How the tech industry is using blockchain to save the planet
By Peter Hui, BloombergTechBy Peter HsuThe world’s biggest tech companies are using blockchain technology to transform the way they work, and to better control the global supply chain.
In its most recent earnings call, Alphabet Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Twitter Inc. said they were using blockchain, a decentralized ledger that runs on the internet, to enable a new kind of collaboration.
The companies said they expect blockchain technology will help their businesses “be more transparent, more agile, and more efficient.”
Companies like Uber Technologies Inc., Airbnb Inc., and Airbnb are working to make their travel services more affordable and easier to use.
The rise of Airbnb, which has grown into a $30 billion company, has brought new attention to the use of blockchain for digital currencies.
While the tech world is already working to better protect supply chains and make sure that consumers can’t steal or manipulate products, companies have been working to use blockchain to address some of the biggest challenges in supply chains.
“Blockchain is an important tool for making sure the supply chain is secure,” said Adam Ludwin, chief executive of BitGo, the bitcoin company that helps run the digital currency, at the call.
“But we also know that it is not a substitute for the real world.”
Companies are also using blockchain’s security to streamline the way products are sold.
Bitcoin has been used to buy things like online gaming cards, a technology that allows online retailers to make deals and even sell products without going through banks.
A blockchain-powered digital wallet that stores digital currency is now being used to store Bitcoin purchases.
While digital currencies are still nascent, companies like BitGo and Airbnb, the largest online service for booking flights, are experimenting with ways to use them in more direct ways.
Airbnb announced it was using blockchain for its digital currency exchange.
In February, Airbnb CEO Travis Kalanick said he is “excited” about the blockchain-enabled system he will use to manage the company’s $1.6 billion bitcoin trading.
The technology also has applications in financial markets and insurance, allowing for the digital tokens to be stored as a form of escrow, like a checking account or a savings account.
“A lot of businesses are looking at blockchain as a way to move toward greater transparency, but there’s a lot more we can do with it,” said David Karpinski, CEO of Chain, a company that develops and manages digital asset-trading platforms.
Chain uses the blockchain to manage and track thousands of cryptocurrencies, or virtual currencies.
For example, Chain’s platform tracks a digital currency called Dash, which is used in online shopping.
The company is also using the blockchain for the purchase of goods and services.
“When you go to a store, you can find a lot of things,” Karpinksi said.
“We want to do things in a way that’s much more transparent.”
In its call, Chain also said it is working to simplify the purchase process for customers who want to buy from online retailers, and it is using the technology to allow merchants to accept digital currencies and credit cards.
In an effort to make it easier to purchase things online, Chain is partnering with a third-party platform called Shopify.
The two companies are testing a program that lets merchants sell goods in the same way they sell items on Amazon.com.
The companies also said they are looking into how to improve their processes for verifying a customer’s identity, so that customers can have the same credit card and PayPal account used by multiple people.
“When you use the same name, your information is linked,” said Jason Siegel, a Chain vice president, at a call with analysts.
Chain’s partnerships with other companies are just a start.
It also has partnerships with companies like Amazon.co.uk, eBay Inc., Google Inc., Paypal, and Visa.
Other partners include Shopify, which handles payments for online retailers like Amazon, and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., a China-based internet retailer.