SHANGHAI — At the Shanghai International Blockchain Week 2016, IBM and China UnionPay E-payment Research Institute previewed the demo of a collaborative project on loyalty bonus points exchange among multiple banks using blockchain technology.  With a few simple and quick steps, consumers will be able to exchange bonus points from among any of the banks they do business with to select the rewards they want.

Bonus points earned through purchases on bank cards have long been an important method to attract and encourage customer loyalty to branded bank cards. The variety and selection of merchandise available in online bonus points exchange shops are an important reason for customers to favor and use specific bank cards.  Since bonus points cannot be freely exchanged among different banks, many bonus points go unused because of strict bonus points policies or a limited selection of goods for exchange.

Enabling banks to integrate and share bonus point systems can be a challenging and expensive task using conventional technology

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. To address this problem and provide more value for bank customers, IBM China Research Lab and China UnionPay E-payment Institute created an innovative business platform on IBM Blockchain using the Hyperledger Fabric to create a permissioned network for the exchange of bonus points.

“As a new industry pilot for blockchain technology, this represents a significant business breakthrough and innovation milestone for the electronic payment business,” said He Shuo, Director, the Electronic Payment Research Institute, China UnionPay. “The joint research efforts between China UnionPay E-payment Institute and IBM Research has enabled the successful exchange of bonus points among banks using blockchain technology, which embeds trust into transactions. This pilot along with similar innovations underway using blockchain will positively change the future of the finance industry.”

This joint effort will also integrate online and offline channels using blockchain. As a result, it will be possible for China UnionPay card holders to go to any offline supermarket or mall equipped with intelligent point-of-service (POS) devices to exchange bonus points for commodities by direct scanning. It is anticipated that bonus points from flight mileage, mobile phone bills, gas cards and food and beverage purchases can be freely exchanged and swapped in the future.

“The combination of blockchain technology and expertise from IBM coupled with an innovative business approach by China UnionPay in the payment industry has resulted in a significant first of a kind demonstration of blockchain technology in the financial payments industry,” said Dr. Shen Xiaowei, Director of IBM Research – China, CTO of IBM Greater China Group.  “IBM is partnering with the Hyperledger Project to build an open source, enterprise-grade blockchain platform and is helping clients define and develop more industry use cases. In time, we expect this to result in widespread adoption of permissioned blockchain networks to solve a number of business challenges.”

China UnionPay is a core transfer, settlement and clearing organization in China’s bank card industry, and its transfer, settlement and clearing network operates in over 150 countries. As a subordinate research institute of China UnionPay, the Electronic Payment Research Institute is responsible for research and evaluation of cutting-edge technology and mode in payment market, study and proof of core technologies and models for payment industry in the future, rehearsal and analysis of proactive and basic technologies that impact the payment industry. It is driving the adoption of new technologies including blockchain, intelligent terminals, big data, and trusted execution environment in financial payment.

IBM is rapidly expanding its blockchain consulting services and capabilities and actively working with clients to understand what it takes to make blockchain ready for business. Through its open source contributions and resources for blockchain software developers, IBM is advancing the science of blockchain, helping to remove complexity, and making it more accessible and open. Financial services, supply chains, IoT, risk management, digital rights management and healthcare are some of the areas that are poised for dramatic change using blockchain networks.

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