Two solutions have been announced which claim to solve the challenge of interoperability between blockchain platforms, a major pain point in the technology’s development in the trade finance space.
Tech giant Accenture launched the two solutions at Sibos in Sydney this week, with the promise that “this is a game-changer that can help accelerate the adoption of blockchain technology”.
The products have been developed and tested. Trials have shown them capable of linking platforms including Hyperledger Fabric and R3’s Corda, which have emerged as the blockchain frameworks of choice among trade finance banks.
“We have conducted testing and are working with our first sets of clients now. We hope to be able to announce first implementations soon,” David Treat, the head of Accenture’s blockchain practice told GTR today at the event.
Throughout the week in Sydney, interoperability has been a buzzword, listed alongside scalability and integration with legacy systems as one of the main barriers to blockchain adoption.
At the launch of the R3-backed Voltron platform on Tuesday, HSBC’s global head of product and propositions, Vinay Mendonca, said: “Different platforms are all solving different specific use cases. Some are catering to specific geographies or markets, but they’re all very clear. Interoperability is fundamental, it’s the biggest challenge.”
Banks have expressed concern about backing the wrong horse, going down a potentially costly development and implementation route, only to discover that it is not the industry standard.
While a long way from solving this problem outright, it may offer some comfort for those experimenting with the technologies that systems will not be redundant further down the line should tech trends change direction.
Speaking to GTR on the sidelines of the conference, Hyperledger’s community architect Tracy Kuhrt said that interoperability is one of its priorities.
“That’s an issue we’ve focused on,” she said, adding that the organisation had already been working with Ethereum on some projects to make the technologies compatible.
David Rutter, the founder of blockchain consortium R3, was less enthused by the development, telling GTR that he was more concerned with ensuring that R3’s individual apps were working well together, and saying that “interoperability is not a priority”.
That is not a view shared by the trade finance industry. Throughout countless conversations, senior bankers this week fretted over the interoperability issue.
Also speaking at the Voltron launch, Jim Bidwell, head of trade product management at NatWest, said that one of the keys to the platform’s success will be its ability to interoperate with other systems: “Voltron will revolutionise the way letters of credit operate for both banks and their customers. Transacting on Corda with the potential for interoperability with other third-party platforms and services will offer the ability to transact letters of credit in a fraction of the current time and cost together with an array of value adding functionality.”