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Step aside bitcoin, there is a new blockchain kid in town.
In recent days, the world's second most popular digital currency, Ethereum, has been surging (despite its embarrassing hack last June when some $59 million worth of "ethers" were stolen forcing the blockchain to implement a hard fork to undo the damage), prompting many to wonder if some big announcement was imminent. It appears that yet again someone "leaked" because on Monday, an alliance of some of the world's most advanced financial and tech companies including JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, Intel and more than two dozen other companies teamed up to develop standards and technology to make it easier for enterprises to use blockchain code Ethereum - not bitcoin - in the latest push by large firms to move toward the holy grail of a post-central bank world in which every transaction is duly tracked: a distributed ledger systems.
In total, some 30 companies are set to announce on Tuesday the formation of the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, which will create a standard version of the Ethereum software that businesses around the world can use to track data and financial contracts. This will be a huge boost to the recently sagging credibility of the technology, which suffered substantial damage during last summer's previously noted hack, when nearly half the value of Ethereum was wiped out overnight.
According to Reuters, the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA) will work to "enhance the privacy, security and scalability of the Ethereum blockchain, making it better suited to business applications", according to the founding companies. Members of the 30-strong group also include Accenture Plc, Banco Santander, BP Plc, Credit Suisse Group AG, UBS Group AG, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, ING Groep NV, Bank of New York Mellon Corp , Thomson Reuters Corp (and startups ConsenSys and BlockApps.
The fascination with ethereum, or bitcoin for that matter, is familiar to fans of the digital currencies: the EEA joins a growing list of joint initiatives by large companies aiming to take advantage of blockchain, a shared digital record of transactions that is maintained by a network of computers rather than a centralized authority, eliminating the need for a central information clearinghouse. The technology is viewed as being harder to corrupt or hack because of its reliance on many people rather than just a single authority.
Companies in a wide range of industries are hoping that it can help them streamline some of their processes, such as the clearing and settling of financial securities.
About 70 financial firms are involved with a R3 CEV, a New York-based startup focused on developing blockchain technology for the finance industry, while technology firms such as IBM and Hitachi are part of the Hyperledger Project, a group led by the Linux Foundation. The EEA underscores the enthusiasm around the nascent technology, but also highlights some of the hurdles that companies must still overcome before they can deploy blockchain on a large scale. This includes ensuring that the technology can support the vast number of transactions processed by large corporations, while being secure enough to meet their stringent security standards.
The new Ethereum alliance has been described by some of its backers as a way to insure that the IBM-led blockchain effort is not the only option for businesses looking to use the technology. Other companies like R3 and Chain have also been developing alternative blockchains.
Several banks have already adapted Ethereum to develop and test
blockchain trading applications. Alex Batlin, global blockchain lead at
BNY Mellon, one of the companies on the EEA board, said over the past
few years banks and other enterprises have increased collaboration with
the Ethereum development community, facilitating the creation of the