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How you can implement blockchain into your Call for Code submission

Welcome back to the second installment in our Call For Code Technology mini-series where I identify and explore the core technology focus areas within Call For Code. You’ll learn about a technology, how to best use it on IBM Cloud™, and where to find the best resources to fuel your innovation. If you missed my other blog post on building applications for Call for Code, check out my post on AI.

First things first: If you haven’t already done so, accept the 2019 Call for Code global challenge and join our community.

Here in Part 2 of this mini-series, I talk about what blockchain is and how to get started with it. It’ll be quickly evident why blockchain is a great asset that’s worth integrating into your Call for Code solution!

Blockchain explained

I recently met up with my colleague, Oliver Rodriguez, a developer advocate who specializes in all things blockchain, and asked him to give me a good overview on the technology. “Blockchain is a technology that allows participants in a network to share an immutable ledger in which all transactions recorded are propagated to all members. This allows everybody to have a single source of truth for what is being transacted on the network. Since everybody has a tamper-proof copy of the ledger, a certain level of trust is established in the contents of the ledger,” Oliver explained.

I then asked him how blockchain could be best utilized within a Call for Code solution. He said, “The trust that blockchain inherently offers is useful in scenarios that involve tracking the location of vital supplies in disaster scenarios in which the current location of supplies is constantly being updated in the ledger. This visibility ensures that supplies are really going where they are needed and that nobody is taking the supplies for themselves. Another scenario in which blockchain is useful is around donation campaigns for disaster relief. As crowdsourcing becomes more popular, blockchain can ensure visibility on funds raised through fund-raising campaigns ensuring that money that was donated is really reaching those affected.”

Team Helpchain addressed this issue with their blockchain solution and ended up as a finalist in the Call for Code 2018 Global challenge. By incorporating the visibility and transparency behind blockchain technology with IBM Cloud, their solution effectively addressed three areas: easing people’s concerns that their money would be used correctly, that their donations can make a difference, and making donations easier through technology.

If you’d like to learn more about blockchain, you can download IBM’s “Blockchain for Dummies” book for free or check out more tutorials and code patterns here.

The power of blockchain on IBM Cloud

So we have a basic understanding of what blockchain, but what can IBM do for you when it comes to blockchain? The IBM Blockchain Platform is a flexible software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering delivered through the IBM Cloud, providing performance and security for even the most demanding use cases found across regulated industries.

The IBM Blockchain Platform is incredibly secure; the ledger is isolated from the normal cloud environment and sits in a secure container that prevents unauthorized access. On the hardware side of things, we have tamper-responsive hardware that will shut itself down when malicious activity is detected. The platform is also very auditable so that any activity that happens in a network can be deeply analyzed if a breach ever occurs.

IBM has many partners in multiple industries that utilize our blockchain technology, such as transportation and retail. In the transportation industry, both Ford and Volkswagen are using the IBM Blockchain Platform for their mineral sourcing supply chain.

On the retail side, both Walmart and Albertsons are using the IBM Blockchain Platform and IBM Food Trust as well, requiring that their produce suppliers also use this network to ensure that their customers are getting the freshest food possible.

Getting started with blockchain

If you don’t already have an IBM Cloud account, the first step is to sign up, which takes less than 2 minutes. Just be sure to use a valid email address because you must confirm your email address before you can create any services.

There are a few ways that you can get started with blockchain for free! At the time of publication of this blog, you can try our Blockchain Platform Beta for free on IBM Cloud, or you can run the Hyperledger Fabric locally on your machine.

If you want to use the Blockchain Platform Beta on IBM Cloud, as always, there is a great code pattern for that! Check out Create a basic blockchain network using the Blockchain Platform by Ishan Gulhane and Laura Bennett. This is one of a series of blockchain-related code patterns by these IBMers, and you can follow the next steps in the series for more advanced uses of blockchain.

If you’d like to run the Hyperledger Fabric locally, IBMer Horea Porutiu has an incredibly detailed tutorial that will take you through the entire process of using IBM Blockchain Platform’s VS Code extension to streamline the process of developing, testing, and deploying a smart contract. You’ll understand how to quickly develop, demo, and deploy your blockchain application on a local Hyperledger Fabric network by using VS Code.

This week, you learned about blockchain and how you can implement a secure solution into your Call for Code application, either locally or on IBM Cloud, with the provided code patterns. I’ll be back soon with Part 4 where I’ll talk about machine learning and how you can work that into your Call for Code 2019 submission.

In the meantime, follow me on Twitter or see my work in GitHub.

Additional resources