Permissionless Blockchain Could Save The Failing IBM/Maersk Project

Blockchain makes sense when it enables people and entities that don’t know or trust each other to work together. Some of the private permissioned blockchain solutions, such as IBM’s Hyperledger, are criticized for giving up decentralization, censorship resistance, and trust when collaborating.

In short: when there is no incentive for parties to cheat, sure, one could use a private permissioned blockchain. Else, it’s time to start looking for alternatives when collaborating B2B in a decentralized way.

On a private permissionless network, anyone can spin up a node to join. However, as opposed to a public blockchain, other nodes will acknowledge its existence, but not share any data. At least not just yet. This secure, governed and compliant sharing of data is critical if you’re planning on building a blockchain ecosystem of giants. This became evident on the recent news reports dismissing the IBM/Maerski bockchain project – an ecosystem of shipping giants and associated organizations such as ports, customs authorities, beneficial cargo owners, and other companies.

The biggest issue for Maersk was onboarding competitors, which was key for the success of the project. Due to the nature of the solution, which would have essentially put Maersk in control,  the level playing field that is so strongly required for doing B2B collaboration on blockchain was not present.

While the need for a shipping solution is evident (according to IBM “There are 27 billion euros of savings to gain between the supply chain partners just from efficient sharing of information”), the outlined benefits simply did not outweigh the advantage that Maersk would have over its competitors. According to the competitors, a standardized level playing field would be required for them to join any shipping-on-blockchain initiative.

This is where private permissionless solutions come in. They don’t create a single chain shared by everyone. But each instantiation of a smart contract has its own ad-hoc chain. In other words; deploying a smart contract on a permissionless private network automatically creates a private (side-)chain associated with that contract.

Stakeholders on a predefined contract or process (for example shipping a product from A to B), could be invited to these private ad-hoc blockchains, in which data is only shared with the participants involved.

These parties would fulfill their tasks when it’s their turn in the process, using optimized and (GDPR-)compliant data aggregation from other, formerly non-communicating participating systems. Collaborating in this decentralized way could completely erase the need for data re-entry and paperwork in general, compensating the massive CO2 footprint of the shipping process.

A private permissionless blockchain could be the solution for the shipping companies. They provide a level playing field, set standards through mutually agreed upon, predefined workflows, and enable data exchange in formerly impossible ways, using non-communicating systems. Needless to say, this solution would be a great opportunity for decentralized B2B collaboration in general.

For more information, visit some of the parties that do private, permissionless blockchains and let us know what you think!

  • LTO Network (already active in the shipping business with CEMEX and EU-waste transports)

  • Holochain

  • Monet

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