Companies like Apple, IBM, and Microsoft wouldn’t even mention bitcoin, ethereum, or any number of cryptocurrencies in public.
Instead of using the cryptographically secure tokens to streamline workflows – or even talking about doing so – some of the most recognizable enterprises in blockchain have largely confined themselves to uses of blockchain as a new decentralized database, absent any digital assets.
Slowly however, over the past several years that has started to change. Executives at large corporations have shown themselves to be increasingly willing to take public stances both for (and against) what is now a $300 billion token market.
But if 2017’s bitcoin boom was the when that companies began talking about crypto, it wasn’t until recently that enterprises have been willing to publicly use cryptocurrencies in both early-stage prototypes and live applications.
Now, it would seem the floodgates are prepared to open, with the $140 billion IBM revealing first hand to The Token Post that it has been meeting with executives from commodities trading platforms, large corporations, and perhaps most importantly, central banks, to explore how cryptocurrencies can help save them money and generate revenue.
IBM even hired a new head of blockchain development Jesse Lund, who was hired from Wells Fargo earlier this year to help develop the computer giant’s cryptocurrency strategy.
At the moment, that work is largely being pursued using the public Stellar platform, and its native cryptocurrency, the lumen (XLM), a partnership made public last October.
There’s perhaps no better symbol of this convergence than IBM’s early work with central banks. Over the past year, Lund says he’s met with 20 central banks exploring the potential benefits of issuing their own fiat cryptocurrency on a blockchain.
Specifically, he described the “most durable digital asset” as one that is “issued by a central bank that represents a claim on fiat deposits in the real world,” but still maintains “some semblance of monetary policy.”
Though he wouldn’t reveal the names of most of the central banks with which he’s meeting, he described them as largely comprised of banks from the G20, an international forum with members including China, Russia, the U.S. and the EU.
Lund further described the central banks as “clients”. Based on these conversations, he said he expects the first central banks to issue a fiat currency on a blockchain will be the smaller ones with a high concentration of interest in Asia and North America.
Lund confesses that the most inspiring of the central banks has been Sweden’s Riksbank.
In December 2017, the Riksbank published a white paper detailing its interest in moving Sweden’s cash supply to a digital platform, though it didn’t mention blockchain specifically.
Still, Lund expects to see decentralized cryptocurrency converge with central banks some time soon.
But IBM’s blockchain work goes beyond central bank-sanctioned cryptocurrency. This move will allow an increasing number of startups to raise capital on the Stellar platform, where IBM is exploring a wide range of other tokens.
Lund breaks down the demand IBM is seeing into three main kinds of tokens: securities tokens that give owners a stake in the issuing company, utility tokens that give users access to a service such as phone minutes and commodities tokens that represent precious metals and other physical assets.
— Vlad Panchenko (@ceo_dmarket) April 1, 2018
Beyond the obvious potential interest in this work from commodities exchanges, Lund said IBM is being approached by retail companies, beverage providers and energy companies looking to tokenize various aspects of their business offerings.
A fourth category of companies Lund said is approaching IBM are startups looking to raise capital, though he admits these opportunities have proved less enticing.