Blockchain described in simple terms is a disruptive technology that provides a secure, global platform that allows both individuals and enterprises to make and verify – almost instantaneously – a wide variety of transactions. Blockchain eliminates dependency on a central governmental authority or costly intermediaries, while eliminating the likelihood of manual error and ensuing delays.
Forums and conferences on the topic of blockchain are being convened all across North America, Europe and Asia, and more recently and boldly in the Middle East. Officially hosted by Smart Dubai Office in partnership with Dubai World Trade Centre, the Future Blockchain Summit (FBS) held recently was the focal point for international dialogue and collaboration on the specific topic of the Blockchain technology.
Positioned to be an annual strategy setting for exponential growth in technology, the first installment of FBS presented the platform for pilot project launches, experiential exhibition of startups, the many and varied opportunities and impact of blockchain across all sectors. These sectors include finance and business, hospitality and tourism, energy, healthcare, real estate and urban planning and transport and logistics, most notable the ubiquitous topic of Finance and Business. The recent announcement of Goldman Sachs adding a crypto currency trading desk highlighted the major shift taking place within big financial institutions, and is a signaling of bitcoin’s and other cryptocurrencies’ legitimacy. Goldman Sachs has an indisputable reputation, especially as a technology first investment bank.
The mission here however was not all about the financial aspects of blockchain. Dubai’s ambitious goal to have all its government transactions supported by blockchain technologies by 2020 is one that we should pay close attention to. As clearly stated by H.E. Dr. Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, the Director General of Smart Dubai Office, the goal is driven by a facilitation of peace for all their citizens.
The Dubai government differs from others around the world in that it aims to make Dubai the ‘Happiest City on Earth’. In short, we want to give people back time they would have otherwise spent on filing paperwork. - H.E. Dr. Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr
This is a bold statement and one that raises eyebrows. Though synonymous with cryptocurrencies, particularly Bitcoin, the blockchain technology has the power to create equal playing fields across citizens, foster transparent platforms across industries, and create legitimate identities digitally, for billions of people who are unable to participate in growth activities because they lack confirmed identities. All this will in turn enhance the quality of life. A lack of transparency perpetuates inequality and corruption, and blockchain’s ability to create a trustworthy record of data and contractual transactions, has the power to disrupt the status quo for a more equitable future. Smart Dubai’s plan is well beyond other countries venturing in the space with one of the most comprehensive and detailed plans for execution.
Priority was given to discussions surrounding the industries of energy, healthcare, transportation and logistics, real estate and urban planning, finance and business and hospitality and tourism. This is key to understanding that the benefits of blockchain and other secure ledger systems go far beyond cryptocurrencies once implemented correctly with high participation on the consensus mechanism. The consensus mechanism is the function that allows the network of participants to reach agreement on the authenticity of the database even without the trust of an individual.
Here is a brief overview of how the technology can enhance some of the referenced industries.
Energy - though current data mining processes for blockchain utilizes a significant amount of energy, there are benefits that will eventually make this issue a non factor. Using the blockchain technology, smart contracts i.e. self-executing contracts with terms directly written into code, will be used to balance the supply and demand and enable peer-to-peer energy trading in an extremely secure way.
Healthcare - In its simplest form, just imagine being in control of all of your medical records and being able to show them in their entirety to any doctor anywhere in the world at any time you need to. This can be the difference between life and death in an emergency.
Transportation and Logistics - Smart contracts on the blockchain allow all parties on the supply chain to be on the same page at all times, while trusting the information is authentic. This will help significantly with scaling quicker deliveries and processing times.
Hospitality and Tourism - Blockchain technology could streamline the travel process by reducing the intermediaries and the settlement timing, and reducing the overall transparency. Travelers can share their identity data with ease across all security and verification checkpoints in the travel process all while maintaining the privacy of their information.
Smart contracts will enable major growth in efficiency to many industries that require continuous recording and updating of records, while still being able to access all transactions from the very first input of the record. As a small, developing island we suffer from poor record keeping infrastructure with some of our agencies manually recording information. Currently within our real estate industry a property can be sold several times to several persons simultaneously. The move to digitize land transactions with blockchain technology to combat corruption easily eliminates this type of issue. The type of secure and credible transactions that this would foster is paramount to encouraging land ownership as well as growth in related sectors such as housing, agriculture, mining and even energy.
At this stage, blockchain is a technology with an exceptionally broad set of potential uses. Although blockchain is most famous for its connections to the blossoming cryptocurrency world. Perhaps even more exciting, though, is that new ways of utilizing blockchain emerge every day. As such, whether you are directly involved in the digital currency space or not, it's essential to develop an understanding of blockchain and how it may be used to transform the business and investment worlds.
The blockchain technology presents opportunities with respect to virtually anything of value that requires trust between known and unknown parties and that would benefit from tracking. From identity cards to real estate deeds to voting ballots, we encourage our Jamaican innovators and entrepreneurs to pay attention to the ideas being promoted and create our own solutions that can be shipped off to any part of the world for good use.