IBM has submitted a patent application that promises to bring the blockchain to scientific research and facilitate data sharing. The new technology would allow researchers to follow their work as it moves between (and is used by) other institutions. The process outlined in the patent would essentially allow the blockchain to serve as a tamper-proof research log.
The proposed blockchain would provide a sequence of blocks that represent different packages of research data. One block would be made up of the research data itself, and the next would be composed of the analysis performed on the previous block. The proposal would also allow “summary” and “correction” blocks to be added to the chain, allowing information to be expanded upon but not deleted.
The patent acknowledges that similar but “limited” platforms exist to serve the same purpose and facilitate research sharing. However, most of those platforms have no way to guarantee that data is trustworthy or reliable. By contrast, the blockchain’s distributed ledger can ensure that data cannot be modified.
The patent was created by four members of a research group at IBM’s Watson Research Center: Jae-wook Ahn, Maria Chang, Ravindranath Kokku, and Patrick Watson. IBM originally filed the patent last December, but this is the first time the patent application has been made public. It is not clear if or when the patent will be approved, or when an actual product will come to fruition.
IBM and the Blockchain
However, IBM’s role in blockchain development goes beyond filing patents and includes many live blockchain systems. IBM has accumulated several blockchain partnerships and clients, and its blockchain technology has been applied to a variety of situations.
Previous uses for IBM’s blockchain include cross-bank trading, business-oriented smart contracts, and everything in between. Most recently, IBM’s Food Trust platform has made major changes to the food supply chain. With more patents in the pipeline, IBM’s blockchain efforts are unlikely to slow down.
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