Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

IBM setting up blockchain centre at Columbia University

Steve Rogerson
July 19, 2018
IBM is establishing a centre at New York’s Columbia University devoted to research, education and innovation in blockchain technology and data transparency.
To advance new ways to apply blockchain and help address growing demands around data transparency, the centre will also include an innovation accelerator to incubate business ideas from entrepreneurial students, faculty and members of the start-up community.
Blockchain technology is said to represent the next generation of secured, transparent transactions, enabling permissioned parties to access data in real time. It opens up ways to exchange value through the digital representation of assets.
Blockchain and similar technologies let organisations and individuals share data in a privacy-preserving and secure manner and hold the promise to transform business on a global scale by reducing the need for trusted third-party verifications.
The centre will combine cross-disciplinary teams from the academic, scientific, business and government communities to explore key issues related to the policy, trust, sharing and consumption of digital data when using blockchain and other privacy-preserving technologies.
Primary focus areas for the centre will include:

  • Conducting research and accelerating scientific breakthroughs in data transparency and blockchain across industries.
  • Building technology capabilities that apply blockchain in new ways.
  • Advising on emerging policy and regulation related to trusted blockchain and data transparency practices.
  • Pioneering ways to balance regulatory and data ownership issues responsibly with new data monetisation models.
  • Strengthening and expanding professional skills in blockchain and data transparency through education and internships.
  • Supporting start-ups through a business accelerator focused on blockchain and data transparency.
The collaboration aims to advance research in technologies such as secure multi-party computation, homomorphic encryption, secure hardware, fraud reduction and improving precision medicine through insight from collective data sources. This could spur the creation of business models, services and policies to support the sharing of data in a secure, privacy-preserving and tamper-proof manner.
"This new centre leverages Columbia's academic strength in data science and engineering as well as our breadth in business, public policy and law, among many other disciplines," said John Coatsworth, Columbia University provost. “We anticipate that, through this partnership, we will significantly advance scholarship and applications of data-sharing and data-transparency technologies. The new centre further solidifies New York City as a hub for technical innovation. Our students and faculty, working together with IBM, will play an important role in the vibrant exchange of ideas and research surrounding this transformative technology."
The centre will draw on Columbia's academic strengths in data science, engineering, business and law, combined with IBM's expertise in technology research and development. IBM also lends practical insights from blockchain product development and the implementation of blockchain projects with hundreds of enterprise clients globally.
"Our work with clients has shown that blockchain can benefit industries and with that comes a responsibility to deploy it in ways that will foster greater trust and transparency in data," said Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research. "With Columbia, we are able to bring together leading thinkers on applying blockchain and data best practices based on extensive research and business experience and together prepare a new generation of technologists and business leaders."
IBM is helping clients around the world apply blockchain to address a wide range of business processes such as global supply chain, trade finance, cross-border payments and food safety. Columbia University has expertise in research and education in trustworthy computing, data transparency and data privacy. This collaboration aims to accelerate the creation of needed skills, talent and innovation in this area to help support industries as the two organisations work together to source new ideas and capabilities.
The centre will be supported by a steering committee of Columbia faculty and academic leaders and IBM Research scientists and business leaders. A formal call for proposals for curriculum development, business initiatives and research programmes is scheduled for later this year.