CGI has launched a lab dedicated to helping its trade finance and supply chain clients harness the efficiencies of blockchain for new and existing products.

The formal launch today at the Sibos finance conference in Geneva is part of the company’s rapidly increasing use of Ripple’s distributed ledger solutions. But, the lab itself will soon explore the benefits to trade finance more broadly.

As part of the digital sandbox offering, the company will let its clients experiment with how various blockchains interact with its new Digital Intelligent Gateway, which allows for the sending of a wide range of supply chain messages.

CGI’s vice president of consulting and one of three project leads for the blockchain laboratory, Kittredge Carswell, said that goal of the laboratory is to build a library of blockchain APIs that all connect back to the legacy platform.

Carswell said:

“Within that lab, our idea is to bring to proofs-of-concept, pilots developing at the solution level, the application layers and blockchain solutions, with the idea of accelerating those that seem worthy of doing so into commercial products.”

The Trade Innovation Lab is a three-tiered “sandbox” that begins with platforms that could include ethereum, BigchainDB, Ripple, Corda and Eris Industries, then works with CGI’s blockchain developers to build messaging workflows via the Intelligent Gateway that can  be integrated via APIs to new blockchain applications.

Last year, CGI generated $10bn in revenue, and one of its largest services, according to Carswell, is hosting similar applications built with more traditional technology for its banking clients. The goal of the lab is to build new blockchain applications that streamline inter-company trade finance transactions between CGI’s clients and other companies.

Of CGI’s existing clients, Carswell said many are already members of the R3CEV banking consortium and the Hyperledger business blockchain consortium.

Many of those clients and others who aren’t currently members are already building blockchain proofs-of-concept and “want this all to tie together,” said Carswell.

The building blocks

The laboratory, which has been in development since earlier this year, is the culmination of a number of previous milestones along CGI’s path to blockchain integration.

In February of these year, CGI helped coordinate Standard Charter’s integration with Ripple followed months later with its own integration of Ripple into one of its core products, the Intelligent Gateway used for Swift transactions.

Yesterday, CGI announced it is now managing its own Ripple validator node, the third company to do so following MIT and Microsoft.

Caswell said the company’s blockchain work is motivated by concerns and interest in the potentially disruptive power of blockchain to the trade finance sector. Of CGI’s 65,000 employees, Carswell said 8,000 are in the trade finance.

He concluded:

“We want to be riding that wave in as opposed to getting capsized by that wave.”

Image via Michael del Castillo for CoinDesk

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