IBM Deploys 400 Blockchain Projects, But Perspectives Are Unclear

IBM President and CEO Ginni Rometty believes Blockchain technology is far more important than Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Deep Learning.

At the NASSCOM India Leadership Forum (NILF) held earlier this month, an annual event wherein businesses and industry leaders come together to discuss the potential of transformative and disruptive technologies, Rometty stated that Blockchain technology will transform the financial industry as the Internet did for information.

Rometty further emphasized that cognition is much more important and larger than AI, as cognitive technologies like the Blockchain enable individuals to augment and evaluate data within a more efficient and practical ecosystem.

Essentially, Rometty believes AI allows individuals to make better decisions and machine learning helps decipher patterns. However, Blockchain and the IBM Blockchain technology offers more than that she notes.

Rometty stated:

“Cognitive is much more than AI. If I were to look at a cardiogram and see the blood vessels moving while trying to look for a blockage, I would view that more as AI. But if were to take all your electronic medical records, images and all data from Fitbit, etc.—every test that you have done—that is really cognitive because I’m reasoning over that data and dealing with a gray area. I’m making judgments and decisions.”

Ambiguous but confusing business model

Based on the talk Rometty provided at NILF, it is more difficult to analyze the efficiency and practicality of the IBM Blockchain project particularly if the vision of Rometty is considered.

Throughout her presentation, Rometty continued to establish an emphasis on utilizing Blockchain technology to manage millions of records and disrupting data-centric industries like health care. However, Blockchain technology isn’t designed and structured to facilitate such large sequences of data.

In fact, technologically, Blockchain technology is an inefficient data processing platform. It is expensive and challenging to maintain, specifically because it runs on sophisticated cryptographic systems. Miners have to contribute computing power in order to run a decentralized and immutable Blockchain network.

The cognitive technology Rometty described at NILF is definitely necessary and there exist many multi-trillion dollar industries that are in urgent need of cloud-based data processing platforms, applications and networks.

However, Blockchain technology shouldn’t be the core technology and base protocol of such cloud-based data processing networks. The largest Blockchain consortium in the world, R3CEV, has already moved on from the technology after admitting that Blockchain technology isn’t needed for what they are trying to achieve.

The immutable and decentralized nature of the Bitcoin Blockchain can be utilized to the benefit of many use cases and business models. One of these models is the verification of identities within an immutable and transparent Blockchain network. However, these platforms can’t be deployed on the Bitcoin Blockchain as of current. There needs to be alternative solutions such as side chains or other methods to connect Bitcoin Blockchain to off-chain networks.

“In some countries, the cost of healthcare is very high. In others, the reach is not there. The timing is so right to improve it. Watson for health is oversubscribed in the world. I don’t believe we will own every area around cognitive. But we have made health an open platform… Next, we bought data. I think we have more data with secondary use rights than anyone in the world other than governments — 300 mln records. It is the foundation to change an industry,” Rometty said.

Looking back at the failed attempts of R3CEV and other consortia, it seems as if Blockchain technology shouldn’t be the base technology IBM should be focusing on considering the vision the company has of processing millions of data sets. IBM should attempt to discover more realistic use cases of Blockchain technology if they intend to take it to a new commercially successful level.