KPMG, Microsoft, R3 and TOMIA Partnership for Telecom Blockchain Settlements

The blockchain industry has been on the radar for many big corporations, which has taken the technology from the realm of skepticism to development of real world applications. In its latest announcement KPMG, the multinational accounting firm, is partnering with software firms TOMIA, Microsoft, and R3 to develop a blockchain for telecom settlements.

KPMG has had some forays in the industry, but this is probably the biggest move. Until now, it acquired a few pilot blockchain solutions related to its industry, aimed at addressing complex cross-border, or cross-network tasks. The recent partnership with Microsoft and K3 will allow the company to tackle data-related issues expected to arise after the launch of 5G networks.

The company states that international mobile data roaming revenues are expected to reach $31 billion in 2022, with an average annual growth rate of eight percent.

It’s that accelerating use of international data that Arun Ghosh, Blockchain Leader at KPMG, addressed in a blog post:

While we will be able to consume more data more quickly and across more locations than ever before in this next wave of telecom advancement, it is becoming increasingly complex for telecom companies to track and settle interchange fees.

KPMG has been working closely with the telecom industry for a long time. The blockchain being piloted aims to reduce the costs, number of disputes, and time involved in telecom settlements caused by “billions of mobile interactions flow[ing] through hundreds of connected networks managed by dozens of customers and suppliers.”

Settlements and reconciliations are currently handled manually, and can take up to a month to complete, according to Ghosh. Most of the data is generated via mobile devices, which needs authentication from at least two parties – a process that has potential for efficiency improvements. He further added that three pillars of cellular settlements are the customers, amount of data generated, and the contract between the two. This makes a blockchain-based solution a good fit for achieving quick settlement times.

While Microsoft acts as the principal architect, R3’s Corda acts as the backbone of the operation, and TOMIA brings a layer of telecom expertise by representing around 40 global operators.

KPMG has previously advised telecom operators on capital-efficient deployment of 5G networks, cyber security, privacy, and data protection, and revenue recognition and lease accounting.

Microsoft Unveils Development of ION – A Decentralized Identity Network

Microsoft revealed that it is building a decentralized identity (DID) network on top of the Bitcoin network.

Announced in a blog post, the layer known as the Identity Overlay Network (ION) is based on a set of open standards developed in collaboration with the Decentralized Identity Foundation. Microsoft is one of the partners of the Decentralized Identity Foundation.

The project aims to deal with how underlying networks communicate to each other. The goal is to make user names obsolete. Instead of logging into Facebook, email or any other application with a username, users can use a digital decentralized ID (DID) instead. In this case, ION handles the decentralized identifiers, which control the ability to prove the user owns the keys to this data.

Individual ION nodes on the secondary network will be responsible for keeping track of these DIDs and inscribing them into the Bitcoin blockchain for attestation.

In explaining the rationale behind ION, the blog post added:

“We believe every person needs a decentralized, digital identity they own and control, backed by self-owned identifiers that enable secure, privacy preserving interactions. This self-owned identity must seamlessly integrate into their lives and put them at the center of everything they do in the digital world.”

Microsoft claims its approach also deals with the throughput issues, as public blockchains would have speed issues in a world where DIDs being used. The company says its network layer will be able to achieve tens of thousands of operations per second.

Microsoft aims to create an ecosystem where “billions of people and countless devices can securely interact over an interoperable system built on standards and open-source components.”

To that scope, Microsoft wants to cooperate with open-source contributors so ION can publicly launch on the Bitcoin mainnet in the coming months. While Microsoft has been behind the development, it’s open source and anyone can run a node.

According to the post, several companies have shown interest in running ION nodes, including Bitcoin hardware and security firm Casa and internet security company Cloudflare.

ION is not Microsoft’s first blockchain initiative. Earlier this month, it released a new Azure Blockchain Development Kit for the Ethereum blockchain, with Starbucks implementing this service to track coffee production.

Microsoft Releases Azure Blockchain Development Kit for Ethereum

Microsoft has just announced the release of the new Azure Blockchain Development Kit for the Ethereum blockchain.

The new set of tools for Ethereum serves as an extension to Microsoft’s source-code editor Visual Studio Code and has been designed to help developers create and build Ethereum-based apps using Azure Blockchain Service, which is Microsoft’s newly-released blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) platform.

The new extension can be used for building apps on the public Ethereum network, and enables developers to create and set up ethereum smart contracts as well as use open source tools such as Solidity and Truffle.

Notably, the extension, which is compatible with both Windows and MacOS operating systems, is hosted as an open source on Github. It is further noted that it can also run within a Virtual Machine in Azure.

The post on its Github page openly clarifies that “Azure Blockchain service is a managed Ethereum service that you can deploy and interact with Solidity contracts as well as integrate into other Azure based services such as Azure Flow, Logic Apps or storage services like SQL Server or Cosmos DB.”

The blog post notes that this is the first official set of such development tools officially released by Microsoft, further adding:

“This proves even further the investment and dedication that Microsoft is putting forth towards the use of Blockchain ledger technologies in the Enterprise, or even on the public blockchain networks.”

Prior to this, the tech giant launched a token-building kit in association with the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, with the goal to help businesses design and create the suitable cryptocurrency tokens for their particular needs. In addition to that, it rolled out as well “proof-of-authority” Ethereum consensus on Azure, which replaces the proof-of-work mining process that is commonly used by public blockchains.

As blockchain becomes an appealing alternative across industries now, many companies have started employing blockchain tech into their business operations.

For instance, in October 2018 Nasdaq revealed it would assimilate Azure blockchain technology into its financial framework with the goal to speed up transactions.

Meanwhile, last week the tech giant announced that it will support JPMorgan Chase’s Quorum blockchain and will promote the Ether-based open source platform to its business clients.

The central idea of the partnership between the two giants is to welcome Quorum as the inaugural blockchain on the Azure cloud platform, which will give Microsoft and JP Morgan customers the ability to deploy and manage scalable blockchain networks in the cloud, at lower costs.

Most recently, United States-based coffee chain Starbucks also revealed that it partnered up with Microsoft to implement Microsoft’s Azure Blockchain Service to track coffee production as part of its blockchain-powered “bean-to-cup” pilot.

Microsoft’s Azure Platform Introduces Ethereum Proof-of-Authority Algorithm

According to a blog post, recently published by Microsoft, cloud platform Azure has announced a new proof-of-authority (PoA) algorithm on its Ethereum (ETH) blockchain product.

The new ETH network algorithm has been constructed based on the idea of efficient and adequate means of creating decentralized applications (DApps) for private or enterprise networks, where “all consensus participants are known and reputable”. Moreover, the algorithm is not competition driven in completing transactions and is based on the principle of approved identities or validators on a blockchain.

Azure provides news features like Parity’s web-assembly support, Azure Monitor and a Governance DApp for the ETH blockchain, which are devised to help ensure the proper and efficient functioning and protection of the product.

Firstly, the identity leasing system is designed to ensure that while each member possesses “redundant consensus nodes”, no two nodes can carry the same identity. The machine gives identity safety even inside the case of virtual machine use (VM) or outage, so the brand new nodes “can fast spin up and resume the preceding nodes’ identities”.

Another feature that allows a more efficient processing is Parity’s web-assembly support. Often have developers alluded to the difficulty of using Solidity as the programming language, thus as a result Azure has made it possible for users to write contracts in a more familiar and common programming languages such as C, C++, and Rust.

For developers, the Azure Monitor gives them opportunity to track nodes and network statistics, thus giving “visibility into the underlying blockchain”. By querying logs and building an infrastructure of statistics, users can easily find and prevent network outages.

The Governance DApp solution makes it easy for developers to construct voting and validator delegation in the process of network participation. At the same time it will allow developers to hide all but the relevant data; for a better user experience and to boost efficiency.

Microsoft initially announced the launch of the Ethereum-based Azure cloud computing platform in late 2015. Now Azure offers developer tools to deploy networks with the Proof-of-Authority algorithm based on the Ethereum blockchain.