Here are 8 takeaways from Trustee about the promise and perils of blockchain in some cases reflecting a uniquely European perspective.
1. Time stamping on the blockchain is already a well-functioning application.
“Blockchain brings time stamping to big data, I’m surprised how many features you can build on that simple feature,” Gilles Carignan, chief executive, and co-founder of Rennes, France-based Woleet, a Bitcoin blockchain-data anchoring company, said in a panel. This, of course, presumes that the data is accurate and trustworthy. Woleet’s service uses the Bitcoin blockchain to track, say, the provenance of pharmaceuticals to prevent counterfeiting.He also noted, “Even if Woleet, disappears,” the record of any data that the company has stamped onto the Bitcoin blockchain will endure as long as that ledger does.
2. The blockchain is likely to be useful in identity authentication.
standards for entering verified data into the blockchain must be determined first. In one panel, John Geater, chief technology officer of Plantation, Florida-based Thales e-Security, an enterprise data protection company, made the point that the difficulty of putting a mistake in the ledger for identities is that it’s not like recording $100 too much in one ledger entry and then later entering a $100 subtraction. “For IoT, you’re dealing with a different quality of information,” he said. “The fundamental thing you have to understand is that if you put a mistake in the ledger it doesn’t guarantee the information inside it. It guarantees that someone with this corresponding private key put that information on the ledger.
The contents of what’s read back that’s a subjective assertion as far as the technology is concerned.” Separately, in an interview, he also noted that the while blockchain could be useful for identity, it may not be the cure-all some imagine it to be: “We don’t have any computer systems in a world that have lasted for 100 years, so cradle to grave for any technology might be difficult.”
3. Blockchain technology will likely enable individual control of one’s personal data.
This is particularly relevant in Europe, where the big tech companies have battled European regulators over European “right to be forgotten” privacy laws, resulting in Google now being the arbiter of requests from users to have certain links removed from search results. “The digital trail you leave online may be manageable,” said Geert Van Kerckhoven, senior manager for Ernst & Young . “This kind of brokerage model for is something that’s going to happen,” said Martin Rubel, president of Amsterdam-based GuardTime , which offers blockchain solutions for industries such as telecommunications, financial markets, and defense and aerospace.
4. It will be useful to the government in a variety of ways, speakers mentioned items such as imposing VAT:
“We could automate VAT in three lines of code,” said Woleet’s Cadignan. Rubel of GuardTime noted that Raytheon, Lockheed, and Boeing are all customers “which indicates these big defense companies don’t really have a choice.” He said DARPA is currently doing formal verification of GuardTime’s blockchains, and said, “I can guarantee within 6 years, we will several nation-states with their data in the blockchain.”
5. Blockchain technology will help the four in ten adults who are unbanked.
Gilles of Woleet said blockchain technology would help the unbanked access financial services without a bank account: “Today people forget you can send money from here to China in 10 minutes. Try that with your bank account. It will take weeks.”
6. The blockchain will likely help secure the Internet of things but the realization of this application is even further off than others.
Referring to recent attacks that have been orchestrated through hacked Internet of Things devices such as webcams, Bernd Lapp, founder of the Ethereum Foundation’s decentralized consulting network, described how blockchain technology could secure the identity of a device so it cannot be commandeered in this way. Thales’s Geater also notes that blockchain’s “use cases for IoT are more for industrial use cases,” such as warranties or “to prevent industrial refrigerators from melting down and losing $1 million of stock.”
7. Companies are trying to use blockchain for the wrong reasons.
Several panelists and speakers felt that blockchain hype has created froth. Woleet sees it as being used in cases where it’s “too big a solution for the job,” as a database, whereas a blockchain “stores the fingerprints of items, not the items themselves,” said Geater, though this is of course not true for cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoins that only exist on the bitcoin blockchain. 8. Many of the layers of infrastructure around blockchain still need to be standardized and built. While many see the potential for blockchain to offer advantages in security, and it’s clear that other layers of security.