Blockchain in a nutshell
If you want to know what #Blockchain is, beyond cryptocurrencies, this article is for you! This post will give you an overview of what blockchain is and how the technology behind it works, with the right dosage of technical details for all audiences.
If you already know what blockchain is and how it works, I hope this lecture adds more knowledge to you, in special the Use Cases listed here. Enjoy the reading!
First of all, I want to start this article with some blockchain level set quotes:
“Blockchain is as significant now as the internet was 26 years ago*”
“In less than 10 years, all the network will be built on top of Blockchain, and it will be revolutionary”
“The main event isn’t the Ƀitcoin. It’s using the blockchain to disrupt other industries and Wall Street”
“Blockchain will re-invent and transform key industries and create new business models, making every transaction transparent, democratic, decentralized, efficient and secure”
* the World Wide Web became publicly available on 6 August 1991. Below, an example how does the public internet did look like that time:
A Brief History of Blockchain
Nick Szabo, graduated from the University of Washington in 1989 with a degree in computer science, and like someone who came back from the future, he wrote a research paper in 1997 describing the smart contracts concept. He has also invented another concept which is even more serious in its implications, which he called the God’s Protocol, at the time the technology did not exist to make it into a reality.
Fast-forwarding 11 years, blockchain, the “God’s Protocol”, was created using many of the concepts presented by Nick Szabo.
- The trigger
- In 2008, stock markets around the world crashed due to failures of massive financial institutions in the United States. The most horrific period in U.S. financial market history where banks collapsed will likely never be forgotten
- Non-regulated currency
- Few good things came out of this period, Satoshi Nakamoto (pseudonym) created the blockchain to serve as base of a currency (#bitcoin cryptocurrency) that was not linked to a bank institution where anyone interested or in a need to exchange money, could do that using a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) network, without the need of an “intermediary regulatory agent” acting as a middleman to perform those transactions (in exchange of a fee)
- The middleman: Think on a business transaction between two peers in different countries where, in order to perform the transaction between seller and buyer, it is necessary to have a bank, lawyer, broker, authorities, insurance agent, carriers, freight forwarder, other regulatory agents, etc., increasing every transaction’s cost and adding significant time to complete them
- First Blockchain application
- The Ƀitcoin is partially related to the Blockchain
- Ƀitcoin is completely traceable…
- … but it is also anonymous
- It does work in a concept of “mining” so that the transactions are approved
- The Blockchain technology
- The Blockchain has different protocols, including the Ƀitcoin and not limited to mining
- Selective approval
- It is an asset transference technology, to all the transactional universe, not exclusively cryptocurrency exchange
- The Ƀitcoin is partially related to the Blockchain
The Trust Machine
Although Ƀitcoin was the first blockchain application, the technology goes beyond financial transactions and cryptocurrencies. The amplitude of Ƀitcoin and Blockchain is well illustrated in The Economist, Nov 6th, 2015 edition, stating that the technology behind Ƀitcoin was The Trust Machine, with potential to change the world.
“Blockchain is the technology and Ƀitcoin is merely the first mainstream manifestation of is potential” – Marc Kenigsberg
Why it is a trust machine?
We live in an increasingly digital world, things like physical documents, money, personal IDs, etc., must be replaced in benefit of the world’s economy, businesses and people’s lives. In a world where identity theft, industrial espionage, money laundry and etc., are real threat, to replace the middleman, it was necessary to have an established trust relationship in the network. Banks subject the currency exchange to a fee and we are used to trust that the bank, based on its reputation, he can perform our financial transaction in exchange of that fee in a secured and reliable way.
The blockchain let people who have no particular confidence in each other collaborate without having to go through a neutral central authority. Simply put, it is a machine for creating trust.
The blockchain is a shared, trusted, public ledger that everyone can inspect, but which no single user controls. The participants in a blockchain system collectively keep the ledger up to date: it can be amended only according to strict rules and by general agreement. Ƀitcoin’s blockchain ledger prevents double-spending and keeps track of transactions continuously. It is what makes possible a currency without a central bank.
Two main concepts of Blockchain
In a very simplistic language, the blockchain can be considered a secured business network where participants transfer/exchange assets with decentralized ledger* and each participant will have a copy of its content, in constant sync with other participants.
* Ledger: a book or other collection of financial accounts of a particular type.
Four pillars of Blockchain
- Distributed (shared) Ledger
- Records’ system shared in the whole network.
- Participants do have a role and objective defined
- Participants contribute to the P2P network continue to work interconnected and independent.
But how? The network may contain competitors, players that are not completely in harmony related to their objective or role. Why would I share my data in the network with this “risk”?
- Governance of who can see what
- Secured transactions
- Authentication can be verified by peers
- Because the network is shared with different players, complex privacy criteria are in place to define what information will be shared, with whom, in what moment.
But how are the privacy criteria signed?
- Smart Contract
- Contract / Business rules incorporated in the transaction’s database and executed with the transaction
- Code-based financial agreements
- The signature to the privacy criteria
- Static negotiation rules that are defined in a network
- When a player decides to join the network, one define what are the roles and objectives: deadlines, acceptance of the demand, the value accepted
But how do I know if the rules defined were followed?
- Transactions are endorsed by relevant participants
- Eliminate the need of an intermediary regulatory agent validating if the smart contract rules were met by all participants in the distributed ledger
- In a mathematical algorithm representation, the consensus performs the validation, using various methodologies, to check if the smart contract values are correctly represented and in compliance by those participants
The gaps in the conventional model
Those four pillars were created with the objective of replacing the intermediary and to mitigate the problems in the saturated existing model, that are inefficient, vulnerable, expensive and lacks transparency. In the conventional model, each participant of a business network, will record their ledger in a different way, with a different format, for a different purpose based on their own view and needs. The information disparity that it is caused by this model, where the network isn’t interlinked and not in synchrony with the information exchanged, costs billions of dollars to the entities due to data consistency issues, bribery and fraudulent transactions.
Image Source: https://www.ibm.com/blogs/insights-on-business/electronics/the-problem-with-blockchain/
- Manual and paper-based processes
- Lack of real-time information
- Importers / exporters
- Excess inventory
- Manual and paper-based processes
- Duplication of administrative process
- Manual and paper-based processes
- Manual data collection
- Manual and paper-based processes
- Collection and delivery black holes
- Sub-optimal stack placement
- Manual data collection
- False positives
- Lack of visibility pre-manifest
- Lack of visibility into land movement before / after ocean transport
Image Source: https://www.ibm.com/blogs/insights-on-business/electronics/the-problem-with-blockchain/
With blockchain in the network, the ledger it’s not only decentralized but also unique. The participants record the data of all transaction steps to the same ledger, synchronized, introducing to the business transaction, four key characteristics:
- Consensus: All ledgers in the network are kept in sync and all participants agree to the whats and whens of a transaction
- Provenance: There are records of where each asset has been
- Immutability: Anything written on the ledger cannot be undone
- One cannot delete records and/or insert them halfway through the Blockchain
- One can’t pay $2,00 and pass it forward to the next peer telling it was paid $5,00
- Finality: Anything written in the Blockchain cannot be disputed
Blockchain is the technology for a new generation of transactional applications that establishes confidence, responsibility and transparency, in the meantime, simplifies business process. It is an operational system designed to the interaction between the participants of a business process with the potential to reduce costs and complexity.
Re-imagining with Blockchain
Blockchain allows industries to re-imagine most fundamentals business interactions, it opens a world of new possibilities and ways of digital interaction. What that means? What the cryptocurrency did to the paper cash for example, was to re-design an existing model. We all need to keep our mind open to go beyond of just re-designing existing models, but to think in all new business models that can be created with the usage of this technology.
IBM and Maersk: Cross-border supply chain solution on Blockchain
Here is one example of the usage of Blockchain that it is not related to Ƀitcoin:
Many people have heard about blockchain without been able to see how an interface and UX in blockchain would looks like. This video illustrates a well and solid case from IBM, in use by an Ocean Carrier market leader, MAERSK, using blockchain to ship and transport flowers in containers.
The business rule in this case, to allow the business process to exist and move on, requires the validation of the steps by the peers involved: brokers, port agents, custom agents, importers.
We can see below for example, in a given step of the process, four peers need to sign the Certificate of Origin, so that the FF can move the flowers in the Port of Mombasa. At all times, it is clear to the peers, what were the steps that were fulfilled and the ones that were not, providing trust and compliance to the process. KRA was the only participant that signed the document at this moment, three others are still missing to sign it, so the FF can’t proceed yet.
In a conventional network, there are bottlenecks, no visibility, lack of confidence, operational costs are high, ledgers are individual and not in sync.
Blockchain is a “chain-of-blocks”, but what those blocks are?
- Each transaction in the network generates an alphanumeric code, called HASH, which is cumulative
- Each transaction in the interlinked network does generate a sequential hash that groups with other transaction’s hashes to form a BLOCK
- That hash is represented by the flower, where the flower is, the partners who had the flower with them, the time the flower arrived at the port, the agent who took action A or B.
- Performance increase / Processing time reduction
- Enable reconciliation
- Any transaction can be performed nearly real time
- Think on the average three days gap to move currency overseas reduced to few seconds with cryptocurrency
- Cost Reduction
- The blockchain network removes the middleman and easily scale it
- Risk Mitigation
- Compliance and Fraud proof
- Sequential ledgers
- Each transaction in the chain represents all predecessor transactions, it’s cumulative
- Transactions become immutable, verifiable and auditable
- New Business Models
- Existing business models can be re-designed
- New Business models can be created
HYPERLEDGER is an open source collaborative effort created to advance cross-industry blockchain technologies. It is a global collaboration, hosted by The Linux Foundation, including leaders in finance, banking, Internet of Things, Supply Chains, Manufacturing, and Technology and it is an open source, open governance and standard project.
The HYPERLEDGER consortium started in 2015, it counts with almost 200 companies now:
As pointed out, blockchain is a connection between partners, companies, industries and participants that transcends the capability of ONE company lead the revolution or being a central point. While the HYPERLEDGER works in the B2B platform, there are other partners initiatives, like the Ethereum, working in public chains (screenshot below), Ƀitcoin and Ripple working in cryptocurrency and payment protocols related to banks.
Ethereum initiative on apps developed in the public chain (DAPPS):
Image source: www.stateofthedapps.com
Connecting partners, public chain, Peer-to-Peer… When we hear that blockchain is a P2P-type network, many may associate the technology to late 90’s and mid 2000’s, when software’s like Napster, Kazaa, eMule, Torrent clients and others, became popular for allowing people from every place on Earth to exchange files without the need of a middleman. All that was needed was that both ends were using the same protocol/application.
What is different between them and the P2P blockchain?
There was lots of security concerns in the P2P networks, consensus (sync) didn’t exist, hacking was always real a threat. Those concerns were all mitigated with the blockchain usage of sequential blocks and hashes.
There are 3 types of blockchain networks:
- Public Ledger: Public Blockchain, the de facto platform for cryptocurrency, is a decentralized framework that allows anyone to add themselves to the network, read transactions, transfer assets and participate in the consensus process. Ƀitcoin and Ethereum are a few popular examples.
Image source: sap.com
- Private Ledger: Private Blockchain, by contrast, is largely centralized in nature and strictly permissioned, allowing only a pre-approved set of members to read and send transactions and participate in the consensus process. It is often built to manage internal organizational functions, mainly for audit purposes. Reference data management system is a good example of a private Blockchain. Speed and performance are among the leading advantages of private Blockchain. Because it is set up in a controlled environment with a limited set of nodes, transactions are executed much faster.
Image source: sap.com
- Consortium Ledger: Consortium Blockchain is a hybrid of the public and private Blockchain platforms. It leverages the decentralized nature of the public Blockchain and the permissioned capability of the private Blockchain. As with any consortium, the entire network, along with validation rules and policies, is defined and governed by members/nodes. They control every aspect of the Blockchain, including validation of transactions, addition of nodes, managing node privileges, smart contracts, deployment of chain codes, etc.
Disrupting disruptors, Creating new businesses models
Blockchain has what the organizations need to be transparent, democratic, decentralized, efficient, and secure. This technology can disrupt many industries and business, including the ones that were considered disruptors, in the next 5 to 10 years. Let’s see some examples of industries, businesses and startups that are already making the difference.
UBER disrupted a well solid market of taxi drivers. UBER innovated connecting passengers and drivers, but passenger needs to call UBER’s app, which connects to UBER servers to relay the request to the driver. Driver accepts and send the acceptance back to UBER servers, which will inform the user who the driver is, how long it is going to take to the driver arrive, how much he will be charged and etc. In this case, UBER servers and the company are the middleman connecting passenger and drivers, and for that a fee is charged.
Arcade City is the decentralized Blockchain-based answer to UBER, connecting peer-to-peer, passengers to drivers, drivers to passengers, using the Ethereum blockchain, for any person who wants to receive a cheaper service without the middleman involved.
image source: arcade.city
The use of built-in e-wallets can allow car owners to automatically pay for parking, highway tolls, and electricity top-ups for their vehicle. UBS, ZF and Innogy are some of the companies developing blockchain based e-wallets.
The world’s first global platform for peer-to-peer carbon trading. Using the power of blockchain technology, CARBONX will engage millions of people in the fight against the global threat. CARBONX recast Certified Emission Reduction Credits (Offsets) as ERC20 tokens and distribute them via an enhanced mobile rewards program that incentivizes individuals to make carbon friendly choices. All transactions are peer-to-peer on a private Ethereum blockchain.
Image source: carbonx.ca
“It turns out the “killer app” for blockchain may be saving the planet, literally.” – Don Tapscott, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of the Blockchain Research Institute
Music, Video, Movie & Entertainment
SingularDTV is a blockchain entertainment studio laying the foundation for a decentralized entertainment industry. Building the future of rights management, project funding, and peer-to-peer distribution, SingularDTV’s platform empowers artists and creators with powerful tools to manage projects from development to distribution.
Image source: singulardtv.com
Enrich and empower artists, and rewrite the rules of the music and broader creative industry
- Creating a token-based economy where value is derived from an artist’s work
- Tokens are the native crypto-assets of a blockchain app.
- They are powered by smart contracts (code-based financial agreements) that are programmed into Ethereum.
- When an artist tokenizes, they’re turning their intellectual property (IP) into a financial asset, so an artist’s token reflects the value of their creative output.
- Those who buy into an artist’s tokens buy into owning a share of the artist’s creations and its revenue flows.
- Enabling artists and consumers to earn money from selling and buying tokens
- Artists can raise money through a token launch, which is similar to an initial coin offering (ICO)
- The majority of the windfall will go the artist, and the token launch platform-provider (such as SingularDTV) will retain a service fee.
- These tokens are programmed via smart contracts to dispense royalty flows: If someone pays a dollar for an artist’s content, then all of that artist’s token-holders will receive a pro rata share of that dollar
- Eliminating middlemen and undermining the influence of industry gatekeepers
- Tokenization lets artists raise funds upfront without relying on an advance from their record label
- Distributing content via blockchain would allow artists to skirt streaming platforms like Spotify to earn royalties on their own terms
Banking & Payments
Some say that the blockchain will do to banking what the internet did to media. It can be used to give access to financial services to billions of people around the world, including those in third world countries who don’t have access to traditional banking. Ƀitcoin allows anyone to send money across borders almost instantly and with relatively low fees. ABRA is one startup that is working on a Ƀitcoin-based remittance service.
Many banks like Barclays are also working on adopting blockchain technology to make their business operations faster, more efficient and secure. Banks are also increasingly investing in blockchain startups and projects. In 2017, 100 financial institutions had joined RippleNet network to modernize global payments through adoption of Blockchain and making their business operation faster, more efficient and secure. IBM said that the rate at which banks are adopting the blockchain is ‘far faster’ than originally thought. It found that 15% of the 200 global banks surveyed intended to roll out, full-scale, commercial blockchain products and a further 65% are expected to have blockchain projects in production within the next three years.
Although the blockchain ledger is public, the data is verified and encrypted using advanced cryptography. This way the data is less prone to being hacked or changed without authorization. That said, the applications build on the blockchain are still young and there have been several hacks in recent months. This is something future applications will need to grow up to.
Supply Chain Management
We know surprisingly little about most of the products we use every day. Even before reaching the end consumer, goods travel through an often-vast network of retailers, distributors, transporters, storage facilities, and suppliers that participate in design, production, delivery, and sales, yet in almost every case these journeys remain an unseen dimension of our possessions.
1,127 people died in Bangladesh clothing factory collapse. – Reuters, May 2013
The creation, exchange, and use of material things, however, has many potential negative consequences: environmental damage, exploitative extraction, unsafe work conditions, forgery, and the huge amounts of valuable material wasted at the end of product life. Our relationship with the material world is broken.
With blockchain technology, transactions can be documented in a permanent decentralized record, and monitored securely and transparently. This can greatly reduce time delays and human mistakes. It can also be used to monitor costs, labor, and even waste and emissions at every point of the supply chain. This has serious implications for understanding and controlling the real environmental impact of products. The distributed ledger can also be used to verify the authenticity or fair-trade status of products by tracking them from their origin.
Blockchain enables every physical product to come with a digital ‘passport’ that proves authenticity (Is this product what it claims to be?) and origin (Where does this product come from?), creating an auditable record of the journey behind all physical products. The potential benefits for businesses, as well as for society and the environment, are hard to overstate: preventing the selling of fake goods, as well as the problem of ‘double spending’ of certifications present in current systems.
Some blockchain companies working in this sector are Provenance, Fluent, SKUChain, and Blockverify.
Tracking goods across the supply chain is one of the most appealing benefits of Blockchain, however, that there are many more, equally appealing, applications for the technology within the transportation industry.
Tracking in-transit freight isn’t new; organizations have been using GPS technology to track freight-hauling assets for multiple decades. Historically, location updates were provided by check calls and the use of fax machines. Later, they were replaced with automated systems such as EDIs and APIs. Yet, as the industry faces ever-rising customer expectations and retailers increasingly promise same-day or even one-hour delivery services, traditional methodologies won’t scale. We feel the next wave of innovation will come through Blockchain, which not only addresses the newer requirements but also existing authenticity issues.
Blockchain for Supply Chain Transparency & Traceability
The blockchain is set to change the entire approach to research, consulting, analysis and forecasting. Online platforms like Augur are looking to create global decentralized prediction markets. These technologies can be used to place and monitor bets on anything from sports to stocks to elections in a decentralized way.
Augur combines the magic of prediction markets with the power of a decentralized network to create a stunningly accurate forecasting tool – and the chance for real money trading profits
Networking and the Internet of Things
Samsung and IBM are using blockchain technology for a new concept called ADEPT, which will create a decentralized network of IoT devices. Operating like a public ledger for a large number of devices, it would eliminate the need for a central location to handle communications between them. The devices would be able to communicate to each other directly to update software, manage bugs, and monitor energy usage.
Blockchain + IoT + Cognitive
We now know that there are companies using blockchain in a B2B platform (HYPERLEDGER consortium for example) and people using the public chain (Ethereum DAPPs), creating two bubble networks that could interconnect between them. This collaboration model could allow industry segments, for example Health & Insurance, connecting in a trustable relationship model with Agriculture industries. Going more beyond, why not to think on governments using Blockchain to interact between them? Or maybe in a more visionary Nobel Prize view, couldn’t we connect the world in blockchain to fight the challenges with a common purpose?
This all may sound abstract, but those are the imperatives that we have seen on the new global economy concepts, which is more decentralized, shared, circular, collaborative, resilient, low carbon. Today all those concepts fluctuate in punctual applications, the blockchain has the capability to materialize it in on single platform.
How does the IoT can help?
Blockchain can be used in anything that can be considered a transaction, but the real value of it is that we will have confidence, governance and reliability that, a given information it is what the transaction is saying that it represents.
How do we know that the data inputted by a person was correct? In this case, IoT can be useful, for example, using a smart scale or smart truck, if a product is being weighted, the sensor can capture the data and input in the system, removing the risk of someone entering the wrong data. Think on drones flying over the warehouse and counting products. Robots doing picking and packing. Autonomous vehicles delivering products. All that are examples where human mistakes entering the right data can be avoided.
To be safe, scalable and efficient, Internet of Things networks must be re-architected to gradually shift from managing billions of devices to hundreds of billions of devices.
Image source: securityledger.com
When we learned about the Smart Contract, it was said that they are business rules incorporated in the transaction’s database and executed with the transaction. That means, if my application was developed using blockchain and I have a shipment delivery that must leave point A to destination B, that’s my business rule defined by supply chain based on the ideal distribution route. It is in the smart contract that it must be this way. But what if a road is blocked? A bridge collapsed? A region is flooded? How do I know that the A to B is no longer the ideal distribution route? The answer is cognitive parameters in the smart contracts that represents the reality in a macro environment. That is, the smart contract and the consensus must be able to handle a new route without rejecting the transaction, based on Artificial Intelligence. Almost like creating a live organism in that supply chain ecosystem capable of taking decisions and re-rule them.
The global insurance market is based on trust management. The blockchain is a new way of managing trust and can be used to verify many types of data in insurance contracts, such as the insured person’s identity. So-called oracles can be used to integrate real-world data with blockchain smart contracts. This technology is very useful for any type of insurance that relies on real-world data, for example crop insurance. Æternity is one blockchain project that is building tools that are useful in the insurance industry.
Data on a centralized server is inherently vulnerable to hacking, data loss, or human error. Using blockchain technology allows cloud storage to be more secure and robust against attacks. Storj is one example of a cloud storage network using the technology.
Image Source: storj.io
Common complaints in the charity space include inefficiency and corruption, which prevent money from reaching those that are meant to have it. Using blockchain technology to track donations can let you be sure your money is going to end up in the right hands. Ƀitcoin-based charities like the BitGive Foundation use blockchain’s secure and transparent distributed ledger to let donors see that the intended party has received the funds.
Image source: bitgivefoundation.org
Blockchain for Disaster Relief | SAP Innovation Center Network
Democracy Earth and Follow My Vote
Probably one of the most important areas of society that the blockchain will disrupt is voting. The 2016 US election is not the first-time certain parties were accused of rigging election results. Blockchain technology can be used for voter registration and identity verification, and electronic vote counting to ensure that only legitimate votes are counted, and no votes are changed or removed. Creating an immutable, publicly-viewable ledger of recorded votes would be a massive step toward making elections more fair and democratic. Democracy Earth and Follow My Vote are two startups aiming to disrupt democracy itself through creating blockchain-based online voting systems for governments.
Government systems are often slow, opaque, and prone to corruption. Implementing blockchain-based systems can significantly reduce bureaucracy and increase security, efficiency, and transparency of government operations. Dubai, for example, is aiming to put all its government documents on the blockchain by 2020.
“Adopting Blockchain technology Dubai stands to unlock 5.5 billion dirham in savings annually in document processing alone — equal to the one Burj Khalifa’s worth of value every year.”
Digitizing Government with Blockchain and SAP
The public benefits system is another sector that suffers from slowness and bureaucracy. Blockchain technology can help assess, verify, and distribute welfare or unemployment benefits in a much more streamlined and secure way. GovCoin is a UK-based company that is helping the government to distribute public benefits using blockchain technology. The blockchain is also a good contender for implementing a basic income. Circles is a project working on developing a blockchain-based technology for implementing a universal basic income.
GEM and CORAL HEALTH
Another industry that relies on many legacy systems and is ripe for disruption is healthcare. One of the challenges hospitals face is the lack of a secure platform to store and share data, and they are often victims of hacking because of outdated infrastructure. Blockchain technology can allow hospitals to safely store data like medical records and share it with authorized professionals or patients. This can improve data security and can even help with accuracy and speed of diagnosis. Gem and Coral Health examples of companies that are working on disrupting the current healthcare data space.
Image Source: mycoralhealth.com
Energy management has been a highly centralized industry for a long time. Energy producers and users cannot buy it directly from each other and have to go through the public grid or a trusted private intermediary. LO3 Energy’s TransActive Grid is a startup using Ethereum that allows customers to buy and sell energy from each other in a peer-to-peer way.
Image Source: lo3energy.com
When you shop, your trust of the retail system is tied to the trust of the store or marketplace. Decentralized blockchain-based retail utilities work differently: they connect buyers and sellers without a middleman and associated fees. In these cases, trust comes from smart contract systems, the security of exchanges, and built-in reputation management systems. One startup disrupting the retail space is OpenBazaar.
Image Source: openbazaar.org
Some of the issues in buying and selling real estate are bureaucracy, lack of transparency, fraud, and mistakes in public records. Using blockchain technology can speed up transactions by reducing the need for paper-based record keeping. It can also help with tracking, verifying ownership, ensuring accuracy of documents, and transferring property deeds. Ubitquity, is a blockchain-secured platform for real estate record-keeping that is an alternative for legacy paper-based systems.
Crowdfunding has become a popular method of fundraising for new startups and projects in recent years. Crowdfunding platforms exist to create trust between project creators and supporters, but they also charge high fees. In blockchain-based crowdfunding, trust is instead created through smart contracts and online reputation systems, which removes the need for a middle-man. New projects can raise funds by releasing their own tokens that represent value and can later be exchanged for products, services, or cash. Many blockchain startups have now raised millions of dollars through such token sales. Although it’s still early days and the regulatory future or blockchain-based crowdfunding is uncertain, it’s an area that holds a lot of promise.
Note: Some of the examples shown above were taken from miscellaneous sources on internet, like:
Gartner Hype Cycle
In between the market’s euphoria and whether you and your company should take the pill or not, it is good to keep one foot on the ground. Gartner’s Hype Cycle looks at emerging technologies that show promise in delivering a high degree of competitive advantage.
Although the chart above is old (yes, lot changed for blockchain in few months), Gartner recently release a report stating whether the hype is true or not and reinforcing that blockchain serve as a foundation of disruptive digital business for both enterprises and startups. An executive review defines blockchain as a technology with genuine long-term potential for global transformation of economies and industries, that over time, will lead to the era of programmable economy.
In a more recent article, Gartner has listed blockchain as one of the 10 Top strategic trends for 2018:
Even long-time conservative institutions are felling the need to embrace the change. The IMF seems to be moving towards the revolution, evaluating their participation in the blockchain industry:
image source: sap.com
SAP is positioning their products in the blockchain race through SAP Leonardo as the answer to customer’s enterprise growing needs for a trustworthy single source of truth, as largely explored during the last year’s SAP TechEd in Las Vegas. SAP Leonardo Blockchain provides a way for people, businesses, machines, and algorithms to transact and communicate with one another in a frictionless way by enabling true data sharing, speeding up multi-party transactions and lowering costs, while ensuring all parties are protected.
Continuous Cycle of Innovation
image source: sap.com
Through SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain (BaaS, yes, that’s right, Blockchain-as-a-Service), customers can build blockchain extensions for existing applications across industries and lines of business, use open standards to create new consortia-based and private blockchain models and networks, explore blockchain use-cases to see how it can benefit to the different businesses and industries, prototype, test, and build customized blockchain applications using smart contracts, etc.
SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain provides an easy, low-risk gateway to distributed ledger technology in the cloud, integration with established SAP solutions creating synergies, especially in multi-party processes and allows integration with other next-generation technologies in SAP Leonardo.
image source: sap.com
SAP Blockchain helps to optimize processes that goes beyond any companies’ roof.
image source: sap.com
SAP Blockchain Time Horizon
image source: sap.com
- Optimize – infuse BC capabilities in existing process and applications
- Reimagine – reimagine how new business process can work
- Revolutionize – completely reimagine how business and industries can work
Use cases across all LoB and Industries
image source: sap.com
SAP Trusted Digital Credentials
What is TrueRec by SAP?
We live in an increasingly digital world, but until now, credentials were physical documents because the authenticity of digital copies couldn’t be guaranteed. Examples goes from IDs, such as passport, driver’s license, or voter ID, to educational credentials like university degrees and employment certificates, etc.
TrueRec offers Trusted Digital Credentials using blockchain technology. With TrueRec anyone can keep all of its own verified credentials conveniently on their smartphones and safely share them with anyone.
Because TrueRec is powered by blockchain, others can instantly verify someone’s credentials with confidence. It guarantees authenticity & integrity of digital documents while enabling individuals to be in control of their credentials.
Why to use TrueRec?
If you had gone through a hiring process at least once, you will agree that the process of putting together an application, collecting all the documents that you need, University’s degree, previous employment verification, records of achievements, specialized courses’ certifications or any other knowledge documentation that might be relevant to the job position is not a simple process.
Today, the way to companies guarantee that the information received can be trusted, involves hiring a background check company, which will reach the issuing entity, the University for example, provide a copy of the document, provide other information, fill a form and request to check if the credential submitted is valid. On average, it takes from three weeks to three months (countries with no efficient computing information systems, government institutions where employees unwillingness to help are a more common to find, etc.). This whole process is time and cost consuming and may cost losing a top talent as well.
With TrueRec, we can mitigate the need of background checking those documents, reducing the time from weeks to seconds and almost at no cost. Credentials can be verified instantly without going back to the issuing institution and at the same time, enabling individuals to stay in control of their credentials.
How it works?
TrueRec uses blockchain technology to instantly verify credentials while keeping the data secure. It runs on Ethereum public blockchain and the credentials attached to a document can be set to expire or can be revoked by the issuer; that’s not possible today with digital signatures.
image source: truerec.io
1 – When the institution issues the credential through TrueRec, a digital “fingerprint” (or hash) is added to the blockchain.
2 – Then it sends the credential to the requestor, a digital file to be imported to e TrueRec app. The credential is safe because it’s stored only on his own device.
3 – A person can securely share his credentials from the TrueRec app.
4 – Recipients can verify the validity of the credentials received by comparing the document against its fingerprint on the blockchain.
- Convenience – Keep all your verified credentials securely on your device, ready to share with others anytime and from anywhere
- Privacy – You are the sole owner of your credentials. They are stored only on your device.
- Trust – The validity of your credentials can be instantly verified, giving you credibility.
How is SAP using Blockchain?
SAP is market leader in innovation and digital transformation. SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain Services delivers API’s that can leverage the use of Blockchain technology. This way any company can build application on Cloud that integrates to the company’s core ERP and eco-system, without the need to make a large investment.
SAP adopted TrueRec to the Recruiting & Talent’s process and also to the training certifications issued to partners, customers and to the SAP community, like for example in the trainings completed at openSAP, SAP’s MOOC platform.
To put in numbers, the first openSAP course, Introduction to Software Development on SAP HANA, was held from May 27 through July 15, 2013 and the numbers were:
- 18,033 learners were enrolled on day 1 of the course.
- When the final exam ended, this number had increased to 40,386.
- 15,748 learners actively participated in the course.
- 10,795 learners took the final exam.
- 9,383 graded records of achievement were distributed.
Last year, after I have completed a training at openSAP, instead of just downloading my record of achievement, I requested the institution to send it to me via TrueRec, so I could get a trusted digital credential:
When I selected “Send to TrueRec”, the fingerprint of the document (the hash) was added to the blockchain and the document was sent to me:
All my trusted digital credentials are blockchain verified and stored on my phone. It isn’t available in the cloud, it can’t be misused, changed or duplicated, thanks to the blockchain technology. The only information available in the blockchain network, it is the hash (the cryptography).
Now, let’s pretend that an University wants to hire me for a workshop or an employer wants to confirm that I have knowledge in a given subject, or there is an internal position open in my company and the area’s supervisor wants to know if I did complete the training and how was my performance:
Then I reach to the smartphone in my pocket and with my fingers I can easily share my record of achievement. The other peer will get an email with the TrueRec link to validate the authenticity and integrity of the credentials that I claimed to me mine:
When the link is clicked, the application (via web or an app) will compare the fingerprint received with the fingerprint attached to the document by openSAP, which is the issuing institution, that it is stored in the blockchain network. In a couple of seconds, the document is verified:
Then they can download a copy of the document for their records:
How could that be useful to Your Company?
In a world where identity theft is a very real threat, TrueRec, allows users to maintain sole ownership of their information, easily prove the legitimacy of credentials, collect them in one central location, and securely share them with anyone.
Your Company could use TrueRec as the Trusted Digital Credentials app in the hiring process, talents management, internal jobs’ application or anywhere when the authenticity and integrity of documents needs be validated independently of the issuing institution.
We could also use this cutting-edge technology with our partners that requires a qualified professional to perform a job, to host a workshop or a training, or sharing a certificate issued by an environmental institution giving authorization to Your Company to build a new plant, for example.
If you made it this far, THANK YOU, I hope this article had helped you!