Chief Content Officer,
Techstrong Group

Walmart has built a proof-of-concept for a framework based on the process orchestration engine from Camunda that enables any smart contract to be integrated with any blockchain platform.

Demonstrated this week at a CamundaCon 23 conference, the platform Walmart is testing is based on Ethereum, an instance of a blockchain designed to process decentralized transactions.

Ayush Seth, a software engineer at Walmart, told conference attendees that Walmart plans to provide end users with a level of abstraction that will make it simpler to create smart contracts written in any programming language using a set of templates provided by its internal IT team. “It’s just got to be a black box for them,” says Seth.

Walmart is currently building smart contracts using the Solidity object-oriented programming language and ERC-20 tokens for the Ethereum platform. However, the goal is to make it possible to use the integration framework with any blockchain platform, notes Seth.

As one of the largest organizations in the world, Walmart has the ability to drive a transition to smart contracts across a massive network of suppliers. The challenge is that process change is expensive, so it needs to be much simpler for end users to update a smart contract as deals are negotiated, says Seth.

Walmart has not committed to a specific use case of a smart contract integration framework, but interest in blockchain platforms that provide an immutable record of a transaction is rising as it become more feasible to scale transactions across a blockchain network. Smart contracts may not be employed pervasively any time soon, but there is a clear opportunity to employ them for high-value transactions that don’t necessarily need to be processed in milliseconds.

The number of organizations looking to employ smart contracts across a blockchain network continues to increase. The challenge is ensuring blockchain networks can scale. In fact, it’s not clear how many organizations will build their own blockchain network to process smart contracts versus relying on a service provided by another entity. Regardless of approach, most organizations will find themselves managing smart contracts across multiple blockchain networks. As a result, the need to find ways to create, process, manage and secure smart contracts at a higher level of abstraction is becoming a more pressing concern.

Like most emerging technologies, blockchain platforms may have not lived up to initial hype. However, after several years of testing and experimentation, the promise of blockchain networks to provide an alternative immutable approach to process transactions is starting to be realized. The issue now is to find ways to make the smart contracts running across those networks more accessible to end users that are not especially interested in learning how to programmatically create a smart contract. In effect, creating a smart contract can’t be any more difficult than creating any other types of contracts.

At this point it’s not so much a question of whether smart contracts will be used as much as it is the level of scale that can be achieved. In fact, arguably the biggest hurdle now is the lack of expertise available to build and support these platforms at a time when digital business transformation initiatives that incorporate smart contracts are finally starting to gain some momentum.