The data arm of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Data61, announced today that it is working on a national blockchain pilot program with IBM and the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills. The pilot program will launch a new platform, the Australian National Blockchain, with the goal of automating common business transactions via smart contracts.

IBM and Australia Create National Blockchain to Automate Business Transactions

In 2017, Data61 conducted a series of studies into distributed ledger technology, otherwise known as blockchain. The lead researcher behind the studies, Dr. Mark Staples, wanted to show how distributed ledger technology presents Australian companies with a number of opportunities to increase productivity and encourage innovation.

Data61 and IBM’s pilot program will launch in late 2018. And it will begin by testing how well smart contracts can handle everyday business transactions. The idea is to build a national blockchain on top of IBM’s network infrastructure. Smart contracts on the blockchain will be able to encode data on the network from a variety of sources. And once the contract meets specific conditions, it will automatically trigger itself, executing its terms.

Imagine a sprawling construction site that brings together dozens of different contractors and companies. When a shipment of bricks or pipes or other materials arrives, sensors on site would add the time, date and location of the delivery to the blockchain as well as who/what delivered it. If those conditions meet the terms of a smart contract, it will automatically and securely transmit the receiving party’s payment to the bank. And that’s just one potential application for a national blockchain.

The Australian National Blockchain Invites All Industries

Data61 and IMB say the pilot program will be ready for launch by the end of 2018. Meanwhile, Data61 is inviting regulators, banks, law firms and other big businesses interested in smart contracts to participate. The plan is to hook those companies up to the ANB where they can create smart contracts, transmit data and confirm the legitimacy and status of legal contracts. Once it’s operational, the ANB will be the country’s first large-scale, cross-industry blockchain.

In fact, CSIRO’s plans to establish a national blockchain for smart contracts began two years ago. But concerns about the security of blockchain technology held them up. There just wasn’t anything enterprise-grade that could offer the security needed to give participants confidence in the network. Since IBM had experience with such networks, CSIRO and Herbert Smith Freehills decided to take their proposal to them.

Across different industries, the pilot program is already generating enthusiasm. And with it, Australia could end up pioneering some breakthrough innovations in commercial blockchain technology. And if the pilot program is a success, CSIRO is already planning to market it in other countries.