It’s been exciting working on TradeLens for over a year now and realizing the astounding potential of using blockchain technology to transform global trade and transportation.
As we engage with our potential platform partners, we are correcting what a lot of people assume blockchain means: Bitcoin. Bitcoin was the first popular product built using blockchain, applied to the space of cryptocurrencies, and its characteristics are suited to its use. But for enterprises operating in the global supply-chain, TradeLens requires a more sophisticated way of using blockchain.
A permissioned blockchain lets TradeLens distribute information with immutability and auditability—and to do it in an efficient, secure, trusted way
By making the platform permissioned, we enable users to limit access and have more control. As a result we’ve opened it to more companies and entities by making it viable for supporting business needs.
Tradelens uses a permissioned blockchain. Permissions allow participants in our network to operate on shared data more securely, efficiently and confidently, while ensuring appropriate visibility for the transactions recorded on the ledger, which are secure, authenticated and verifiable.
Permissioned blockchains are the only systems that can enforce policies that can constrain both access to data and participation in the network based on identity. Also, permissioned blockchains are the only choice that can enable compliance with data protection regulations, and satisfy the need for controlled data consistency.
In business, you need to know who you can trust, and both accountability and authority are key. The TradeLens platform is based on Hyperledger Fabric, a permissioned blockchain created just for enterprise needs. It’s equipped with a membership infrastructure that enables participants of the network to both strongly authenticate themselves as they record transactions on the ledger, and prove authorization to perform a variety of system operations, such as reconfiguration.
Businesses also need failsafe security and a fair amount of privacy to remain competitive. Starting from its permissioned nature, TradeLens offers mechanisms to accommodate multiple degrees of privacy, depending on the use case. In addition, the TradeLens platform provides a high degree of assurance around security, crypto-key management, resiliency and compliance with GDPR and other rules and regulations.
Nevertheless, businesses can and do operate on permissionless blockchains—that’s what makes Bitcoin work after all. It’s just that achieving basic business essentials on those platforms requires workarounds for potential forks (blocks that go off in the wrong direction) and bad behavior. Here’s the nutshell version of why when it comes to business solutions like TradeLens, permissioned blockchain beats permissionless blockchain:
With permissionless blockchains, you’re anonymous. Anyone can join the network, publish and read transactions—even malicious users. On permissioned blockchains, the members are known entities with cryptographic keys. Only invited organizations are allowed in the blockchain network. And you have to have authorization by the network to publish a block.
With permissionless blockchains, you can’t control access. With permissioned blockchains, not only do you know the organizations you’re dealing with, they are also given specific permissions to read/write to the ledger. And you can create private collections and channels with limited access. The network also has a set of governance policies which guarantee it is working properly according to permission and specification.
Permissionless blockchains rely on computationally intensive consensus algorithms (e.g. proof of work) to validate what transactions are valid and what order blocks should appear in. The pitfalls include the risk of sabotaged blocks, forks and conflicts in the blockchain that gum up the works. Permissioned blockchains’ consensus allows transactions to be endorsed by relevant participants, giving decision-making to authorized members, providing controlled data consistency and the prevention of forks, illegitimate blocks and other conflicts.
For companies who are excited by the promise blockchain holds for transforming global trade—but not ready to believe that sharing is caring when it comes to their data—permissioned is the answer. It ensures appropriate visibility, and transactions are secure and authenticated.
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