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 please leave a review on iTunes so my podcast will get higher in the search results, share it with your friends and if you listen to this podcast for the first time: subscribe using your podcast app.
This week the introduction of BitTorrent, the reports by the EU blockchain forum, Tony Chocolonely open about blockchain failure, Bank of America’s patent for ATM’s, and Atari and Facebook are the Oh my God! moments of this week.
But first: welcome to 2019. It has been three weeks since my last podcast and besides celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve, doing work for my moving in March and having a great time with my kids and wife, I’ve also read blockchain news. And it was a lot of small news and websites looking back over 2018 and making forecasts for 2019. But there was enough news to compile a nice new podcast for you.
TRON is one of the newest blockchain networks in this space (I talked about TRON in podcast #24). And the news of last year was the acquisition of BitTorrent by TRON. Last week TRON foundation launched a token for the BitTorrent network. The foundation wants to build a decentralized web and the BTT-token that users can buy to achieve higher download speeds in the torrent network. But the token is also aimed at stimulating users to keep seeding (sharing files with others in the network). TRON and Justin Sun as the CEO, have a vision on the web and how it should be. But when you look at the Twitter feed of TRON or Sun, there are a lot of buzz and records shared in bright colored images. But actual social results, I haven’t seen them and I find it hard to see how the BTT-token would help the BitTorrent network. If you have ideas, share them with me on Twitter.
Background articles and research
The Christmas holidays gave me some time to read a few background articles and reports that came out. I’ll refer to three reports at the end of this podcast, now I’ll dive deeper into the reports by the EU blockchain forum. In early 2018 the Forum presented the report Blockchain innovation in Europe. This was a general overview of blockchain in Europe. In the last few months of 2018 two new reports were published: Blockchain for government and public services and Blockchain and the GDPR. The latter is an interesting report, because GDPR has been a difficult issue since May. And because GDPR and blockchain are at odds with each other, all companies and developers are looking at governments for guidelines. The EU-report gives four rule-of-thumb principles, which I will quote from the abstract 1. start with the big picture: how is user value created, how is data used and do you really need blockchain? 2. avoid storing personal data on a blockchain. make full use of data obfuscation, encryption and aggregation techniques in order to anonymise data. 3. collect personal data off-chain or, if the blockchain can’t be avoided, on private, permissioned blockchain networks. consider personal data carefully when connecting private blockchains with public ones. 4. continue to innovate, and be as clear and transparent as possible with users. Usefull advice for all of us, not only within the EU, but also in the US, India and all over the world, working on blockchain.
The second report that came out is a nice summary of the state of blockchain in government and and public services at this moment in time. Two striking issues from the report. First the report presses governments and organizations to keep experimenting and not only to look at the technological feasibility, but also the economic and social impact. A very important remark, because the aim is not to construct technology for technology sake, but to have an impact on society. The second striking point is a strange proposal in my eyes. The reports suggests that digital versions of national currencies on the blockchain should be created. In other words: encapsulate disruption. I personally believe it is better when governments join forces with citizens that are reshaping things in stead of trying to keep institutions alive by incorporating change in existing systems. And looking at the statements made by the CEO of the Dutch National Bank (podcast #31), I can’t predict which way it will go.
Dutch chocolate company Tony Chocolonely started a blockchain adventure in 2017. Their aim is to produce slave fee chocolate bars. This goal isn’t reached yet and their hope was blockchain could help them create a supply chain solution to reach it. But blockchain wasn’t the problem solver: the problem was the entry of data in the system, not the storage of data already entered. After six weeks the company stopped the pilot. But what I love about this company is not only the chocolate, but also their open culture. In one of the major news papers in The Netherlands, they talked openly about the failed project. Check the Dutch article from De Volkskrant of January 4th for more info.
Governments and law
Blockchain is becoming an integral part of new hardware solutions. The Bank of America filed a patent for ATM’s using blockchain to handle cash. The aim is to make transactions more efficient, faster and traceable. But why want to use blockchain in this case? The ATM’s in the United States are dedicated to a specific financial institution as it runs on the bank’s operating system. The blockchain would smoothen transactions between banks. Would anyone notice blockchain was part of this ATM? No, not directly. But the potentially the interbanking system will run more efficiently and that will support new services like cash withdrawals at other banks.
Oh my god!
And this week not one but two Oh my god! moments. Two online applications are going to use blockchain, but for what? First Atari, the game maker. The company partnered with Animoca Brands Ltd. to produce blockchain versions of famous online games, like Rollercoster Tycoon. But why? Why would you use blockchain here? Apparently because Atarai wants to make sure collectables from the applications are traded fairly. But that seems to indicate that Atari doesn’t have its database in order. I can’t think of why blockchain would help the company.
But there is a more pressing Oh my god! moment. Facebook is working on a stablecoin for Whatsapp, according to Bloomberg. Why is this news? Facebook wants to take a piece of the remittance market in India: people from other countries sending money to family back in India. And although I get the business idea, I think people that are going to use Whatsapp just move from companies like Western Union that take a percentage from the money transferred, to an other company that wants a share from your remittance. Why not use an independent cryptocurrency? Why want to get into the sphere of a major company like Facebook? Oh my god!
And as promised, I’ll refer to some other reports that came out recently: McKinsey wrote a report about blockchain not living up to the hype, MIT hopes blockchain will become boring in 2019 and Skolkovo found that private blockchains have few applications. Other interesting articles to read: an ex-CIA official claims blockchain is the biggest threat to the future of US national security while the US Defence department wants to use blockchain to improve disaster relief and yet another country is going to try introducing blockchain in voting: Thailand,
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: … And if you like what you’ve heard, share this podcast with your friends and on social media and subscribe to this podcast in your podcast app. See you next week!
McKinsey and the
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