Finally, blockchain has leapt out of wonderland into IT: IBM's Ram Viswanathan

Finally, blockchain has leapt out of wonderland into IT: IBM's Ram Viswanathan
Ram Viswanathan
25 Jun, 2019

Blockchain, once a hype-laden digital ledger touted for its revolutionary potential to transform everything from contracts to supply chains to payments, is finally making inroads into reality, with tech giant IBM increasingly signing larger deals and making bigger deployments compared with a year ago.

"Blockchain is generating revenue for us as the hype cycle is over and the adoption has picked up. We don't have conversations on proof-of-concept (prototype) but around how do I come up with a consortium or network for implementing blockchain," Ram Viswanathan, chief technology officer for blockchain at IBM India and South Asia, told TechCircle.

He added that customers were looking at adding value to their network with blockchain use-cases creating a larger opportunity for the century-old tech giant. 

Over the last few months, IBM has been working with the telecom regulator to use blockchain for identifying spam. The current system has failed, with customers still getting numerous spam calls and messages.

"Around 90% of the SMSes in the country are spam, with the current enforcement not being effective. All the telecom firms are coming together and we are creating and updating the database. This will go live in the next few weeks and customers will see the impact of our technology," said Viswanathan, who is responsible for the overall technical direction of blockchain services as well as deployment across the world. He works with global general manager for blockchain services Jason Kelley.

"My team checks the strength or technical vitalities of the solutions we put forward in the domain," said Viswanathan, who was nominated to be an IBM Fellow this year, becoming the first to hold this title not just in India but in the entire Asia-Pacific region of IBM.

The nomination comes from the chief executive and there are around 300 IBM Fellows since the programme started in the 1950s, initially for research members. There are 80 IBM Fellows working with the firm presently.

Before leading the blockchain initiative, Viswanathan was part of the IBM-Apple alliance forged to develop enterprise applications for the iOS platform.

Among larger enterprise firms, IBM is among the early movers in terms of developing products and solutions based on frontier technology. IBM has hundreds of people working in blockchain deployment in India. 

Among the larger deals across the globe, the Armonk, New York-based IBM is deploying blockchain for food safety that lets consumers know what kind of fertilisers were used. Also, the tech helps IBM's customers understand which fruit are likely to get damaged in transit. 

IBM is also working with shipping firm Merck to track empty shipping containers. It is also deploying blockchain for trade finance, which ensures that only one loan is sanctioned across the globe at a time for one purchase order.