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China’s Ant launches blockchain open alliance for SMEs

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Alipay owner Ant Financial officially launched the Ant Blockchain Open Alliance to reduce barriers of entry to SMEs. Now in public beta with limited capacity, the project aims to be a blockchain service network with low costs.

Li Jieli, senior director of Ant Financial, spoke last week at the 2019 Unbounded Blockchain Conference.

He outlined Ant’s blockchain projects, including remittances from Hong Kong to the Philippines and streamlining healthcare bills in Taizhou, Zhejiang Province. Hospitals in the region report a reduction in average patient visit times from 170 minutes to 75 minutes when using blockchain for health claims. Its Duo-Chain is used for supply chain finance applications. There was also the recent agricultural traceability partnership with Bayer.

These solutions run on Ant’s blockchain as a service (BaaS) platform built on Alibaba Cloud. But, as Jieli explained, it can run on other cloud systems and blockchains. “On the BaaS platform, the blockchain core technology with the Ant Blockchain […] is encapsulated, and it is also compatible with the enterprise Ethereum, Hyperledger Fabric, Quorum, two different open source systems,” he said.

But, as Ant services mainly small businesses, Jieli has noticed some challenges in the industry. Even if the performance bottleneck of public blockchains is solved, they still have a way to go in terms of compliance and security, he said. On the other hand, enterprise blockchains have a relatively high cost and narrow use cases.

This means SMEs and independent developers sometimes don’t know where to start with blockchain. Ant’s solution is the Open Alliance, a low-cost, accessible, and inclusive blockchain service.

Li Jieli summarized: “the services on the BaaS platform will be provided to the Open Alliance. There are also many third-party applications, as well as some general-purpose ecological services, and some of the benefits will be presented in this open alliance chain.”

According to the China Economic News Network (CEN), there is a view that the Alliance could eventually replace public blockchains. The news outlet interpreted Ant VP Jiang Guofei as saying: “it seems that the public blockchain […] cannot find a good commercial application, and the enterprise blockchain is better at this stage. One day in the future, the alliance chain will link up, perhaps defining a new public chain,” (via Google Translate).

Slated to be in beta for three months before a 2020 full release, the Open Alliance’s key goals are “low-cost, low-threshold, trusted and multi-value networks.” Ant claims to be working with industry leaders to develop and endorse the platform.

Ant Financial’s latest project bears many similarities to China’s national blockchain network, announced three weeks ago. Launched by state authorities, including UnionPay, it hopes to provide a more accessible alternative to costly enterprise platforms.

Image Copyright: Ant / Ledger Insights