Technology

How the Hyperledger Project Is Pushing the Blockchain Forward

By / Feb 2, 2017 (iStock/Thinkstock)

The Hyperledger Project, which just added American Express as a member, isn’t interested in creating a bitcoin-style currency. Instead, it’s looking to make the blockchain a useful tool for all kinds of businesses. And businesses are responding favorably.

There’s a lot of potential for the blockchain—the secure distributed database tool closely associated with bitcoin and other virtual currencies—in the business world. The problem is finding where that potential lies.

That’s where the Hyperledger Project comes in. Announced at the end of 2015 by the Linux Foundation, the group is working to find ways for blockchain to support business transactions and supply chain work—as well as to advance the technology as a whole.

Hyperledger, which is working on an open-source implementation of the blockchain that can be broadly used in business contexts, has been making some major strides in recent months. Most recently, it announced that American Express had joined as a premier member. Hyperledger recently topped 100 members—among them, industry giants such as IBM and JPMorgan Chase.

American Express is apparently betting big on the blockchain technology, which it has invested in through the startup Abra. And by joining Hyperledger, it will get a direct say in the open-source implementation.

“We want to get closer to blockchain technology and further imagine its possibilities and use cases,” Amex Senior Vice President of Technology Sastry Durvasula told Bloomberg.

Hyperledger is also working to shore up its interest in China, where approximately a quarter of its members are based. Last month, it launched a technical working group targeted at the Chinese market.

The organization’s current tactical approach involves offering a home base for software originally created by some of its member companies. For example, its software project Fabric, a versatile implementation of blockchain technology for developers, was originally created at IBM. In comments to PYMNTS, the group’s executive director, Brian Behlendorf, says Hyperledger aims to help Fabric and similar projects and turn them into community efforts that boost the technology world as a whole.

“You have developers coming from companies, individual developers, whatever it may be, but they’re driven by a set of common needs, which we can answer with resources,” he said.

But one thing you probably shouldn’t do is think of the technology as another shade of bitcoin, the online currency regarded as the first common use of the blockchain. Behlendorf told eWeek last year that Hyperledger is less interested in currency than it is in improving a technology that holds broad potential for the business world. (And it gets around the dicey problem of creating a new form of money, which might be a turnoff for companies like Amex.)

“You’ll never see a Hyperledger coin,” Behlendorf said. “By not pushing a currency, we avoid so many political challenges of having to maintain a globally consistent currency.”

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »

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