Even Congress is jumping on the blockchain bandwagon - and IBM is urging it on
- At a congressional hearing this week, Jerry Cuomo, IBM's vice president of blockchain technology, testified about the potential governmental uses for blockchains.
- Identification documents, payment systems, and systems that trace the movement of foods and drugs, are among the most promising initial governmental applications for the technology, Cuomo said.
- Lawmakers were wowed by how much quicker blockchain technology has made the process of tracking down food products.
IBM wants to get Uncle Sam on a blockchain.
The digital ledger technology that underlies bitcoin is ready to be used for everything from paying taxes to tracking food and drug shipments to newer, more secure identification cards, said Jerry Cuomo, vice president of blockchain technology at IBM, at a hearing Wednesday organized by the Congressional Blockchain Caucus.
"There is an opportunity for the United States to build upon its momentum to lead blockchain by doing," Cuomo said in his testimony. "We should focus our efforts on projects that can positively impact US economic competitiveness, citizens, and businesses."
Cuomo encouraged lawmakers to focus on incorporating blockchain technology into already established governmental projects and programs, rather than trying to start new blockchain-themed initiatives. That could help speed its use and adoption and help the US stay at the forefront of blockchain development, he said.
Government agencies at both the federal and state level are already experimenting with the technology. Some states are developing blockchain-based drivers licenses and identification cards. Meanwhile, IBM is working with the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on some blockchain projects, including one that could speed the CDC's ability to develop new drugs.
Right now, drug development involves lots of paperwork. Blockchain technology could help improve the process by putting all of the important information related to drug development in an easily accessible and secure place online.
Developing new drugs "doesn't just take a long time because people are slow," Cuomo said. "The processes are extremely paper intensive. I see these groups taking the right first steps."
In an interview with Business Insider, Cuomo predicted that blockchain-based digital identities will be the first big project to take off at the federal level, because officials can build off the work going on in the states.
In addition to Cuomo, Frank Yiannas, vice president of food safety at Walmart, also testified at the hearing, talking about how his company is using blockchain technology. The retail giant has teamed up with IBM to develop a blockchain designed to track the movement of produce from farmers through distributors and stores to consumers. The technology could be useful in responding to reports of food contamination, when entities like the FDA need to quickly determine which food to recall.
When Yiannas told lawmakers that the process of tracking down particular food products has gone from seven days to to 2.2 seconds, thanks to blockchain technology, they were in awe, Cuomo said.
Here's a full video of the hearing:
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