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Robin Klemens and Hyperledger Climate Action and Accounting SIG

#RadicalCollaboration | Hyperledger CA2 SIG leading a working group at Open Climate Collabathon

By Blog, Special Interest Group

When looking at climate change, it seems like there are thousands of factors that need to be considered. The truth is, there is really just one: human collaboration. No matter if looking at behavior or trying to find a solution, human collaboration makes all the difference.

The question is how can we collaborate? How do we come together to work on a shared cause? How do we scale? How do we sustain the effort? 

There are many possible answers to these questions. In this article, we will explain what true collaboration looks like for us. We share the same vision, value each other, and each of us is solely here because of an intrinsic motivation: to tackle climate change. “We” are the Hyperledger Climate and Accounting (CA2) Special Interest Group (SIG).

CA2 SIG 

The CA2 SIG fosters and engages a multi-stakeholder network to exchange ideas, needs, and resources in order to develop and consolidate open source distributed ledger technology (DLT) solutions for common climate accounting mechanisms and frameworks. Our recent post Tackling Climate Change with Blockchain: An Urgent Need, Ready Opportunity and Call to Action provides more in-depth information about the CA2 SIG and our different working groups (WG).

One of the WGs to highlight in this blog post, which kicked off this summer, is the Carbon Accounting and Certification Working Group. The mission of this WG is to identify how DLTs could improve corporate or personal carbon accounting and make carbon accounting and certifications more open, transparent, and credible. By now, our first prototype is ready to calculate customers’ utility emissions according to the Greenhouse Gas Protocol Scope 2 and store the emission records immutably to a Hyperledger Fabric blockchain.

Purpose-driven

Our vision is to build an open climate accounting system that covers all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. A system like this would make real trust and transparency possible for the first time. We are convinced that only then do we have a true shot at tackling climate change as a human society. 

In case you are still wondering why we invest our time in CA2 SIG: we take our spot in the bottom-up approach of Article 6 of the Paris Agreement and prevent irreversible damage to our planet if temperatures reach a 1.5 degree warming.

To drive our vision at a larger scale, the Carbon Accounting and Certification WG is taking part in the Open Climate Collabathon from November 9th to 23rd, 2020. 

The Open Climate Collabathon is an international open source initiative to establish a global platform for climate pledges, action tracking, carbon mitigation, and finance, that reflects the current state of planet Earth (i.e., temperature increase, resilience, etc.). The project focuses on leveraging emerging digital technologies like blockchain & distributed ledgers and other innovations to create a globally shared digital hub for coordinating a timely climate change response, internationally.

Collabathon = radical collaboration + hackathon

Our process

The Carbon Accounting and Certification WG does not just stand for a purpose-driven team but also a multicultural community of experts, students, developers, and climate activists. Together we worked toward the idea of multi-channel data architecture and created the Open Business Application Framework over an iterative process during the past year. The Open Business Application Framework is a generic model with a layered architecture that can be applied to many scenarios in climate space. Especially to projects that need a distributed ledger as a common data layer and want to benefit from the Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) (Hyperledger Indy) as well as the Verifiable Credentials (Hyperledger Aries) standards defined by the W3C.

What we do

With this idea, we joined the Open Climate Collabathon to lead a working group with two different tracks – technical and non-technical – during the two weeks sprint to get more people involved.

From the technical side, we concentrate our resources on the Common ID & Agents as well as the Common Data Layer and the interoperability between them. The first stream implements the Hyperledger Lab TrustID to the existing Hyperledger Fabric deployment. The TrustID project develops a chaincode and an SDK that, together, enable identity management in Hyperledger Fabric as a decentralized alternative to CAs by using the DID standard specified by the W3C. In a second stream, we move our local Hyperledger Fabric deployment to a distributed, multi-cloud Hyperledger Fabric network consisting of three independent organizations. The private permissioned ledger would just be one part of the Common Data Layer. In the future, we strive for interoperability between additional ledgers like Hyperledger Besu or Ethereum Mainnet

Last but not least – maybe even most importantly – what we do is not only technical but covers the business issues of using DLT for climate action. During a breakout session at the collabathon focused on the business issues, we came up with follow-up tasks such as:

  • Explore how a Distributed Autonomous Organization (DAO) or digital currency could be used to motivate climate action.
  • Find reliable emissions factors for energy in other countries beyond the USA.
  • Develop a business plan for a virtual renewable energy network. This would allow members who can not get solar panels directly, because they rent, move frequently, or have houses that are not structurally eligible to get the benefits of renewable energy and offset their emissions as well.  
  • Develop a business plan for energy efficiency with blockchain

Start collaborating

Of course, we are always looking for further collaborators. If you feel addressed by one of the tasks, are an expert in one of the areas or you just want to experience radical collaboration to make a difference, join us at:

We are looking forward to welcoming you.

Perun, a blockchain-agnostic state channels framework, moves to Hyperledger Labs

By Blog, Hyperledger Labs

We are excited to announce that Perun, a joint DLT Layer 2 scaling project between the Robert Bosch GmbH’s “Economy of Things” project and the Perun team of Technical University of Darmstadt (TUDa), joins Hyperledger as a Labs project. The project’s goal is to make blockchains ready for mass adoption and alleviate current technical challenges such as high fees, latency and low transaction throughput. 

The Perun Hyperledger Labs project implements cryptographic protocols invented and formally analyzed by cryptography researchers at TUDa and the University of Warsaw. Designed as a scaling solution, the Perun protocol can be used on top of any blockchain system to accelerate decentralized applications and lower transaction fees. The payment and state-channel technology of Perun protocol is especially useful for high-frequency and small transactions. By providing a cheap, fast, and secure transaction system, the Perun protocol is a major step forward in the mass adoption of blockchain applications. 

Overview over the Perun Protocol

The Perun protocol allows users to shift transaction and smart contract execution away from the blockchain into so-called payment and state-channels. These channels are created by locking coins on the blockchain and can be updated directly between the users and without any on-chain interaction. This makes state-channel-based transactions much faster and cheaper than on-chain transactions. The underlying blockchain guarantees that all off-chain transactions will be enforced on-chain eventually. In comparison to other channel technologies like the Lightning Network, the Perun construction offers the following unique features:

Perun’s state-channel virtualization: To connect users that do not have a joint open state-channel, existing state-channels can be composed to form so-called virtual channels. These virtual channels are created and closed off-chain over the state-channel network intermediaries. Once opened, the virtual channel is updated directly off-chain between the two connected end users.

Blockchain-agnostic: Its modular design enables the flexible integration of Perun’s state-channel technology into any Blockchain or traditional ledger system. 

Interoperability: The blockchain agonistic design and state-channel virtualization enable transaction and smart contract execution even across different blockchains (cross-chain functionality).

High security: The Perun protocol specifications have been mathematically proven using the latest methods of security research (see perun publications).

The Perun protocol can be used for a wide range of applications in different areas such as finance/FinTech, mobility, energy, e-commerce, telecommunication and any other use case where direct microtransactions are needed.

The Hyperledger Labs Project

As a first step, we are developing a secure and efficient standalone payment application within the Perun Hyperledger Labs project. The labs project currently consists of the following main parts that together form the Perun Framework:

  1. perun-eth-contracts: Provides the Ethereum smart contracts required for implementing the Perun protocol.
  2. go-perun: An SDK that implements core components of the Perun protocol (state-channel proposal protocol, the state machine that supports persistence and a watcher) and an Ethereum blockchain connector. It is designed to be blockchain agnostic and we plan to add support for other blockchain backends.
  3. perun-node: A multiuser node that uses the go-perun SDK to run the Perun protocol and provides an interface for users to manage their keys/identities; off-chain networking; open, transact and settle state-channels.

The Perun framework is built with flexibility in mind and can be integrated into many different environments since most components, like networking, logging or data persistence, are interchangeable and use state of the art software architecture practices that ensure flexibility and crypto agility.

Since joining Hyperledger Labs, we’ve been very active developing the software and we have released the first couple of versions. At the current stage the following functionality is given: 

  • Two party direct payment channels on ethereum
  • Fully generalized state channel functionality
  • Command line interface

Features on the roadmap — also depending on community response:

  • Virtual channels 
  • SSI integration with Hyperledger Aries
  • Additional blockchain backends
  • Cross-chain channels

We are thrilled to be part of the Hyperledger community and are looking forward to your feedback and contributions. We are hoping to jointly build exciting projects on top of Perun to unleash its true potential and build towards a decentralized future. Check out the Perun Lab repositories to see the code and start contributing. Feel free to contact us through the Hyperledger channel #perun if you have any questions.

DEON: A Hyperledger-based DEcentralized Off-grid Network

By Blog, Hyperledger Aries, Hyperledger Fabric, Hyperledger Indy

The DEON project focuses on the application of blockchains to secure data sharing in private networks and was initiated in 2018 in the wireless and sensor networks laboratory at the Yale Institute for Network Science. The use case of off-grid communication networks was identified with the goal of enabling their full decentralization in terms of data management and identity management. Off-grid (communication) networks are peer-to-peer networks that are autonomous, without super nodes and not dependent on the Internet’s physical infrastructure. Several recent developments like goTenna[1] and the Beartooth[2] offer standalone wireless devices that could be used to form local peer-to-peer networks. Other developments like the well-known Guifi community network[3] in Catalonia, Spain, are community-led paradigms in that space. Although these networks promote decentralization, openness, and fairness, they rely on legacy, centralized technologies for specific parts of their architecture like data and identity management. The integration of blockchains into off-grid networks appeared promising since blockchain provides attributes like transparency, privacy, distribution of governance and decentralization that are highly desirable in off-grid networks.

We chose Hyperledger Fabric as the framework to build our architecture because of its flexibility, performance and the potential we saw behind this huge community of enthusiasts and developers to further advance the technology. After we got familiar with the framework, we identified a key missing aspect: a decentralized identity management component. Unlike the rest of Fabric’s architecture, its native identity management is centralized and based on Certificate Authorities. So we came across the following questions: “which of the nodes in the network is going to host and manage the CA?”, “can we stick with the initial plan of having equal nodes?”and “how can we preserve the decentralization of off-grid networks if we rely on centralized nodes?”

Looking at the rest of the Hyperledger ecosystem, we found that Hyperledger Indy and Aries enable decentralized identity management. We could transform the centralized CAs of Fabric to a distributed CA entity, aka the Indy ledger, so that they are accessible by all nodes but not hosted by a specific one. This approach would work like a distributed oracle of trust in the network but necessitated some changes in Fabric and other extensions in the entire stack to bring DIDs into the “Fabric world.”

Approach and proposed architecture

The first Fabric extension identified as necessary for the integration was an Indy-based MSP to verify identities, signatures and transactions signed by DIDs. In addition, we had to enable the Fabric SDK (Go) to sign transactions using DIDs. For the Indy/Aries part, we leveraged the Hyperledger Aries Cloud Agent (aca-py) [4], which is deployed in each node of the network and serves as both the verifier and the issuer in the network. On one hand, it signs Fabric transactions using DIDs and issues credentials to the users of the network, and on the other it verifies proofs and transactions signed by DIDs. The DEON Core Service leverages Fabric private data collections and an interface to IPFS to expose a REST API for secure, transparent, fast and privacy-preserving data storage. An overview of the integration is shown in the figure below. The proposed architecture can be employed by off-grid networks of any kind, from IoT to communication and inter-enterprise consortia networks, for enabling self-sovereign identity and user-centric data sharing.

Figure 1: HL Fabric-Indy/Aries integration

Project outcomes and future work

The work started as a joint effort between the wireless and sensor networks lab of Professor Leandros Tassiulas at the Yale Institute for Network Science and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which put its expertise in decentralized identity to work in the development of the identity parts. Part of the work and initial benchmarks of the architecture deployed in off-grid settings are presented in the paper “A Blockchain-based Decentralized Data Sharing Infrastructure for Off-grid Networking[5].”

Currently the Yale team is working on improving the code to make it more usable by others as a standalone solution for integrating Fabric and Indy/Aries. The team is also working on feature enhancements for the DEON platform, such as supporting Fabric v2, updating DEON identity agents to the latest version of the aca-py agent, extending the DEON REST API with admin functionalities and finally looking for new applications of the platform. The code of the project can be found on GitHub https://github.com/off-grid-block.

[1] goTenna off-grid device: https://gotenna.com/
[2] Beartooth off-grid device: https://beartooth.com/
[3] Guifi.net: https://guifi.net/
[4] aca-py agent: https://github.com/hyperledger/aries-cloudagent-python/
[5] “A Blockchain-based Decentralized Data Sharing Infrastructure for Off-grid Networking”: https://arxiv.org/abs/2006.07521v2

About the author
Harris Niavis is a Research Engineer at Yale University. His research interests lie in enterprise blockchain networks, decentralized identity management, mesh networks and IoT.

 

Cover image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

Announcing Hyperledger Besu 20.10.0

By Blog, Hyperledger Besu

This release includes new versioning and mainnet-focused advancements

The Hyperledger Besu team is excited to announce today’s Hyperledger Besu 20.10.0 release. 

You might have noticed that the versioning for this quarterly release is a little different than prior Hyperledger Besu releases. The Hyperledger Besu community recently decided to switch its versioning to calendar versioning, known as CalVer. Instead of the historic semantic versioning used by Besu and other Hyperledger projects, the Besu team decided to use CalVer moving forward. In all future releases, you will notice the project versions will start with the year and month (YY.M) of the last major release candidate, followed by a patch number for incremental releases, which results in a YY.M.patch, or 20.10.0 for this release. The Besu team believes this will better track the project’s changes and it follows many other successful open source projects that use Calver, including Splunk and Ubuntu.

Check out the old vs. new versioning in the table below.

ProjectReleaseOld Release VersioningNew Calver Release Versioning
Hyperledger Besu Hyperledger Besu Q4 Release Candidate 11.6.0-RC120.10.0-RC1
Hyperledger Besu Hyperledger Besu Q4 Release Candidate 21.6.0-RC220.10.0-RC2
Hyperledger Besu Hyperledger Besu Q4 2020 Quarterly Release1.6.020.10.0
Hyperledger Besu Hyperledger Besu subsequent bi-weekly release 1.6.120.10.1


Now to share what is included in the latest release. The Besu community is excited about the continued advancements of the Hyperledger Besu project featured in this release. 

A few highlights for this release include:

  • Flexible Privacy Group Performance tests
  • Mainnet Support Work, including preparing for the Berlin Network Upgrade and EIP-1559 support

Flexible Privacy Group Performance Tests

The ‘add and remove members for privacy groups’ feature was released earlier this year as an early access feature. With privacy groups in Hyperledger Besu, you can add and remove members from a privacy group, creating an improved user experience for private transactions. Privacy groups are built using a private transaction manager, called Orion, to help send private transactions in a permissioned network.

In the 20.10.0 version, privacy groups have been further improved to ensure robust performance. The team performed various tests to ensure the flexible privacy group feature is not a performance bottleneck. 

Flexible privacy groups are now supported when using multi-tenancy. In addition, the team created more library examples and documentation of use cases. 

Mainnet Support Work

Since Hyperledger Besu runs on the public Ethereum mainnet, the Besu community also sought to improve its public chain settings. As a reminder, Hyperledger Besu is the only Hyperledger project that runs on a public chain and in permissioned network settings. This optionality makes it unique and a popular project for trying out both public chain or permissioned network options for a use case.

Berlin Network Upgrade

In this release, the community prioritized work ensuring Hyperledger Besu is ready for the next Ethereum hard fork, Berlin, scheduled to happen in the next few months. You can learn more about Ethereum’s hard forks here. For the Berlin hard fork, the Besu and Ethereum communities are broadly focused on implementing EIPs, or Ethereum Improvement Proposals, that will help with the UX of the Ethereum 2.0 deposit contract, add new functionality to the EVM and change gas costs to reflect their execution time more accurately. 

EIP-1559

In addition to its work on the Berlin network upgrade, the Besu team has also been leading efforts to implement EIP-1559. EIP-1559 is a highly anticipated upgrade to Ethereum’s transaction fee market. This EIP’s goal is to make the Ethereum fee market more efficient. You can read more about the current status of EIP-1559 here in a post written by Tim Beiko, one of our Besu team members.

What’s Next?

The Hyperledger Besu community remains committed to improving its project and making it fit for production blockchain use cases. Watch for new features addressing node hibernation and Bonsai Tries database improvements in our next quarterly release.

Get Involved

Download the latest version of Hyperledger Besu here.

Interested in learning more or curious on how to get started with Hyperledger Besu? Check out the Besu docs, view the tutorials, visit the wiki, or take a look at some open issues in GitHub

Stay tuned to hear more about our work in Ethereum and Hyperledger and about how Hyperledger Besu is continuing to lead the enterprise blockchain space.

The move to a production network: What you need to consider and how Hyperledger Fabric can help

By Blog, Hyperledger Fabric

Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that provides a shared, immutable, and transparent history to the participants in the network of all the actions that have happened. Currently, different types of blockchain technologies exist, including private permissioned implementations that allow governance of the network participants and secure management of sensitive data. 

Blockchain has already demonstrated its potential in numerous POCs and implementations in production in Switzerland and abroad. Deployments are live in various business areas such as supply-chain management, finance (e.g., payments in crypto-currencies, tokenization), healthcare data management, ticketing services, eVoting, cars and planes configuration and maintenance, among others. Increasingly, companies are moving past the initial stage of  testing whether  blockchain is a good solution to a specific business problem (i.e., developing a POC) and are starting the work of adopting this technology in production networks. 

The move from a successful POC implementation to a production deployment brings many added challenges such as ongoing management, integration (on both the technology and business process fronts), security and budgeting. Here are some key areas where advanced consideration and preparation can smooth a production implementation:

  1. Deployment options for running and maintaining the blockchain nodes and other components of the blockchain network.

Blockchain technology is often employed to ensure transparent and secure transactions executed between parties without fully aligned interests. Instead of relying on a centralized “trusted” party, which can become a target for the internal and external cyber-attacks, parties opt to set up a distributed network. This blockchain network consists of replicated nodes that execute smart contracts – programs defined by the business logic of the application. Depending on the business requirements, a specific type of blockchain implementation (i.e., permissionless/permissioned, private/public, or hybrid) shall be chosen. This choice also impacts the network configuration and maintenance. When the nodes are located on premises, execution of smart contracts can be verified by the parties directly. However, infrastructure maintenance costs and shortage of specialists “in house” can complicate such an approach. The nodes can also be deployed in the cloud; multiple companies provide such services. Working with service providers simplifys management. However, it also requires careful selection of the provider(s) based on the sensitivity level of data that are being processed by the smart contracts, regulations, and physical location of the hosting data centers.

  1. Set up or integration of identity management approach.

For the permissioned blockchain technology implementation, identity management service plays a crucial role. Often, even as a part of distributed ledger frameworks, identity management services are implemented in a centralized manner, which poses serious security threats and can become a single point of failure. Setting up a distributed identity management service, using blockchain-based approach for identity management (such as self-sovereign identity solutions) and implementing privacy-preserving approaches (using advance cryptographic primitives such as zero-knowledge proofs) are the approaches that must be considered for the real-world implementation. 

  1. Transformation of  business processes into chaincode (smart contracts) 

Transforming paper-based contracts and business processes into computer programs can be challenging and may require compliance with domain-specific regulations (i.e., Drug Supply Chain Security Act in US, Falsified Medicines Directive of the European Union in the pharmaceutical sector). Making sure the business processes are properly transferred and are available for  verification and audits are cornerstone requirements for the successful integration of the blockchain. To understand and translate specifics of a company’s business area into smart contracts, collaboration between the company and blockchain specialists with the specific domain knowledge and legal expertise is required.

  1. Data management approach.

Replication of the code execution between multiple parties brings transparency into blockchain implementations. At the same time, more parties may access the sensitive data that is required for the execution of the smart contracts deployed on the nodes. In the course of development of the blockchain, a number of approaches for hybrid data management have been proposed. These approaches assume that only part of the data is managed within the blockchain network, and most of the data, especially of a sensitive nature, is stored and processed locally. Private data collections, hardware security modules, data encryption are examples of approaches that aim to ensure data security and user privacy.

  1. Estimation of the infrastructure and maintenance costs.

Once the above points are considered, and preliminary choices are made, it’s easier to estimate the effort and costs of implementing and maintaining a system. It is important to ensure integration and interoperability with other non-blockchain-based components. Detailed specifications of SLAs and timelines in the dynamic blockchain environment must not be overlooked.

Working with customers, we have found that Hyperledger Fabric, one of the most mature permissioned blockchain technology platforms implementations, is well architectured to help companies to make the leap from POC to a successful production deployment.

Hyperledger Fabric networks can be set up on the customer premises and in the cloud, including multi-vendor cloud environments. Deployment and maintenance of the robust and secure blockchain-based POCs and real-world systems can be achieved in close collaboration between the company and a vetted service provider that has deep experience helping enterprises successfully adopt Fabric.

With Hyperledger Fabric, business logic can be “translated” into the chaincode using one of the following general-purpose languages: Go, node.js, or Java. Fabric also provides a set of built-in tools for sensitive data management, such as private data collections and channels, as well as flexibility in the choice of identity management approach, such decentralized identity management and anonymous credentials. 

Being aware of the challenges, knowing how to address them, and working together with a Hyperledger Certified Service Provider, like Swisscom, are key components to the successful deployment of a blockchain-based project in production.

Lessons learned from COVID: The role blockchain can play when supply chain disruptions hit

By Blog, Hyperledger Fabric

On April 27, 2020, IBM and Chainyard launched Rapid Supplier Connect (RSC), a blockchain-based network designed to help government agencies, hospitals and healthcare buyers to identify PPE suppliers in the United States. The participants included non-traditional suppliers who had pivoted to address the shortage of equipment, devices and PPE supplies needed for COVID-19 relief efforts with a greater efficiency.

The blockchain network, which was launched, free of fees, to help frontline healthcare organizations confidently identify and procure PPE, had unprecedented adoption. More than 500 buyers and suppliers joined in no time to quickly find each other, accelerated verification and onboarding processes, and gained near real-time insights into inventories of life-saving equipment.

Six weeks from ideation to market

During mid-March 2020, when the pandemic hit the United States with unanticipated impact and scale, hospitals found themselves struggling to procure quality and essential PPE equipment needed in the frontline battle. Availability was uncertain, quality was questionable, and trust in suppliers was eroding.  

IBM and Chainyard jumped in to help responders to battle the pandemic by launching RSC, leveraging Trust Your Supplier and IBM Sterling Supply Chain Suite, within six weeks.

Trust Your Supplier, owned and operated by Chainyard, is a production blockchain network with trusted source of verified supplier information and digital identity that reduces risk while simplifying and accelerating supplier onboarding and supplier management. IBM Sterling Supply Chain Suite provides inventory visibility and deep insights into supply chain activities. 

What are the reasons RSC had such quick adoption and successfully met its objectives? When looking back we identified the following five themes for how blockchain helped when the supply chain disruption hit:

1. Trust was paramount, and that trust will survive the pandemic

When the pandemic hit the supply chain, leading to shortages, price increases and quality distortions that cascaded from factories to ports to suppliers to consumers, the buyers needed a system that could be trusted.  Blockchain is known to create trust in the system without any one individual or company in the system ensuring the trust. The trust is achieved through trust in the ecosystem, which included trust on third party verifiers, immutable data, immutable logic and audit trail of supplier information. Trust Your Supplier, the foundation for creating the trust, and previously proven with thousands of suppliers, was the right choice to be quickly leveraged to build trust between buyers and suppliers during the pandemic.

2. Blockchain provides the skeleton for trust; however, it is the ecosystem that brings it to life.

Blockchain provides the skeleton for creating the trust. However, it comes to life and offers greater value when more trusted industry players participate and contribute as validators, verifiers and solution providers working on top of the network. Each blockchain requires the creation of new industry ecosystems in which participants must work together. RSC achieved this through multiple verification agencies helping to generate trust in the ecosystem, including:

  • Dun & Bradstreet contributed its identity resolution, firmographic data, and supplier risk and viability scores to TYS network.
  • CDAX served as a third-party paymaster, securing funds on behalf of buyers in a custody and settlement account and holding goods ordered contractually from the supplier under a consignment arrangement until the buyer verifies acceptance of the order and releases funds to the seller. 
  • Project N95 served as a clearinghouse for information on COVID-related suppliers.
  • RapidRatings provided financial health data on suppliers.
  • KYC SiteScan provided “Know Your Business” due diligence report access. 
  • Thomson Reuters provided access to its CLEAR customer due diligence tool to provide buyers with access to real-time and comprehensive data to vet suppliers and identify potential fraud risks.

3. Inventory visibility and transparency accelerates on time delivery and adaptation.

When the pandemic caused a shortage of supplies, the buyers’ biggest need from suppliers were inventory visibility and transparency into delivery timetables.  The solution was expected to provide real time visibility and transparency across the key supply chain pillars of procurement, manufacturing, transportation, and distribution. In the case of a pandemic, critical supply delivery lead time misinformation could lead to significant loss including lives.

RSC integrated IBM Sterling Supply Chain Suite to provide inventory visibility and deep insights into supply chain activities. Increased real-time visibility helped buyers to pace the PPE orders. The network also helped to identify existing supplies and excess inventory going unused, allowing hospitals to make it available to others and redirect supplies where they were needed most.

4. Simple solutions to solve pain points need to be swift to the market.

Blockchain solutions for supply chain can be very complex, supporting myriad use cases with a large consortium providing the single source of truth. One cannot build these solutions overnight when a pandemic hits. In order to be swift in the market, reuse solutions that are proven and available in the market being used by suppliers over the years.  The level of integrations can be daunting and can take years. RSC adopted agility against the features, made integrations simple and was quick to market to address the critical needs.

5. Trusted Digital Identities bridge the trust gap between reality and the digital world.

Blockchain-based digital identity played a major role in creating trust . Digital Identity is about linking real world identities and the digital world. Each physical object’s digital replica (known as a digital twin) is created in a way that prevents or reveals any human interference that alters information. For a digital business transaction on supply chain, it is substantially important to prove the authenticity of one’s own identity and to verify that of the transaction partner. RSC leveraged TYS’s Digital Identity services to issue verifiable credentials associated with a company identity, digitally signed, and thus verified by a trusted party.

Additional aspects of blockchain that also contributed to supply chain resiliency during the pandemic include data privacy, confidentiality of shared data, innovative business models that glue together stakeholders in the ecosystem, and third-party solution integrations that work on top of these ecosystems. With many blockchain supply chain solutions on the rise, and interoperability actively being addressed, our society will have quicker resilience when we encounter the next pandemic.


For more on this topic, tune into a discussion on “Leveraging blockchain to drive supply chain resilience and accountability in the face of climate change and other disruptions” at Open Source Summit Europe at 13:00 GMT, Monday, October 26. The panel will include Chainyard’s Gigo Joseph along with Douglas Johnson-Poensgen of Circulor and Marta Geater-Piekarska of Hyperledger.

More details are here.

Join the conversation about solutions and applications in the supply chain market with #HyperledgerSupplyChain this month on social channels.

Cover image by MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann, CC-BY-2.0

How Hyperledger Fabric is impacting the Telco, Media and Entertainment industry

By Blog, Hyperledger Fabric, Telecom

The rise of blockchain

Blockchain is already a reality in the Telecommunication, Media and Entertainment (TME) industry. In fact, many companies, both established and start-ups, have implemented blockchain-based solutions to automize, digitize and re-invent some of their processes.

Like other industries, TME is characterized by the lack of visibility, transparency and auditability of some of its processes, making asset transactions less efficient, thus generating both extra costs and revenue leakage. In telecommunication, a good example of such a process is wholesale voice settlements. Carriers around the world exchange large amounts of money for interconnection costs, but there are no industry standards to ensure consistency and transparency. Each report is subject to dispute and reconciliation. In the media industry, we all know how difficult it is for artists and music labels to track the revenues that are due to them from streaming and video platforms.

Hyperledger helps in bringing efficiency to TME operations

The stakeholders in the TME industry are pioneers in the application of blockchain to solve some of the critical industry issues. In particular, they recognize that a platform designed for the enterprise like Hyperledger Fabric provides tangible value-adds such as  privacy, transparency, trust and security. Leveraging these key characteristics, telco and media companies have started building consortia and projects to validate the value of the technology. These consortia can be categorized into three categories: operations-focused, customer experience and full revenue generating ecosystems.

In the first category, companies collaborate to improve back end processes that take place between them, with the goal of eliminating redundant costs and activities. This helps improve productivity and efficiency in the value chain. In a nutshell, this is an efficiency play. Some processes touch all players in the industry. Examples include roaming settlements for telecommunications or digital advertising supply chains for the media industry. (Recently, Syniverse and IBM went live with the first blockchain-based roaming solution compliant with the new GSMA billing standard.) Alternatively, some processes may interest only a major player and its closest suppliers. 

Reinventing customer experience with Hyperledger 

The second category, customer experience-focused consortia, revolves around improving the engagement of the customer rather than the efficiency of the processes. The main financial goal is not cost cutting but revenue generation, either through new services or new business models.

In this context, the sky is the limit: use cases are several and very different. When the goal is to provide a better customer experience, Hyperledger technologies can be used to improve customer engagement and make client-facing activities easier and less redundant. For example: IBM uses Hyperledger Fabric to simplify the dispute resolution process for commercial financing. Fabric is also used to automatically enforce warranties or reduce the time needed to port your mobile number from one carrier to another, thus improving the customer experience. 

On the other side, blockchain can be used to create new services for telecommunication and media companies. For decades, telcos have harbored an ambition to get into the mobile payment business. Now, with blockchain, they have an easy and secure way to implement digital wallets, create tokens and exchange them in their own network or with other networks. The same can apply to the gaming industry, where the concept of credits and digital token has been popular in the last few years but was hard to monetize.

Carriers can also now provide digital identity services. Blockchain is the ideal platform for creating a trusted identity, and carriers are in the perfect position to enable subscribers with digital identity and to develop an ecosystem of applications. IBM’s Verify Credentials creates a decentralized approach to identity management – enabled by blockchain – building on top of open standards in combination with Decentralized Identity Foundation (DIF), World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and other standards groups

Hyperledger Fabric is the foundation of new industry ecosystems

Finally, the third category, the ecosystems, comprises consortia that cover the entire industry. Consortia turn into ecosystems over time, when an initial application becomes an industry-wide platform, setting the standards for the whole industry and allowing for flexible, modular and open participation, in a “network of networks” fashion. The founder of the ecosystem can extract high value from the platform and become a winner.

The application of Hyperledger Fabric in the TME industry has not achieved the level of maturity necessary for the establishment of a real ecosystem, but a few companies and industry organizations are already laying the foundations for the future ecosystems.

There are several organizations that are creating consortia and implementing blockchain networks.

  • Companies that interact frequently are getting together to form small groups of three  or four participants to streamline existing processes. They can either be telecom carriers that need to facilitate settlements among themselves or music streaming services that want to remunerate music labels faster and more accurately.
  • Regulators are playing a big role: in India, the local telecom regulatory agency (TRAI) mandated the use of blockchain to prevent unsolicited commercial communication. Indian mobile subscribers can opt out of telemarketing calls and a blockchain distributed ledger will manage this information for carriers, content providers and the regulators.  IBM is working with TRAI and Bharti Airtel on the commercial deployment that will initially help the operator curb unwanted calls and messages from advertisers. It will also help the operator in Mobile Number Portability, interconnect settlements, supply chain streamlining and content partner settlement.
  • The European Union, through the Horizon 2020 fund, is financing several blockchain projects to improve the way information and infrastructure is shared within telecom companies.
  • Service providers are very active organizations that are leveraging their neutrality to build industry-wide ecosystems. They can be either established platform providers that already serve the majority of their market or new start-ups trying to disrupt the competition. In the first case, service providers are improving their value proposition through blockchain. In the second case, start-ups are rethinking the way the industry works.
  • Finally, industry standard organizations are gathering their members to define how blockchain can transform their industry. This is happening both in telco and media. In telco, organizations such as the GSMA, TWI GLF and the Bridge Alliance are advocating for blockchain with the goal of establishing common standards for the most immediate blockchain use cases (e.g., wholesale and roaming settlements). In the media space, AdLedger is leveraging blockchain to re-shape the digital advertising industry.

2020 is going to be a KEY year for blockchain in the TME industry: we are going to see the outcome of the work done in the last couple years and the move to production of many consortia.

Cover image by pisauikan from Pixabay

Tackling Climate Change with Blockchain: An Urgent Need, Ready Opportunity and Call to Action

By Blog, Special Interest Group

If blockchain is really going to change the world, then why are so many of us stuck in pilot purgatory? Is it because our distributed ledgers are too disruptive to the existing incumbents? Or that they already have solutions that are good enough, at least for now, so breakthrough ideas like blockchain could wait on the back burner?  

Is there a large scale, urgent business problem out there that requires massive collaboration and does not have existing incumbents?

We believe there is one: Climate change.  

While we as a society recognize that climate change is real and have the technologies to fix it, we lack a way to get all the parts of our economy — businesses, investors and banks, consumers, and regulators — to work together on it.  Part of the problem is we have to work across traditional boundaries of industries and countries and integrate vast supply chains around the world. And we have to do it without recognized central authorities because they don’t exist at this point.  

Fortunately, blockchain, or distributed ledger technologies (DLT), may be just the right tool for this challenge: It is designed for coordinating trust and collaboration across multiple parties, with greater speed and much greater scale than ever before. With blockchain, we could record trusted Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions for every type of economic activity and transfer them across supply chains as products and services are transacted.

The Climate Action and Accounting Special Interest Group (CA2SIG) of the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger project is an open source effort to foster a collaborative network of climate, DLT, and other emerging technology organizations (i.e., universities, NGOs, government, startups, corporations, multilateral development banks, etc.) that can create a center of gravity around the role of DLT and open source software to address challenges in the global climate action, policy and digital accounting space.  

We hope that our work could act as a shared initiative where participants can contribute value to and share explorations in the use of DLT alongside other emerging technologies such as IoT (Internet of Things), big data, and machine learning to address the challenge of keeping a transparent climate accounting system towards the climate targets set in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

The CA2SIG is currently comprised of the following working groups:

Carbon Accounting and Certification Working Group, which is working on automating accounting and transactions of emissions:

Consumer Disclosure Working Group, which is working on ways of making customers aware, in a meaningful, understandable way, of the impact they bring about on the environment while going about their daily life:

Climate Accounting Standards and Protocols Working Group, which is focused particularly on the protocols and standards that will enable consistent climate accounting :

Together, these working groups are building software for the following goals:

  • Implementing GHG emissions accounting using verified data and models, which could publish trusted emissions data for a wide variety of business activities.
  • Passing GHG emissions up to national and supra-national structures.
  • Making accurate GHG emissions available at the consumer level.

By making our work open source, we hope to enable more developers to build on our work and extend GHG accounting to every part of our economy around the world.  

What we’re asking is for people to help us integrate our software into more activities. Climate change is happening because every little thing that is happening is contributing to it just a tiny bit. We want to be able to get data on those activities, model their emissions, and start making people aware of their impact and work together to reduce emissions.  

Whether you’re an experienced developer, from the business side, or a private individual, we could use your help in linking real world activities to climate change and coming up with solutions together. Join us on the Hyperledger Wiki for more details and links to regular calls.

Hyperledger is Enabling New Blockchain-Based Business Models for 5G

By Blog, Hyperledger Fabric, Telecom

The fifth generation of cellular networks or 5G promises revolutionary improvements compared to the previous generation that reaches beyond merely multiplying the bandwidth and reducing latency. 5G is expected to enable a wide range of new internet-based services such as vehicular communications and Smart City infrastructure that, in addition to connectivity, require on-demand fine-grained infrastructure and resource access to operate. Hence, the allocation of the underlying resources has to be capable of supporting and adapting to sudden changes in demand for resources and be able to flexibly provide customized bundles of resources to fit the demands of the vertical industries using the 5G infrastructure.

Entering the 5G market, an operator may experience up to 65% increase in RAN deployment and infrastructure costs [1]. Discovering new ways to more efficiently allocate resources can, to some extent, alleviate the massive increase in the infrastructure cost. Network and infrastructure sharing is one of the solutions that could help major operators to gain considerable returns by leasing out portions of their idle resources to other service providers that o are willing to operate in the same geographical region.

A Decentralized Marketplace for Network Infrastructure Sharing

The practice of infrastructure/network sharing dates back to the previous generations of cellular networks. However, these sharing models were typically in the form of bilateral agreements and were limited to long-term sharing of passive and seldom active network resources. Such sharing models cannot support either the on-demand short term sharing requests or the larger markets where the parties involved in resource trading exceed only two operators. On the other hand, the intense competition in the telecoms industry rules out the prospect of a centralized marketplace where a trusted intermediary is in charge of the market and makes the final decision regarding the allocation of the resources and the price. Therefore, a decentralized approach is required to incentivize participation by the infrastructure providers, network operators, and over-the-top service providers.

Hyperledger Fabric blockchain technology can provide the foundation for the described decentralized marketplace where all the market players could participate in the resource allocation and pricing process in a transparent and trustworthy way and without relying on a third party. 

Case Study: 5G Network Slicing

Network virtualization technology allows the division of network resources into isolated virtual slices of the network that could be then offered to other users. This creates a new business opportunity for network operators and infrastructure providers to monetize their idle resources. Therefore a new business model has been gaining attention where operators and service providers can trade network resources in a marketplace equipped with a market mechanism(e.g., auctions). The aim is to develop a marketplace that does not rely on a third-party broker to conduct the market.

Why Hyperledger?

Hyperledger Fabric is an open-source project that is built as a modular software so that every piece of it can be tailored into the needs of the developers. Besides, with Hyperledger Fabric, there are no coding language lock-ins as the platform does not force the developer to use a particular language for the smart contracts. Finally, compared to other blockchain frameworks, the supported high transaction throughput and low latency make it a right candidate for 5G use cases.

Scenario:

A number of operators and service providers are participating in a marketplace to buy/sell network slices [2]. They each offer ask/bid prices for the offered quantity of a network slice and the smart contract that has to be endorsed by every single operator decides the final allocation and price of the network slices.

  • The commodity: A network slice consisting of computing, RAN, and storage resources.
  • Member organizations: Infrastructure providers, network operators, and service providers.
  • Technology: Hyperledger Fabric v 1.4.1, Raft ordering service
  • Architecture: Five organizations each with one peer node and 10 Raft orderers.
  • The Smart Contract: A sealed-bid double-sided auction mechanism that allows bilateral trade of network slices.

Conclusions:

The research team at Connect Centre [3] have developed the smart contracts and deployed the Hyperledger Fabric network on one of the major public cloud provider’s infrastructure. The results of the performance benchmarks of the blockchain solution are reported in [2]. In addition to the 5G slicing, other resource sharing problems in 5G are expected to benefit from the blockchain technology. One other example is Virtual Network Function (VNF) marketplaces where network operators and software vendors could offer their virtualized network services such as Firewall, DNS, CDN, etc. 

[1] Future Networks. “5G-Era Mobile Network Cost Evolution.” Accessed September 10, 2020. https://www.gsma.com/futurenetworks/wiki/5g-era-mobile-network-cost-evolution/.

[2] N. Afraz. and M. Ruffini, “5G Network Slice Brokering: A Distributed Blockchain-based Market,” in EuCNC conference 2020.

[3] CONNECT – the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Future Networks and Communications, https://connectcentre.ie/

If you’re interested in how blockchain is being used in the telecom industry, get involved with the Hyperledger Telecom Special Interest Group

About the author
Nima Afraz is a postdoctoral researcher with Connect Centre for Future Networks and Communications, Trinity College Dublin. He is a member of Hyperledger Telecom Special Interest Group. His research interests include network economics, network virtualization and blockchain for telecoms.

Cover image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Hyperledger for the Blockchain Skeptic

By Blog, Hyperledger Fabric, Special Interest Group

As an enterprise software developer, I’m used to thinking about solving real world business problems. So, naturally, I was pretty skeptical of bitcoin and the blockchain when I first heard about it.  

Yet the idea of a “distributed ledger” kept tugging at me. Since all the apps we’ve built, from ERP to CRM to e-commerce, revolved around a ledger of transactions, what could a global, distributed ledger allow us to build?  

It took me three years of off-and-on studying and a few very smart people to finally make me realize that the blockchain, or distributed ledger technologies (DLTs), is just a small step from what we’re already used to. But that little step could unlock a new world of possibilities.  

In this post, let me address some of the common skepticism I’ve encountered as part of the Hyperledger Climate Action and Accounting Special Interest Group. Then in a follow-up post, I’ll show you why I believe climate change is the killer app for the blockchain.

I Don’t Need a Blockchain

Are you sure? Because you’ve probably already started building a few.  

With enterprise software, we often have to prove that the data we’re using is authentic. So how would you assure someone that the data you’re using has not been altered or tampered with?  You know that the data provider might change its API or the data you get from it, so 

  • Did you make a local copy of the data you got?  
  • Did you record the date and time you got it?  
  • Did you record a hash of the data, so it could be compared with the data you used for your application?  
  • Did you store archival copies of the data and the hash so that you could prove that they are all correct?  
  • Did you store multiple copies just to be sure?

If so, then you’ve built much of what goes into a blockchain or distributed ledger. A blockchain is really a protocol to store data across multiple nodes while assuring their consistency. It follows all the steps outlined above, plus a few more, to make sure that once stored, data cannot be lost or altered.  

So if you’ve already been building your own “distributed” data records, then you obviously need what the blockchain offers. It addresses many of the pain points of data integration that we deal with every day in enterprise software.  

The advantages of an open source blockchain platform such as Hyperledger Fabric or Hyperledger Sawtooth, compared to a homegrown solution, are many: Most obviously, there is security and scalability of a developed solution. Then there is the support for the “unknown unknowns,” use cases you may not realize exist but would surface over time. Finally, there’s the chance to work with some very smart people and learn more about this emerging technology.

Databases Are Faster than Blockchains

This is certainly true, and nobody would suggest that you replace your database with a blockchain. The two have different but very complementary uses.

Databases are great for fast read and write access of data within an organization. Blockchains are great for making sure data is stored immutably, so that its authenticity could be proven across multiple organizations.  

Another way to think about it is that databases are for building applications, while blockchains are for building collaboration.

There Are too Many Competing Blockchains for Me to Use Them Now

This probably stems from confusing blockchain with Bitcoin, just like people once confused Compuserve or AOL with the internet.  

Remember that blockchain is a technology, while Bitcoin is a protocol and a cryptocurrency implemented with blockchain. There will always be many different protocols, cryptocurrencies, and frameworks implemented with blockchain technologies, just like there were many different websites implemented on the internet.  

Blockchains are Too Energy Intensive and Bad for the Environment

I get this from climate activists, some of whom actually got angry when I mentioned the blockchain.  Again, this stems from confusing blockchain with Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other implementations of the blockchain.

The early blockchain protocols such as Bitcoin and Ethereum used proof-of-work consensus mechanisms, which required a lot of energy-intensive “mining” of cryptographic puzzles. Their  creators probably never imagined them to become as popular as they did, or that they would consume as much energy as whole countries.

Fortunately, we’re all moving away from proof-of-work because it is so energy intensive and simply slow. Hyperledger Fabric, for example, is both fast and energy efficient because it does not use proof-of-work.

Blockchains are Too Immature Right Now

This may have been true five years ago but is definitely not true any more.  There are plenty of blockchain applications — Bitcoin, Ethereum, Compound to name a few — that have billions of dollars of stored value. On the enterprise side, Hyperledger platforms have been used in production for a range of interesting use cases for a while now.

The field will continue to evolve, but, as a whole, blockchain has probably reached the level of maturity of the internet around when Amazon got started, if not further.

There is No Killer App for Blockchain

Which brings us back to the original question: What could a global, distributed ledger allow us to build?

I believe it would allow us to create collaboration on an unprecedented scale, across traditional national and industry boundaries and over long time horizons. And there’s no use case better suited, or more urgent, than climate change. Stay tuned.

About the author
Si Chen has been developing open source enterprise software since 2005.  He is a part of the Hyperledger Climate Action and Accounting Special Interest Group, which is working on using Hyperledger and blockchain to solve the climate change problem. 

Cover image: https://www.needpix.com/photo/1214471/blockchain-block-chain-technology-computer-symbol-network-connection-web