Welcome to Last week in blockchain. My name is Wim Pelgrim, a blockchain realist and with this weekly podcast you’ll stay up to speed about all the major developments on the blockchain. And if you like what you’ve heard: share this podcast, like it in your podcast app or support me by going to www.patreon.com/wimpelgrim
This week a nice patent by Mastercard, the hearing in the US Senate, Walmart Leaf tokens and Ofcom investigates blockchain for telephone land lines administration.
First I’d like to welcome all the listeners from Latvia. In the last few weeks a group of listeners from this beautiful country started listening to this podcast, making it one of the top countries my listeners come from. I hope you stay with me and keep coming back every week.
And to come back to a news item of last week’s podcast: the quotes by Marleen Stikker and Vinay Gupta. On the Youtube channel of Dutchchain, you can find the discussion where these quotes came from and more from the roundtable conference in the hall of nights. Check the link to the playlist of this event in the description.
Mastercard has issued several blockchain patents in the last few months. But the patent that was published on the 9th of October is interesting for the development of blockchain technology in the future. Mastercards wants to solve the problem of managing several different currencies, tokens or more general sets of data that can only exist in separate blockchains. That is less efficient and consumes a lot of energy. Mastercard proposes a “partitioned blockchain” is the solution, called a subnet. The patent describes how block-generation and transaction data storage would work in the prospective system. “A partitioned blockchain may include transaction records for three different subnets, where the transaction records associated with each respective subnet may be formatted differently and may involve the transfer of a different cryptographic currency as associated with each subnet.”
As you may have noticed, society is discussing the usefulness, potential and threats of blockchain technology. Everything from the hype to the energy use of bitcoin and the potential of the technology is being discussed at this moment and that discussion had a special podium last week: the United States Senate. Several news outlets wrote about this hearing (which can be found online in full on video). Cointelegraph wrote about the hearing with Peter van Valkenburgh (pro-crypto) and Nouriel Roubini (contra crypto): the website wrote a summary of the hearings with all the statements and discussed themes during the hearing. Some of the highlights. Doug Jones of Alabama asked Van Valkenburgh about the exploitation of public blockchains by ‘bad guys’. Van Valkenburgh’s interesting response was that only technology which isn’t very useful doesn’t get exploited. Leaving the committee with the interesting conclusion that blockchain is a useful technological development. And although Roubini and Van Valkenburgh disagreed on almost all topics, there was one moment of solidarity: they agreed that a unified approach tot know your customer procedures are needed to prevent cryptocurrencies being used for things like human trafficking.
Roubini held a negative statement about blockchain and cryptocurrencies and although Cointelegraph talks about his side of the story too, CNBC wrote a piece that goes into his part deeper. Roubini predicted the 2008 crisis in the United States, so his warming has a special meaning according to CNBC. He told the committee “Crypto is the mother or father of all scams and bubbles”. In his statement he called all ICO or crypto providers “scammers, swindlers, criminals, charlatans, insider whales and carnival barkers (all conflicted insiders)” who took clueless people’s money out of their pockets in a way “like you have not seen in any history of financial bubbles.” Big words, but not that wonderful if you look at the Bitcoin price development of late 2017 and early 2018. But what about the technology, the blockchain? “[…] blockchain is the most over-hyped — and least useful — technology in human history. In practice it is nothing better than a glorified spreadsheet or database.” Thank you mister Roubini. I don’t agree. The technology is overhyped and isn’t useful in all cases. But it isn’t just technology: it’s also the way of looking at our handling of data. And Roubini defending a Chinese app like Wechat with a big central database isn’t my way forward. Political consequences and the chance of abuse in a centralized world is too big and important to discard decentralization this way.
After Walmarts initiatives in consumer good supply chain (podcast #5), just like other retail companies are doing (Albert Heijn (podcast #27) and Carrefour (podcast #6)), Walmart is now entering the financial sphere with Walmart Leaf. Called an ICO scam by some websites, the company calls it a decentralized financial asset management network. And Walmart claims it’s the most reliable retail money transfer system across the globe: 2 seconds to finalize a transaction. But I kept wondering: why would Walmart want to enter the market of money transfer? And why does the retail company want its own token? It seems that Walmart wants to use the network in the B2B part of the company: suppliers will transfer cash payments to digital tokens. In essence, it is an extension of the news I talked about in late March: Walmart wants to get a grip (or tighten its grip) on their supply chain.
And next a use case I haven’t seen or thought of before, but in the United Kingdom they did: telephone numbers. Ofcom, the company responsible for all the landlines in the UK received 700.000 pounds to test blockchain in their processes. With the move from analogue telephone lines to an all-IP infrastructure, Ofcom wants to see if blockchain and distributed ledgers can simplify all processes and improve costumer experience. And of course, the organisations would like to learn a lot about blockchain, but the main goal of the project is also clear: “previous attempts to develop a centralised database haven’t succeeded because of high costs and barriers to collaboration; but this technology offers an opportunity to build a cost-effective and future-proof solution.”
Governments and law
Oh my god!
And of course, if you want to read some more: a free blockchain university started, Unchain.io, a blockchain start-up, is available on Amazon Web Services, an article on Forbes about the great blockchain ecosystem in The Netherlands, a former White House economic adviser joined a blockchain start-up, auction house Christies will record sales on a blockchain and after AP (podcast #26), Forbes joins publishing blockchain Civil.
And that wraps up this Last week in blockchain. Check my website: www.wimpelgrim.nl for more info on me and my podcast and a full transcript of this episode. Check the links mentioned in this episode in the description: Mastercard, the hearing in the US Senate, Walmart and Ofcom. And I hope to see you next week for my next episode. And if you like what you’ve heard, share this podcast with your friends and on social media and click those five stars in your podcast app. See you next week!
Youtube playlist of Dutchchain
Cointelegraph on the hearing
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