for sure. Other platforms like TradeShift and Citigroup’s project are also targeting this same area and it means that even if TradeLens tries to market itself as neutral as possible to get the market, it will have many other companies trying to take its place.

There is also the issue that Maersk has subsidiaries like Maersk Line (shipping container business) and Damco (logistics provider), which will be on the platform, so it will have to make clear to the other companies that it will not use their data without permission, which can cause potential data privacy concerns.

According to the creators of the platform, sensitive information will be kept in separate nodes, so carrier A will not see carrier B’s information or even carrier C’s, which will protect the data.

The companies will have to deal with issues of banking, too. IBM said that among the 94 companies there were banks, but they were not named. A name that some media outlets have hinted is HSBC, but the companies will certainly try to get more financial institutions in.

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