Samsung Plans to Take Bitcoin Technology Beyond Virtual Currency

Samsung Electronics Co.
Customers browse televisions displayed at the Samsung Electronics Co. section inside a store in San Carlos, California. Samsung makes electronics ranging from Galaxy smartphones to home appliances and TVs. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Samsung Electronics Co. is working with International Business Machines Corp. to use bitcoin technology for new applications.

While bitcoin’s price has almost halved in the past year and the prospects for the digital currency are uncertain, its underlying software is attracting companies like phone makers, carriers and banks. That’s because the technology can be tweaked to record changes in ownership of any asset in a public ledger using a distributed network of computers or mobile phones. It could help facilitate all types of online transactions.

Samsung Research America, a division based in Silicon Valley, has researchers looking at using the so-called bitcoin blockchain to design better ways to verify “that what you say is authentic is authentic,” said Steven Rahman, director of strategy at the research division.

Samsung makes electronics ranging from Galaxy smartphones to home appliances and TVs. The Suwon, South Korea-based company also runs music radio and video services, a mobile-payment service, and offers a variety of apps.

“The blockchain technology is very interesting in general, and it can be applied in a lot of areas,” Rahman said. “Currency, it’s just the first use case. You could imagine that anything, like prescriptions, could be managed with the blockchain technology.”

Samsung Research America usually develops technologies that may be used in commercial products in two to five years, he said, declining to provide further details about the bitcoin project.

Storage Alternative

The bitcoin blockchain could allow for cheaper money transfer and be used for storage of files like songs and videos, which currently require companies to either buy hundreds of servers or lease capacity from other service providers.

Other companies have become interested in the technology. Orange SA’s Silicon Valley-based venture-capital arm has said it’s looking to invest in bitcoin startups. This year Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. licensed its technology to a bitcoin trading company, while the New York Stock Exchange invested in bitcoin startup Coinbase.

Steve Tomasco, a spokesman for IBM, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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