Working microsoft project demo

An Ethereum-based finance project under joint development by Bank of America (BofA) and Microsoft took the spotlight at a recent New York demo, along with two others that showed blockchain’s potential for disruption in the worlds of tech and travel.

The Microsoft-BofA project was announced last year at a conference in Switzerland. The tech giant was seeking a way to employ its Ethereum-based software-as-a-service platform, Azure, to meet one of its own challenges, and targeted the creation of standby letters of credit.

The letters are financial tools issued by banks that Microsoft’s clients can present to vendors who want a guarantee of payment. The company’s treasury of $120 billion is distributed among about 1,000 banks, so letters of credit are a cost of doing business that could be lowered with blockchain technology.

BofA executive Ann McCormick showed off the project, which encodes the letters on the blockchain, at last week’s Microsoft Digital Difference event in New York. McCormick professed that Microsoft’s adoption of blockchain opens doors to a huge swath of other industries served by the tech giant.

Other Ethereum-based applications were presented by Mojix, a data analytics company in Los Angeles, and Webjet, a digital travel company in Melbourne, Australia.

Mojix showed off its RFID scanner with integrated private Ethereum platform in a Microsoft supply-chain project. Webjet presented its Ethereum pilot, which uses blockchain for more efficient reporting of hotel vacancies and error reduction in reservation systems.

As a result of the triple play among about a dozen exhibitors at the demo day, Ethereum was called “the star of the show.”

For Microsoft, the lesson that companies need to take away  is that the time for adoption is now.

“Create a digital culture,” Microsoft’s Judson Althoff said in a post on the Digital Difference site. “Start now or risk getting left behind: We are in an era when first to market matters more than ever. Identify where you can begin quickly and grow digital capabilities from there, potentially building on existing systems or infrastructure.”

Steve Silkin is a journalist who has covered business and technology in Europe and the United States since the 1980s.
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