Enterprises that leverage blockchain technology have become a defining characteristic of 2019. As Facebook continues to make headlines for its Libra blockchain project, fifty companies worth over a billion dollars are pioneering the current enterprise blockchain landscape.
Interestingly, over half the companies listed on the Forbes 50 Enterprise Blockchain list are powered by Hyperledger, the open source collaborative effort hosted by the Linux Foundation. Yet while Hyperledger and Ethereum have become a standard for corporate blockchain projects, some enterprises are tapping into the Bitcoin blockchain to ensure unprecedented levels of trust, security and transparency.
Bitcoin: More Than A Cryptocurrency
While Bitcoin is best known for being a decentralized digital currency, the Bitfury Group recognized the potential in leveraging the Bitcoin blockchain when developing Exonum, their asset-management blockchain framework.
Leveraging the Bitcoin blockchain was one of the core things we were thinking about when developing Exonum three years ago,” Gleb Palienko, head of Exonum, told me. “We saw that there were different market demands at that time, yet there were not many platforms in place, aside from Ethereum and Hyperledger. We first developed an enterprise government platform that was permissioned. However, we understood that governments and enterprises wouldn’t want to use a public blockchain, but they would still want the benefits of one, such as data immutability.”
Understanding the potential that a public blockchain could bring to the enterprise in terms of security was a driving factor in the creation of Exonum.
“When designing Exonum, we wanted to ensure the immutability level of a public blockchain, and bitcoin is the most secure public blockchain out there,” explained Palienko.
Exonum was ultimately developed to guarantee the highest level of auditability of a permissioned blockchain, so that any user can verify information is actually stored on the blockchain, without relying on validators.
Unlike other private blockchains with validators, Exonum uses specific data structures like Merkle trees to store everything and enforce auditability. We also offer an anchoring service, which periodically stores a snapshot of the Exonum network to the Bitcoin blockchain. This prevents node maintainers’ collusion with incentive to rewrite historical data. Finally, we have developed a light client available in four programming languages that allows any business or government to build trusted client applications. The light client can verify the cryptographic proof by Exonum that transactions are really stored inside the blockchain,” said Palienko.
While the Exonum blockchain does have similarities to Ethereum (especially private installations) and Hyperledger (mainly IBM Fabric), the anchoring feature is what sets it apart from other enterprise blockchain frameworks.
We provide out of the box support of anchoring. Anchoring allows achieving immutability guarantees comparable to those of public blockchains, without disclosing any blockchain data. That’s how we leverage the Bitcoin blockchain. Exonum uses it as a globally accessible and ultimately secure and immutable storage, while providing more flexibility and understandable governance,” said Palienko.
The Bitcoin Blockchain For The Enterprise
Having proof that data is stored inside a blockchain framework without having full access to that data is showing to be valuable for a number of enterprises, specifically for governments and healthcare companies.
The entire reason we have a permissioned blockchain that anchors to Bitcoin is to give enterprises the best of both worlds. They aren’t putting everything out in the public, but still have the extra security of the public anchor, while having the ability to secure and look after their own data. This hybrid environment is much more attractive when you talk to enterprises,” Christopher Dickson, head of blockchain solutions at the Bitfury Group, told me.
For example, The Republic of Georgia is currently in talks with the Bitfury Group to help with time stamping for blockchain-based land registry titles. Since April 2016, The National Agency of The Public Registry (NAPR) has been collaborating with Bitfury to use blockchain technology to restore public trust in institutions and government agencies.
According to a detailed report, Bitfury created a blockchain-based timestamping layer on top of NAPR’s existing digital land registry system. This project has allowed land registry certificates to be timestamped and hashed on the bitcoin blockchain. In turn, this adds immutability and allows the owner of the document to prove to anyone that the receipt existed no later than the time of timestamping, and that it was authorized by NAPR.
At NAPR we have an electronic placement of shareholders rights and we want to ensure that all this data on the business registry will be timestamped and placed on the blockchain. There are disputes between shareholders when changes occur and we want to cover all timestamping instruments to avoid future disputes,” Elene Grigolia, land administration specialist at NAPR and blockchain legal consultant told me.
To guarantee this vision would be met, Bitfury has suggested that the Republic of Georgia use Exonum for timestamping due to the fact that it anchors data to the Bitcoin blockchain.
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