With the blockchain investment, IBM isn't getting into virtual currencies per se - they are looking to instill trust in transactional data as the technology allows all parties to have their own live version of this information and can ensure there has been no tampering.
The low hanging fruit for this technology - pun sort of intended, is shipping, where dozens of people are involved in getting a shipment to leave or enter ports. A single missing document can delay a shipment enough to spoil millions of dollars or more of inventory. There is also the issue of fraud which can cost shipping companies many millions. Blockchain tech can effectively allow all parties to trust in the transactions while simultaneously speeding them up.
According to IBM:
Ninety percent of goods in global trade are carried by the ocean shipping industry each year. A new blockchain solution from IBM and Maersk will help manage and track the paper trail of tens of millions of shipping containers across the world by digitizing the supply chain process.They then describe their approach:
The blockchain solution based on the Hyperledger Fabric and built by IBM and Maersk, the global leader in transport and logistics, will be made available to the shipping and logistics industry. The solution will help manage and track the paper trail of tens of millions of shipping containers across the world by digitizing the supply chain process from end-to-end to enhance transparency and the highly secure sharing of information among trading partners. When adopted at scale, the solution has the potential to save the industry billions of dollars.
The challenge for IBM is their control of the software - many companies are wary of being trapped in the Big Blue ecosystem. As a result, Microsoft and a rival group is making progress with ethereum - a "rival" virtual currency to bitcoin. Furthermore, Microsoft has high hopes for its blockchain as a service. IBM's response was to open-source their technology into the above-mentioned Hyperledger Foundation.
In other words, blockchain is expected to continue as an important technology to watch. At first, it will be implemented by logistics companies who can save a lot of money using it, From there, it will expand into money-transfer (where it has proven itself already) and numerous other spaces.
If you want to be on the leading edge and part of what will likely be a multi-billion dollar market, learn about blockchain. The next few years will likely be super-lucrative as the players in this space will make a lot of money playing the arbitrage of the savings the logistics companies will enjoy.
The question now is how do you learn more about this market and where its headed? It's a bit self-serving but we can say without hesitation, the Blockchain Event which TMC is a part-owner of is one of the best educational events on the market - it has a consistent buzz and is growing. The next one takes place in Las Vegas, July 17-20 2017 and we hope to see you there!