2018 Blockchain Summit | Singapore

Main theatre looking like an overcrowded restaurant (left) | Booth section full of exhibitors with strong handshakes (right)

As a learner of many new technologies, I often find attending an industry event a good way to 1) learn the new and exciting kids on the block (bad punt intended) and 2) do a “heat check” — i.e. see the interest level of bigwigs in the particular new technology. The 2018 Blockchain Summit in Singapore, which I attended on the 28th of August, has fulfilled my intention positively in both counts.

Some basic statistics about the Summit

Some Blockchain Projects in the Summit

I roughly counted 20–25 projects showcasing their work in the Summit. Below I attempted to provide a one-liner business proposition summary of the blockchain projects I managed to learn a bit during the Summit. In later blog posts, I hope to expand more on some of them. These projects span across industries: finance, entertainment, trade, and even art.

LendLedger | Credible Network: allow data providers (e.g. a payment gateway operator) to share data (e.g. payment data) of the unbanked so that they can use their data to obtain a credit score and borrow money. The former focuses on India while the later Southeast Asia (Blockchain for Financial Inclusion Data Sharing)
Neurochain: composed of network nodes (they call it “bots” or “intelligent agents”) hosting machine learning applications that can learn from the activities on the network, e.g. an insurance pricing algorithm on the network that can update the insurance premium real-time based on the claims transacting on the network (Blockchain for Machine learning Applications)
ACG Network: facilitate crowdfunding for content creation and enable content creators to share advertising revenue more easily and fairly (Blockchain for Entertainment Content Creation & Exchange)
Silkchain: focuses on international trade; an integrated solution to facilitate trade credit, cross border payment, supply chain management, and product quality tracking (Blockchain for facilitating International Trade)
Nerd dream — Blockchain | AR | VR in 1
VR All Art: keep track of all the transaction history of art pieces, enabling buyers to check the origin and authenticity of the art piece — they have also developed very impressive prototypes of a Virtual Reality showroom and Augmented Reality app (that allows users to visualize how an art piece looks like in their own apartment) (Blockchain for Art Transaction Record Keeping)
Hourvillage: provide a way for users to trade their own time globally — e.g. my 1 hour of walking your dog to trade for your 1 hour of of teaching me how to cook (Blockchain for Time Exchange Record Keeping)

My Favorite Session of the Day

The Summit consists of both individual sessions (~20 minutes each) that introduced projects and panel sessions (~40 minutes each) where 3–4 panelists touched on important blockchain related topics. The session that impressed me very much in its caliber and depth was “ How Can Banks Re-Invent Themselves with Blockchain”.

Very lively and candid discussions … and some posing as well lol

Below I summarized some really interesting views from the panelists:

Edwin Bautisita (CEO of UnionBank, a leading bank in the Philippines) said UnionBank is focusing on turning themselves into a technology company that leverages all the new tech like machine learning, robotic processing and blockchain. He wants to expand his blockchain development team from 40 to 100 in the next 2 months (and the CTO in the audience responded with a very bitter smile). He mentioned that he has been working with universities to reach this hiring target but (only half-jokingly) lamented that the new developers will probably all go to work in China, where the demand for blockchain developers is very high and the pay is more lucrative. He advised banks interested in blockchains to “run experiments to evaluate”. In their blockchain projects (and they have some impressive ones), they tried many platforms simultaneously e.g. Ethereum, Hyperledger, Corda, before deciding on which one to go for production.

Robert Ross (Head of Software Engineering of Singapore Life, a very well-funded insurtech) was not as concerned about getting more developers as how we can make senior leadership everywhere more blockchain literate because he believed that could be the biggest obstacle to widespread adoption of blockchain technologies in mainstream businesses.

Antony Lewis (Director of Research in R3, provider of Corda, the leading Distributed Ledger Technology) added that business leaders should really focus on the business value and use case requirement — Blockchain may not be suitable for some use cases. He referred to project Ubin, which uses Corda, a Distributed Ledger Technology (instead of a blockchain). Banks (participants in Ubin) do not want to reveal transactions to non-transacting parties. Corda, which only keeps states in the distributed ledger, is better suited than a blockchain, which also keeps transactions (among other differences). When asked by the audience, he suggested that it may not make sense for companies to turn their loyalty reward program (e.g. airline miles) into a public token because it will make it much more difficult for the companies to control the costs of their loyalty points (i.e. what kind of ticket the miles can be exchanged for).

This very lively discussion (which is available from the link at the bottom — 6:13:00 in the video of Theatre 2) provided some important insights:

a) Blockchain has gone somewhat mainstream even for business applications — it is not very often that the CEO of a major bank participate in a technology summit that does not even focus on the banking industry
b) Use case first, technology second. Leaders should understand the business use case and its business value before looking for the appropriate technology
c) Blockchain executive education will need to be better and more widespread for blockchain to gain wider application and create more value

The last two points, in particular, resonate with me very well and also with the mission of Hashreader, a blockchain education startup a few of my friends set up in Hong Kong recently. Let’s hope that Hashreader can help to spread blockchain knowledge to more leaders and along with it propel the rapid development of the industry!

Last but not least, some resources from the Summit are listed below:

The Programme

All the videos