R3: Looking Beyond Banking
R3 is a startup that developed a blockchain platform called Corda that would link together a network of financial services institutions to perform various transactions. However, now, the company is rethinking its strategy and is looking to expand beyond just banking institutions.
The core concept is basically the same – a range of companies can share their data as well as assets on Corda, which will help remove duplications in processes. R3’s chief technology officer Richard Gendal Brown gave an example of what the company is envisioning.
If hotels, airlines and travel agents globally worked on one platform – like Corda – then they would all know which airplane seats and/or hotel rooms have already been taken. This is data that would be shared by everyone, so there issue cross booking or other mistakes could be avoided and would lead to a more streamlined process.
Moving from Private to Public
One of the biggest unique selling points for R3 has been the fact that it was one of the first companies to promote the idea of a members-only blockchain – a network that was safe for all involved since it was private, permissioned and secured.
However, if R3 expects to expand to other disparate industries, then the company would also need to make the move from private to public – or at least, somewhat public.
Brown describes the company’s vision of their future network as something that is an open, shared network, but is still secured, permission and still remains private.
The challenge the company faces to achieve its vision of expanding beyond just finance is to strike a balance between maintaining the privacy that enterprises insist on (most companies have their own highly secured private networks that are disconnected from the public internet) and having the flexibility of a global broadcast structure that public networks have.
According to Brown the data that needs to be brought into the consensus to make such a network collaboration as they envision possible usually lies deep inside the data centers of these enterprises. To have that data available for the network means opening up these enterprises’ internal network to the internet. Which leaves them vulnerable to security breaches.
Therefore, the idea will be to run the blockchain from the enterprises’ cloud infrastructure, securely managed. But, a tiny section of the node (the float) – the part that needs to connect the enterprise to the rest of the network – would be visible on the public internet.
This Corda node would be, according to Brown, very small, very hard and protected. This way the Corda nodes would be able to connect disparate enterprises and still ensure that safety and security of all parties involved.