At Montreal’s inaugural Hyperledger meetup, nearly 100 blockchain enthusiasts convened at Notman House in downtown Montreal to discuss and learn how Hyperledger, the blockchain technology collective, is impacting business today.
Hyperledger is an open source collaboration of software developer communities building blockchain platforms and frameworks. An effort of the Linux Foundation, the Hyperledger umbrella covers a range of projects that focus on building blockchain technology for businesses.
Hosted by Hyperledger Montréal, the night saw different companies show and tell how they are using the technology to solve real world problems today.
Business on the blockchain
Jimjees Abraham, Managing Partner of ChainDigit, an enterprise blockchain consultancy, led off by discussing how what enterprises want and need are not the same as the public blockchains we hear of everyday – the ones with a digital currency attached such as Bitcoin or Ethereum.
“If you don’t already own 100 BTC, I’m afraid you’ve missed the boat,” joked Abraham in describing the differences between public and private blockchains.
Highlighting similarities too, however, he elaborated how enterprise solutions built on distributed ledger technology seek many of the same benefits as public blockchains, including immutability and consensus reaching.
“Differences lie in the fact that with permissioned solutions, the nodes are known, so trust is more built-in since only certain parties are authorized to engage with the blockchain,” said Abraham. The example he gave was if the Bank of Canada wanted to create a blockchain for itself and the big Canadian banks, a so-called ‘consortium blockchain.’
Because trust is less of an issue for these permissioned blockchains, the technology can focus on being faster, simpler, and more efficient.
In building these solutions for companies, Abraham explained how the client’s first concern is often how they can secure their data and privacy. This feature is crucial for members of a network to be able to interact with one party, without all others knowing the details of the transaction. As an example, he described the challenge Nestle would face if it wanted to give a a price discount to Walmart, but not Target. If they all share a distributed ledger for their supply chain, this could cause a privacy issue.
Helping track the pharma process with blockchain
Next up was Robert Panetta, Director at BlockRx, an initiative by iSolve providing blockchain solutions for the global pharma supply chain industry. Panetta explained how the race for the technology solution in this space heated up when the FDA announced their Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) in 2013, requiring more stringent tracking of pharmaceuticals throughout its entire lifecycle.
“As of now, our solution is B2B, tracking a drug from manufacturer to pharmacy,” said Panetta, “Completing the cycle by connecting the patient as well, could improve outcomes and allow for greater accuracy in studies.”
iSolve develops their solutions for players in the space on top of Hyperledger Sawtooth, a platform for running distributed ledgers that employs a unique consensus algorithm called PoET (Proof of Elapsed TIme). This framework was contributed to Hyperledger by Intel. On top of Sawtooth, iSolve built an application called ADLT which, among other things, allows users to interface with the data not by block or hash number, but by human readable product names, etc.
Integrating old and new with Hyperledger
One important point echoed throughout the evening was the need for these new blockchain solutions to mesh with the existing enterprise solutions that are in place. Presenters were clear that they believe Hyperledger solutions are meant to complement, not replace, the massive investments companies have made in their legacy tech stack.
“Current ERP technology lives in siloes, and information is not shared across these companies,” explained Panetta on pharma. “Blockchain solutions will have to integrate with these legacy systems (SAP or Oracle, he joked) to be successful.”
Also of note was the fact that different Hyperledger frameworks and technologies are best suited for different use cases and industries. Whereas some applications may require modularity of consensus mechanisms, others may depend on high throughput and low latency.
Manu Varghese, Chief Product Officer of Greenstream Technology, a blockchain platform for the Canadian cannabis market, expressed how they are building proof of concepts on the Hyperledger Fabric as they value its flexible framework.
“Given that we connect different industry stakeholders – licensed cannabis producers, online merchants, customers and governments – we require a blockchain framework that can adapt to the needs of each player, yet unify the industry as a whole,” said Varghese. He also expressed the benefits of shared resources and relationships within the entire Hyperledger organization.
It became clear throughout the evening that Hyperledger blockchain technologies are not a promise on the horizon, but something that businesses are adopting and iterating on today. The Hyperledger community of communities fills an important role in coordinating the efforts of blockchain implementation, similar to how the Linux Foundation and others supported the fledgling internet only 20 years ago.