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Jan. 16, 2018, 12:31 p.m. EST

Here’s what all 30 companies that make up the Dow industrials think about blockchain

Many Dow members have blockchain initiatives in place

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By Tomi Kilgore, MarketWatch , Jacob Passy


MarketWatch photo illustration/iStockphoto

Blockchain technology isn’t just for little-known companies trying to make a name for themselves, or struggling former blue-chip companies trying to rebrand themselves as innovative. It is the real deal, as a number of household names have been boarding the blockchain bandwagon.

Blockchain acts as a decentralized ledger that can be used to record and verify transactions, without the participation of a middleman. Even some Wall Street analysts who may be bearish on cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin /zigman2/quotes/31322028/realtime BTCUSD +1.11%  , are bullish on blockchain.

Don’t miss : Here’s why UBS is so bullish on blockchain, but not bitcoin.

Shares of Eastman Kodak Co. /zigman2/quotes/205109646/composite KODK -1.81% , which hit a record low on Jan. 4, tripled last week after the 129-year-old camera and film company announced a “major blockchain initiative.” Kodak, which emerged from bankruptcy in September 2013, was a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average from July 1930 to April 2004.

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Kodak's stock doubles after camera and film pioneer boards blockchain bandwagon

The Eastman Kodak Company announced its plans to introduce blockchain into the business.

In light of the Kodak’s announcement, MarketWatch asked all 30 current Dow industrials /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.03%  members what steps they have taken, or plan to take, to use blockchain technologies for their businesses. Here’s what they said:

Blockchain is the real deal

• International Business Machines Corp . /zigman2/quotes/203856914/composite IBM -0.91%  has flung itself full-bore into blockchain. In 2017, the company created a division wholly devoted to researching use cases for blockchain technology. IBM has 1,500 employees who focus on blockchain and “over 400 different client engagements and solutions,” said Marie Wieck, general manager of blockchain at IBM. “This is probably the most interest I’ve seen in an individual technology since the early days of the internet and e-business,” Wieck said. Test pilots the company has explored include a collaboration with Stellar.org and KlickEx Group to make it possible to perform cross-border payments on the blockchain and a partnership with Maersk to digitize the paper trail associated with global shipping.

The company also operates IBM Blockchain, a public cloud service platform based on the open source Hyperledger from The Linux Foundation. With this software, customers can create their own blockchains and explore applications of the technology.

IBM has gone a step further and even incorporated blockchain technology into its own internal operations, said Bridget van Kralingen, IBM’s senior vice president of industry platforms. The company’s Global Financing division uses the technology to expedite dispute resolution and reconciliation, while another division that performs maintenance of ATMs and small-business computer environments has implemented the blockchain to keep track of its supply chain of parts. “This is going to change business models. It’s a technology,” van Kralingen said. “Last year was proving out many pilots and scaling out initial networks, now we’re saying this is a different business model.”

UnitedHealth Group Inc . /zigman2/quotes/210453738/composite UNH +1.50%  said it has been evaluating and experimenting with the use of blockchain technologies in a health-care setting for about 18 months.

“It’s among several emerging technologies that we’re investing in,” said Mike Jacobs, who is officially the “senior distinguished engineer and blockchain evangelist” at Optum, which is UnitedHealth’s data technology analytics arm. “We believe it is going to be a long-term benefit.”

Jacobs gave a presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas about potential applications. To get a sense of the interest CES, he said, “I’ve been so busy at our booth talking about blockchain,” that he hasn’t had time to get a sense of what other companies may be doing in the space.

• General Electric Co . /zigman2/quotes/208495069/composite GE -0.65%  is exploring the possible applications of blockchain technology at its FORGE Lab in upstate New York. The lab also serves as an educational resource for teams throughout the company to learn more about blockchain, said Ben Beckmann, senior scientist and blockchain mission leader at GE Global Research. The company hasn’t moved any of its applications of the technology beyond the experimental stage, but Beckmann expected that to come down the pike soon. “We’re using the underlying technology to help secure our industrial assets,” he said.

Microsoft Corp . /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT -0.23% has a website describing, “ Why blockchain on Azure? ,” which is the software giant’s cloud offering.

“Our mission is to help companies thrive in this new era of secure multiparty collaboration by delivering platforms and services that any company—including ledger startups, retailers, health providers, and global banks—can use to improved shared business processes.”

Back in September 2016, Microsoft announced a collaboration with Bank of America Merrill Lynch on blockchain technology to fuel the transformation of trade finance transacting.

“In addition, Microsoft is working on open source solutions to improve the speed, governance and security of existing blockchain protocols like Ethereum, Hyperledger, Quorum and R3’s Corda,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “The solution is called the Coco Framework and it enables existing ledgers to process transactions at close to standard enterprise database speeds.”

Wal-Mart Stores Inc . /zigman2/quotes/207374728/composite WMT +0.11%  said it had a blockchain test pilot with mangoes in the U.S. and pork in China, back in October 2016.

“Since our successful pilot text, Walmart has continued to expand our progress in testing blockchain technology for food traceability and transparency. In August 2017, we joined nine other global food retailers in a blockchain consortium in the U.S. Three weeks ago, we announced with our partners JD and Tsinghua University in China to launch a blockchain alliance in China.”

JPMorgan Chase & Co . /zigman2/quotes/205971034/composite JPM -0.82%  Chief Executive Jamie Dimon has been a critic of the hype surrounding bitcoin, but the bank has bought into blockchain. It directed MarketWatch to a website that outlines the mandate for its “ Blockchain Center of Excellence (BCOE) to lead efforts for the applications of distributed ledger technology (DLT) within JPMorgan.”

The moneycenter bank said it wants to be a “thought leader” in the space, using its expertise to develop industry standards so it can help drive implementation of blockchain throughout the banking industry.

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