2017, the year of Blockchain – you heard it here first

By: Rita Andrews

31, January, 2017

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On the 23rd and 24th January the inaugural Blockchain Expo took Olympia by storm with a large number of early adopters, start ups and enthusiasts showing up in large numbers on both days of the show.

When it comes to technology we are witnessing the fastest changes in history and its only tempting to hide our head in the sand hoping things go back to ‘the way they were’.

Last week at Blockchain Expo it was the big wakeup call: things are never going to go back the way they were. There were sessions from all areas of industry to showcase what Blockchain adoption will do for them and these touched on real estate, financial services, energy, charitable giving, peer-to-peer payments, smart contracts, regulation and government applications to mention but a few.

Below are my highlights from the event:

SMART CONTRACTS – Vinay Gupta (of Ethereum launch fame) took to the stage with an interesting view on the second generation blockchain, the post bitcoin era where platforms like Hyperledger, Corda and Ethereum diversified.

A smart contract enables two parties to do business without a middle man – a piece of computer code running on blockchain that stamps a seal of trust in the information contained within. The impact of these on all areas of the current marketplace are easy to see: how will selling a house affect the estate agents and solicitors up to now heavily involved in the process? How will insurance companies deal with a very different type of requirement for the current set up?

On a separate panel, Thomas Conté, Senior Technical Evangelist, Microsoft Azure explained how the widespread use of smart contracts will not only reshape the way we use our blockchain machines in the cloud but also how we will see a redistribution of skills in a not very distant future.

DATABASES VS BLOCKCHAIN – as Floretin Albu, CIO of Ofgem e-serve puts it ‘ The ledger exists in multiple copies across the participants to that blockchain (which are synchronised all the time), and uses a system of decentralised consensus, whenever a change is required for the historical data stored in the ledger. This means that participants in the blockchain can record new transactions in the ledger, however if one needs to alter transactions that were recorded previously, this can be done only with the consensus of the other participants.’ Therefore all the information ‘on-chain’ is transparent and secure as all participants verify it with their copy of the chain and everything else is ‘off-chain’ or insecure with possibility of tamper.

THE RISE OF THE MACHINE ECONOMY – with the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting taking place in Davos over the same dates as Blockchain Expo and focused on the 4th industrial revolution, we invited Carsten Stoeker, WEF board member on the Global Future Council on Blockchain to give us some insight into what lies ahead.

WEF defines the 4th industrial revolution as the ‘fusion of technologies that blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres’ – There are three reasons why today’s transformations represent not merely a prolongation of the Third Industrial Revolution but rather the arrival of a Fourth and distinct one: velocity, scope, and systems impact.

The fast adoption of smarts contracts sitting within blockchains will see a fast rise of machines transacting with eachother – when you charge an electric car, payment approved via an app on your phone, this is made possible via the smart contract and a cyber physical system that enables you to exchange a physical transaction and a financial value in real time.

We will see the rise of digital product memories – theme brought to the stage by Calogero Scibetta from Everledger who explained how we can trace diamonds and keep this information safe in a blockchain. This will expand to a multitude of products and trace its origin, authenticity, how it was made or how we use it. It will allow a chain of transparency and confidence not seen until now.

REGULATION – Current systems of public policy and decision-making are still written in paper ledgers, filled away in deep cupboards and at the most we managed to digitise them and keep them in a server – or in a ‘cloud’ if we are really forward thinking…

At the rate of current technology change this approach is no longer feasible, a collaborative approach between governments, regulatory agencies, businesses and civil society is therefore essential to develop a world view on how technology is affecting our lives and reshaping our economic, social, cultural, and human environments.

Over the two days, in the separate technologies track we saw a healthy number of start ups showcasing products like peer-to-peer payment wallets to Internet of Things merges where – as Stephan Tual from Slock.it put it across – Ethereum light nodes embedded in connected cars or home allows the right people, at the right time access a certain good.

Another two events are confirmed for 2017:

Berlin, 1-2 June – https://blockchain-expo.com/europe/

Santa Clara – 29-30 November – https://blockchain-expo.com/northamerica/

I hope to see you there!

Rita Andrews – Head of Events, Blockchain Expo