A cloud-based database called FlureeDB is promising to help companies overcome the cost, complexity and speed associated with creating blockchain applications, offering more trustworthy ways to handle a wide range of transactions.
FlureeDB launched earlier this month from Winston Salem, N.C.-based Fluree PBC as a public beta. The company also published an accompanying white paper which outlines how its technology would ease the potential burdens associated with creating and using blockchain applications.
Blockchain first emerged as a way of verifying transactions involving cryptocurrency Bitcoin by using a sort of decentralized ledger system. It is now being adopted in scenarios involving almost any item of value, eliminating or reducing the need for middlemen such as traditional financial institutions, ensuring accuracy while blocking attempts at fraud. Because blockchain requires multiple systems to verify each transaction, experts refer to a “consensus” approach that makes the details immutable or impossible to tamper or change.
Brian Platz, Fluree’s co-founder and CEO, told B2B News Network the database’s technology makes use of blockchain in three different ways depending on the application’s need. An internal mode, for instance, could be used to audit information that a company manages on its own — to make sure the “single version of the truth” in a set of records was actually true, for instance.
A “federated” mode could allow companies to set up blockchain applications among a select group — 20 companies, for instance — that needed to conduct transactions amongst each other.
The “external” mode, meanwhile, could let blockchain verify and encrypt transactions across an entire supply chain. A drug manufacturer could make sure counterfeit drugs weren’t introduced into the supply chain, for instance, by tracking each step along the supply chain in a way that is essentially foolproof, Platz explained. (Walmart has been doing something similar with blockchain to improve food safety). There could be similar scenarios using blockchain applications to securely process payments where many parties are involved, transactions where there might be a legal challenge or compliance-related projects, he added.
“There’s a cost side of using blockchain. A big cost is that transactions are incredibly slow,” he said, citing an average of 10 minutes to process a single Bitcoin transaction, or even 15 seconds for transactions involving “smart contracts” based on Ethereum. “We’re used to doing transactions (in traditional applications) in sub-one seconds.”
FlureeDB will not only help with those speed issues but also integrating blockchain into an application, Platz said. The company is primarily targeting the CIO decision-maker in companies who want to help their organizations seize the opportunities blockchain presents to build more trust into everyday exchanges of information and other items of value. This may lead to a “new generation” of software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps, he said.
“You get to this pace where you need to grow into a suite of products, and you get real integration challenges. You have to acquire them, or build them,” he said. Based on current tools for blockchain, “It can be very difficult to reach the promised land to do that.”
Platz and his co-founder, Flip Filipowski, have deep roots in this space, having developed database software firm Platinum Technology, which was later sold to Computer Associates (now CA Technologies).