Blockchain – a masterclass on opportunities and challenges

Published on July 14, 2016

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Blockchain in Australia – Our Chief Innovation & Development Officer, Jim Williscroft, was recently invited to attend Stone & Chalk’s Blockchain Reaction Masterclass in Sydney.

A panel of leading blockchain experts came together to share their insights on the world’s next big disruptive technology. The expert panel included Allens Linklaters’s Valeska Bloch and David Rountree, who were joined by Full Profile’s Emma Weston and Finhaus Labs’s Nick Addison.

The think tank highlighted the main findings of a recent major report published by Allens Linklaters (see it here) on distributed ledger technology and blockchain in Australia.

The group of leaders also explored the challenges posed by the technology and how to navigate them, along with covering the roles of governance and regulation.

The top insights we took away include:

It’s hard to keep up.
With the rate of technical change in the blockchain sector, it is very hard to keep up. In fact, it is a full time job. If you don’t have the time to dedicate yourself or someone in your organisation to the implications of blockchain then you should collaborate with organisations that are investing the time to identify the opportunities as well as deal with the challenges.

The narrative needs to be shared.
Blockchain in Australia needs to be considered with a collaborative approach. This is because it can be described technically as a peer to peer data store, which only allows inserts and reads, or in less technical terms as a ‘shared narrative’ to provide a single source of truth.

Public vs private ledgers have different challenges.
With public ledger the governance is implemented through the code, which makes it difficult to agree on changes, such as an increase in the size of the block. With private ledger, governance including rights and obligations is agreed by the participants.  Private ledger does provide more control over confidentiality, but when the participants are competitors, e.g. banks, then this can be tricky to gain a consensus.

It is crucial to get the Government and Regulators role right.
Blockchain innovators are asking that the government/regulators are technology neutral when it comes to blockchain, so as not to stifle innovation but still protect the public.  Most legislation was obviously developed prior to the emergence of blockchainin Australia, and so certain obligations/challenges need to be overcome.  This is most likely to be achieved through test cases.

The need for smart contracts.
The concept is technically explained as a class of object, deployed to a blockchain with each object having an address. These can only be applied where there is an unambiguous outcome. The challenge is where a smart contract executes an obligation, but not in a way everyone had agreed.

Seek and you shall find.
Some of the interesting use cases for blockchain are smart assets. From digital money, identity, tracking high-value low volume assets such as diamonds and land titles for property, blockchain is without a doubt the fastest moving feature in today’s digital world.

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