Today B3i Services AG, The Blockchain Insurance Industry Initiative, confirmed its rumored switch from Hyperledger Fabric to Corda technology.
In a statement, the company said it decided after reviewing the available blockchain technologies. The factors they considered included privacy, scalability, interoperability and developer productivity.
Markus Tradt, CTO at B3i, said: “The Corda platform offers the optimal solution in the market to deliver the B3i roadmap and our industrywide insurance blockchain ecosystem. We are very excited to continue our work with the Corda team.”
Richard Gendal Brown, CTO at R3, commented: “We are delighted that B3i has selected Corda as its preferred platform and our engineering team is looking forward to working closely with the excellent team at B3i to bring their innovative solutions to market.”
Interview with B3i Chief Product Officer
We caught up with B3i’s Chief Product Officer, Sylvain de Crom, at the Blockchain in Insurance Summit last month. At the conference, B3i’s move to Corda seemed to be common knowledge, but they hadn’t yet announced it. Hence, de Crom was in a bit of an awkward position, so some of his responses were hypothetical. De Crom is also a big personality and his humor may not come across quite as well in writing.
Given that blockchain technology is in its infancy, some organizations hedge their bets by creating a middleware layer that lets them swap in different blockchain flavors. An example is ChainThat that tried several flavors before settling on Corda.
Ledger Insights asked de Crom if switching technology was a massive change.
“It’s not an enormous change. Remember when Steve [Jobs] killed flash? He did it for a reason. The reason was that if you don’t use the capabilities of the platform – yes you can have something that’s completely agnostic – but if you don’t use the capabilities of the platform then you’re not benefiting from it.”
“The only way you can be truly agnostic is to either make a ridiculously massive middleware, which obviously you have to now do everything five times because you don’t want to choose. Or you have to accept that if you move from one technology to the next, you will have to redo some of the work.”
“Now if you built this enormous middle layer, and you don’t intend to use it, that will be more inefficient. Yes, there’s always some inefficiencies from moving from one technology to the other, but I wouldn’t consider it to be a ridiculous amount of effort.”
B3i plans to go live by the end of the year. So one of the questions was what about deadlines?
“I’m fairly comfortable that we’re going to meet our self-imposed timelines. You know how it is when you do business and when you develop something you always assume that stuff is not going to go as well as you planned and then there’s probably something you didn’t take into account. But the great thing about using agile development is that you can adjust to that to some degree obviously.”
Asked to comment about R3’s Corda De Crom said: “They’re clearly doing very well. I like the product. I’m not saying I don’t like the other products. I only looked at a few. But they really have a very interesting product.”
“So they’re doing well, and I think that’s what the world needs, companies like them, building good products. Is it the best product ever? Probably not. Can they stop and start sleeping now? Absolutely not. They’re working very hard to make it even better.”
Interoperability is a big topic at the moment. De Crom gave his views:
“We all need to realize that the insurance admin systems are not going to go away any time soon. These run our business. Anybody that has a shot at this will interface their blockchain solution or provide the capability for the client to interface their systems with the blockchain solution.”
“So you always need an interface layer. Connecting two of the blockchains via the interface layer is an option. Connecting via an existing system is another option. ”
Given the other insurance alliance, Riskblock, was also rumored to be switching to Corda, Ledger Insights asked the hypothetical question about what if both RiskBlock and B3i were using Corda and someone wanted to integrate an app on RiskBlock with a B3i app. “Obviously the whole thing get’s a whole lot easier pretty quickly,” said de Crom. “Because then you can take out the middle box. Otherwise, you’d need a direct translator.”
“Maybe both systems have implemented ACORD messaging protocols. That will yet again make it easier to do communication between the two. So there’s many ways to do that. If both systems are using Corda, then you should be able to run both applications on the same node.”
Asked about the benefits of a common techology, de Crom responded: “I think it will make it easier probably. But this is an industry that just really likes to have many different systems (tongue-in-cheek). Seriously, obviously, it would be great.”
“Clearly if everybody is using the same standard it’s going to make life a lot easier for everybody. And it’s also going to be easier with resourcing because you have more people using the same technology. But also if everybody is using the same thing, then more people will get training on that because that’s where the job opportunities will be. So yes I wouldn’t be upset if that happened.”
So now that B3i has confirmed, it’s a matter of waiting for RiskBlock to announce as well.
See also: R3’s Corda dominates insurance sector