In a move certain to ignite further progress around how businesses work with blockchain technology, the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance announced May 22 that automaker Toyota Motor Corp., and the pharmaceutical giant Merck were among the latest of over 80 companies to join the industry group.

These new entrants will now collaborate with JPMorgan Chase Co., BP LP, Microsoft Corp., International Business Machines Corp, among others in assessing the value proposition of the ethereum blockchain for activities tied to accelerating financial transactions and building more efficient supply chain networks. Ethereum has attracted growing interest among industries from finance to healthcare due to its efficacy in allowing more complex actions to take place in a shared and decentralized manner than with bitcoin, which ushered in the blockchain world in 2009.

The Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) is comprised of some of the most advanced enterprises and startup blockchain innovators, who are committed to building, promoting, and broadly supporting Ethereum-based best practices, standards, and the reference architecture, EntEth 1.0.

The alliance was formed earlier this year to drive Ethereum efforts to serve as an enterprise-level technology. EEA’s research and development is focused on privacy, confidentiality, scalability, and security. EEA is also examining hybrid architectures that span both the permissioned and public Ethereum space as well as industry specific application layer working groups.

Says Julio Faura, chairman of EEA and head of blockchain innovation at Banco Santander SA, said in a statement announcing the additions to the group, “The enthusiasm around EEA is remarkable. Our new members come from varying industries such as pharma, mobile, banking, automotive, management consulting, and hardware.”

By way of example, Toyota is experimenting with Ethereum as a part of its push to develop self-driving cars, among other uses. Chris Ballinger, chief financial officer of the car company’s unit Toyota Research Institute, said in the statement:

“Toyota Research Institute supports the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance and its members in promoting common standards and tools to accelerate the adoption of this technology and the potential benefits for Toyota’s customers.”

Working with several partners, including MIT Media Lab, the Toyota Research Institute will develop three blockchain proof of concepts:

  1. Blockchain technology will allow drivers to monetize their own data as well as to share driving and autonomous testing data securely in an environment that preserves ownership of the data by the creator.
  2. Tools based on the blockchain have the potential to empower vehicle owners. For example, data can be stored ‘about the vehicle’s usage and information about vehicle owners, drivers and passengers on the blockchain, helping to validate a “smart contract” between two parties plus manage payment of services, such as rides or cargo spaces.
  3. Toyota also wants to offer their users a way to save money on their insurance, where ‘vehicle owners may be eligible to further lower their insurance costs by giving their insurance companies increased transparency to reduce fraud plus granting them access to driving data to measure safe driving habits.’

Merck, arguably the oldest pharmaceutical company in the world dating back nearly 350 years, say it will continue to pursue innovation as a part of its historic legacy.  Says Andreas Schindler, director ideation, innovation and technology foresight for the company in the statement:

“Curiosity fuels business development and enables companies like ours to remain competitive. We are curious to co-create with the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance on distributed ledger architectures and solutions for future digital markets in healthcare and life sciences.”

In order to advance, blockchain technologies such as Ethereum will need to overcome a number of significant roadblocks, such as convincing competitors to collaborate in an environment that encourages the sharing of market information. There is also the issue surrounding the lack of real world use cases involving blockchain that have been released to date. And efforts to create greater comfort among regulators needs to take place.

Moving forward, EEA will continue to foster the collective development of industry standards while facilitating open source collaboration with its member base. This framework will help fuel mass adoption at a depth and breadth that would be a major challenge to achieve otherwise amid entrenched corporate silos. Moreover, EEA will offer insights driving the future of scalability, privacy, and confidentiality of the public permissionless Ethereum network.

Concludes Julio Faura, EEA chairman:

“It’s great to see everyone come together and build the next generation of our economy on Ethereum blockchain solutions.”

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