Blockchain Year in Review and 2020 Outlook

It seems that each day this year that blockchain has become a bigger and bigger topic. 2019 has seen some of the most profound applications of blockchain, and this year has likewise seen Syniverse’s biggest moves yet with this transformative technology. 

In the area of clearing and settlement, blockchain is the logical evolution, and Syniverse has been drawing on its long history in clearing and settlement to make this happen. Blockchain is transforming the speed, ease, flexibility, and, most importantly, security of the way we monetize transactions. In particular, a crucial factor driving the adoption of blockchain is that the number of transactions is increasing tremendously in an all-connected world driven by, one, the internet of things (IoT) and, two, 5G, the new mobile standard that will enable the robust and reliable foundation for powering the IoT. At the same time, the requirement to be able to securely validate and monetize these transactions has become more vital than ever. Blockchain technology offers an ideally suited solution to meet these requirements. 

In my role as one of Syniverse’s clearing and settlement specialists, I frequently am asked a number of  questions on blockchain, and in this post I’ve combined them to recap Syniverse’s year with this revolutionary technology and look at what we’re focusing on in 2020. Please take a look, and let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.

How are mobile operators integrating blockchain now?
We’re witnessing a market shift toward what I call “universal commerce,” where operators are going to start to do more business with new partners as 5G technology is adopted locally and globally. And this doesn’t necessarily mean just roaming partners. There will be companies in other industries that will need 5G to implement next-generation use cases. As a result, operators will have a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on this market need and expand their revenue opportunities.

As new players start doing business with operators, how will blockchain become more important?
When the IoT starts to take off and billions of new devices enter the market, operators will need a way to clear and settle payment between partners. It will be key to centralize their billing and charging processes to handle large volumes of “smart contracts” and transactions between parties. Those parties must be able to collaborate in an ecosystem with accuracy, real-time speed, security, and, especially, trust. This trust is provided by blockchain’s underlying cryptography and distributed consensus.

Tell us more about how blockchain will help operators with billing and charging.
Let’s take roaming for example. Currently, there are lots of questions involved with billing between partners. “My results look different than your input” is common. But, with blockchain, there’s what’s called a distributed ledger. With distributed ledgers, everybody has the same information in a private blockchain network. This ledger houses total volumes and calculations that are visible to both parties and use agreement terms established for the relationship using smart contracts. Importantly, a major benefit of a blockchain ledger is it can’t be altered. This reduces the likelihood of discrepancies and disputed invoices, because they are based on a highly accurate, reliable set of information that can be seen much earlier in the monetization process.

What blockchain solutions has Syniverse developed for mobile operators so far?
This spring we partnered with IBM and launched a blockchain pilot with Orange and MTS for mobile roaming. The solution was designed to enable smart contracts to determine the rules and processes governing each roaming transaction between parties. Valuable efficiency gains were realized in clearing and settlement for roaming as well as increased operational efficiency, auditability, and smart-contract management for the operators involved. Specifically, what we demonstrated with the solution is the way that blockchain can be used to provide each participant of the network with the same verifiable proof of events, billable usage, or executed transactions. It also simplifies the whole process of setting up and managing agreements, including commercial data, which is the smart-contract part. This is a much more efficient and secure way of improving time to market and monetizing transactions.

A short time later, we followed this announcement by taking part in an IBM Blockchain Platform Board of Advisors meeting in the New York City area that our Chief Technology Officer, Chris Rivera, attended on behalf of Syniverse. The board is composed of some of today’s leading lights in blockchain development that include programmers, developers, product managers, and senior executives from technology companies as well as businesses from a range of industries. Syniverse is privileged to be a member and be represented by Chris and also Dennis Meurs, Vice President and General Manager of Transaction and Clearing Services, and head of our blockchain solutions.   

How are Syniverse and IBM well-positioned to co-develop blockchain solutions?
We see ourselves as particularly suited to address the complexities of clearing and settlement. Blockchain links multiple parties and data to one transaction and requires these elements to be connected in a seamless and secure way. In this area, Syniverse’s heritage in connecting both mobile operators and non-technology companies ideally positions us for helping businesses deal with this ever-growing ecosystem and its related transactions.

In the same way, IBM, as one of the largest and oldest technology companies in the world, has leveraged its professionals’ skill and its technology assets to establish itself as an early blockchain leader. It’s positioned itself at the forefront of blockchain by leading advancements in transaction processing speeds, developing advanced cryptography to secure transactions, and contributing millions of lines of open source code to advance blockchain for businesses. Together, our two companies offer a compelling solution that combines clearing-and-settlement expertise with advanced technology and blockchain development leadership.

What’s ahead with blockchain in 2020?
We’re excited about what lies on the horizon in blockchain and particularly the fast-moving space of clearing and settlement. As mobile traffic continues to explode and new technologies like 5G and the IoT revolutionize mobile services, clearing and settlement will also be revolutionized and open several new capabilities and opportunities for the future.

Syniverse is poised to play a central role in this exciting future. Our legacy includes decades of connecting both mobile operators and non-technology companies that has well-positioned us to help today’s companies integrate blockchain and navigate an ever-growing ecosystem and related transactions. Simply put, we serve as the ultimate independent third party that can enable, validate, and monetize transactions.

As Senior Director of Product Management, Douwe van der Heij uncovers new opportunities and develops new business and technology solutions for mobile operators, technology companies and other businesses. This includes the inception of new products through concept development to commercial deployment. Douwe brings over 18 years in managing solution portfolios for the wireless industry, which have included senior roles at KPN and T-Mobile. He joined Syniverse in 2009.

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