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ConsenSys, Microsoft, EY bet businesses will embrace public blockchains

Strong security and off-chain storage are key ingredients of the Baseline protocol the firms hope will coax enterprise coalitions onto Ethereum

ConsenSys, Microsoft, and EY believe that given strong security and the right tools, businesses will embrace public blockchains as they look for ways to work together.

On March 4, the partners launched Baseline protocol, a package of public domain tools designed for enterprise coalitions built on the Ethereum blockchain. 

Spearheaded by audit and consulting giant EY, the plan is to tokenize business processes like purchasing and invoicing without the cost, complex development processes, and trust issues of a bespoke enterprise blockchain

The Baseline protocol includes zero knowledge proof-based privacy tools, as well as distributed identity and off-chain storage protocols. The idea is to keep corporate data safe while allowing companies to use smart contracts to automate and track transactions.

The initial Baseline design and tools will “enable volume purchase agreements and lays the groundwork for blockchain applications that link supply chain traceability with commerce and financial services,” according to the release.

Will coalitions embrace public blockchains?

Privacy and security are key to convincing companies to work together on blockchains—particularly public ones like Ethereum, said Paul Brody, EY’s global blockchain leader, in a statement. 

The company has been working on ways of making this possible on public blockchains like Ethereum for two years, he added. 

“[E]nterprises will be able to run end-to-end processes like procurement with strong privacy,” Brody said.

Privately built enterprise blockchain coalition haven’t lived up to the hype they received in 2018 and 2019. In part that’s because CEOs were skittish at the idea of putting internal information on a blockchain run by and with their competitors. Who actually built and controlled the blockchain in question has been another stumbling block. 

One of the few coalitions actually up and running beyond a trial run is TradeLens, which tracks shipping from cargo vessels to ports and beyond. While it now includes five of the six largest maritime shipping firms and covers half the world’s cargo containers, the IBM Blockchain-based enterprise blockchain got off to a slow start. This is because it was built and controlled by shipping firm Maersk, which had to make unspecified changes in TradeLens’ governance to get competitors onboard.

Leveraging the public Ethereum blockchain “without putting any enterprise data at risk aligned strongly with our view of the blockchain as an enterprise integration network,” said John Wolpert, group executive for enterprise mainnet at Brooklyn-based ConsenSys. “By working with EY, we can help build a powerful business ecosystem on open standards that is designed for privacy and security from the ground up.”

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Leo Jakobson, Modern Consensus editor-in-chief, is a New York-based journalist who has traveled the world writing about incentive travel. He has also covered consumer and employee engagement, small business, the East Coast side of the Internet boom and bust, and New York City crime, nightlife, and politics. Disclosure: Jakobson has put some 401k money into Grayscale Bitcoin Trust.