Tech Giant IBM Partners With Blockchain-Based Personal Data Startup

IBM has partnered with, a startup that aims to help individuals protect and monetize their personal data in what they estimate to be a hundred billion dollar industry.


IBM Blockchain is collaborating with blockchain-based start-up in efforts to develop an app that seeks to use blockchain technology to enhance “self-sovereign identity”.

The nascent self-sovereign identity sector involves the use of technology to design applications that give users control over how they share personal data. The industry is said to be worth over $100 billion.

On September 6, the tech giant announced that it would be working with, a company that recently released a mobile version of its #My31 app on iOS and Android.

The partnership with #My31 app sees IBM venturing into a sector it already has a massive footprint in, after collaborating with similar projects in the past. Two of the best-known projects the leading blockchain incubator has partnered are SecureKey and Sovrin.

SecureKey is a bank consortium that has embarked on building a digital identification (ID) system to be used in Canada. Sovrin, on the other hand, is a firm that helps blockchain companies building on Hyperledger through its Indy toolkit.

The IBM team has demonstrated that it has a strong belief in the industry over the years. Therefore, the partnership with Hu-manity lends credence to the fact that there is a future for the use of distributed ledger in safeguarding individual rights and data.

According to Marie Wieck, IBM’s General Manager, there’s the benefit of putting people’s rights on blockchains.

She believes that doing so will help create a new marketplace where individuals have control over their data. It will also result in the development of “new economic business models”.

Data is the next natural resource

The economic angle of the project will see the Hu-manity’s team release an enterprise version of the app available in addition to the consumer-targeted one. The enterprise version will mostly be targeted towards large corporations.

According to Wieck, the app will most likely be prioritized for the healthcare industry by Q1 2019. And she thinks that data is like a natural resource that needs responsible handling, and blockchain will help provide that responsible aspect into access and use of data.

She said:

“Blockchain combined with the notion of rights to individual data, facilitates the distributed sharing of that information securely and at scale.”

Hu-manity’s founder and CEO, Richie Etwaru holds similar sentiments to Wieck’s vision of data as a resource.

He said that apart from the important healthcare industry where the data record market is already established, other markets were getting into picture pretty fast. For instance, Richie believes that we will soon see users ‘own’ location data, their search history, and in e-commerce.

Hu-manity’s CEO also compared personal data to crude oil. And that is what makes it such an important resource.

“The partnership with IBM enables private blockchain to create a direct relationship between the crude data provider – the human being – and the buyer of the refined data at the end of the supply chain.”

Refined and secured data is a rich resource that can give great returns to the owner. For example, Etwaru said that data relating to a patient’s health can be accessed with the payment of about $400.

The only problem, he added, that makes the current use of such data dependent on the state, and region or country is the lack of specific regulations.

However, the use of blockchain to mask the data is slowly changing approaches. Now organizations acquiring data from users may only sell when it’s for a specific use like research, rather than for commercial purposes.

This is going to be achieved via widespread adoption of data-sharing apps that empower users and give them control. And that could act as a ‘call to action’ that could lead to proper regulations and consensus concerning personal data access and use.

Blockchain apps improve data

Large portions of anonymous data are often clattered and can be inaccurate. However, the same data will be better organized, certainly be clean, and will provide more reliability when used on a blockchain app.

IBM’s Wieck gave an example of data used in clinical trials and said apps would help track data and ensure the trials involve real human beings only for example. A blockchain app would also add the advantage of providing the information at scale.

She believes blockchain is changing a lot of these things and added that:

“Trust and transparency have been a challenge up until now.”

Once a #My31 app user has claimed their data property rights, they receive a title of ownership, an equivalent of a property deed.

With this in place, the blockchain (hash) is used to record an individual’s personal details and data sharing preferences and could include information like their signature and photograph.

IBM’s collaboration with Hu-manity on this project should make all this a reality soon rather than later.

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