IBM Brings Blockchain To Australia, Pilots Water Conservation Project

The company offers its blockchain via Melbourne data center and tests the use of blockchain and IoT sensors in groundwater conservation

IBM has launched its blockchain offering in an Australian data centre and has launched a pilot programme demonstrating the use of blockchain technology in tracking sustainable groundwater usage.

The programmes are two facets in the burgeoning use of distributed ledger systems, best known as the basis for Bitcoin and other virtual currencies, but increasingly popular in areas from financial services to supply chain management.

IBM said its blockchain offering is now available via its Melbourne data centre and would launch in a Sydney centre by the end of March for availability and redundancy purposes.

The Australian offering follows others in London, Frankfurt, Toronto, Dallas, Tokyo and Sao Paolo, and allows Australian organisations to use the tech without their data ever crossing national boundaries.

TFT freshwater fund director Alex Johnson. Image credit: IBM

Regulated industries

IBM said that could be particuarly attractive for heavily regulated industries such as financial services and government.

The IBM Blockchain Platform is built on the open source Hyperledger Fabric from the Linux Foundation.

IBM said the fact that it was bringing the blockchain to more geographic areas showed the maturity of projects using the technology.

It cited the use of blockchain in tracking food from farms through to retailers as an active use case in Australia, with others including smart contracts and financial services such as assuring digital identity or tracking financial trade.

Groundwater monitoring

IBM Research said it is working with nonprofit The Freshwater Trust (TFT) and SweetSense, which provides low-cost satellite-connected sensors, to track sustainable groundwater usage in California using blockchain and Internet of Things technologies.

The project focuses on the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta aquifer in Northern California, a 1,110 square-mile aquifer that provides water to the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California.

SweetSense’s IoT sensors are to send water extraction data to satellites and then to the IBM blockchain hosted in IBM’s cloud.

The blockchain platform is to record all data exchanges and transactions in an append-only ledger that can’t be altered.

Water consumers including farmers, financiers and regulators are to gain access to groundwater-use share trading via a web-based dashboard.

Users can sell or trade a water credit if it is not needed, while others could purchase additional water shares without a negative effect upon the aquifer.

Pilot project

TFT freshwater fund director Alex Johnson said such sustainability plans depend upon the ability of technology to track and report groundwater use, as well as a way to trade groundwater shares.

“Our strategic intent is to harness new technologies to develop a system that makes getting groundwater more sustainable, collaborative, accurate and transparent process, which is why we are using the blockchain,” Johnson said.

IBM said such meausures could be put into place elsewhere.

“With the addition of the blockchain we can bridge critical trust and transparency gaps making it possible to build a robust, scalable and cost-efficient platform for managing precious groundwater supplies anywhere in the world,” said Dr Solomon Assefa, director of IBM Research Africa.