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Blockchain technology branches out from finance sector with EY deal

The rapidly increasing popularity of blockchain in the banking and finance sector has spread to the professional services sector with a deal between consultancy EY and blockchain technology provider The Bitfury Group.

The agreement, announced Monday whereby The Bitfury Group will provide blockchain software services to EY and its client network, comes after it won "Best Pitch" for its blockchain solution for digital rights management at an EY Startup Challenge Showcase Day. During the challenge, The Bitfury Group explored several use cases with more than 20 EY client companies seeking to integrate blockchain technology.

Blockchain

Blockchain was developed alongside the digital currency bitcoin. It works like a huge, decentralized ledger which records every transaction made on the chain and stores this information on a global network to prevent tampering. Applications for the blockchain include using it to secure information, facilitate bank loans and enable trading in a cheap and efficient way.

"We are deeply honored to work with leading global professional services organization EY to offer blockchain technology solutions to their strong client network," said Valery Vavilov, chief executive of The Bitfury Group, in a press release.

"Our partnership will bring blockchain technology to even more companies and countries to help improve their business operations, efficiency and security."

The deal between EY and The Bitfury Group could expand the use of blockchain beyond finance and into several sectors, including technology, energy and public services.

Institutions including banks and governments have long been talking about the potential uses of blockchain, but this year companies have finally started to find applications for the technology.

"While Deloitte and their internal blockchain lab, Rubix, have led the way in professional service adoption of blockchain technology, these partnerships set the stage for an acceleration across the sector," Vijay Michalik, research analyst at consultancy Frost & Sullivan, told CNBC via email.

"Blockchain start-ups have long been in conversation with professional services as implementation partners, and late 2016 is seeing their proof-of-concept work emerge into fully fledged and enterprise-ready applications."

For instance, in October several South African banks pooled resources to develop a system for issuing syndicated loans via the blockchain.

Meanwhile, credit card companies Visa and MasterCard have both invested in the blockchain: MasterCard has developed three tools allowing banks and merchants to develop blockchain applications for settling payments and making contracts, while Visa plans to launch a business-to-business blockchain payment service next year.

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