Reflections on the 2nd Geneva Blockchain Congress
1. Geneva is committed to becoming a centre for blockchain excellence in Europe
The Congress was opened for a second time running by Mayor of Geneva, Pierre Maudet, supported by the city’s former chancellor, Robert Hensler, who both agreed that blockchain would add immense value to Geneva’s economy.
The level of political support for blockchain in Geneva was underscored by the announcement that the Blockchain Research Institute, founded by Don Tapscott, author of the bestselling The Blockchain Revolution, will be locating their European office in Geneva.
‘The first jurisdiction to embrace blockchain and develop a regulatory model will reap the rewards in jobs and economic growth’.
Don Tapscott, writing for the World Economic Forum, 17 January 2020
WISeKey CEO & Founder Carlos Moreira joined Don Tapscott and Global Blockchain Business Council ambassador Dr Wei Wang on stage and announced that Geneva would be participating in a “Trust Triangle” with Toronto and Beijing. Carlos also gave us a sneak preview of a new not-for-profit Trust Protocol Association headquartered in Geneva. (Founded by BRI and WISeKey the TPA was formally launched at Davos last week.)
2. Soon you can expect to find your Swiss luxury watch on the blockchain
Everyone knows when it comes to luxury watchmaking, no one beats the Swiss. However, watchmakers have to constantly work to outpace the relentless innovation of global counterfeiters.
The Richemont Group, the third largest luxury goods company in the world owns many familiar brands from Cartier to Van Cleef & Arpels is using blockchain to not only harden the authenticity of their products but also to develop new ways of interacting with their customers and track the luxury secondary market.
For example, Richemond’s Vacheron Constantin, founded in 1755, is unique in maintaining an archive of all of their timepieces in their headquarters in Geneva. Their vintage watches command high value prices but their history has, until now, depended on a string of retained paperwork and communication with their archivists. Now buyers of vintage timepieces can access a variety of historic documents and certified photographs of their timepieces stored on a blockchain which can be readily accessed via a QR code and a mobile app. Not only does this aid in future authentication on the secondary market but delights discerning collectors.
More importantly, Vacheron Constantin can also develop new customer relationships anonymously with secondary buyers via their app, bringing unforeseen visibility to the fractured and lucrative secondary market. Read more here.
A similar blockchain project in production was showcased featuring Panerai timepieces.
With Richemont’s Head of Client Innovation, Léo Daguet and Cartier’s Global Innovation Director, Timothy Iwata Durie, attending the congress, we can likely expect similar projects to expand across the vast Richemont empire.
This follows a trend of luxury goods conglomerates eager to capture the value of blockchain to protect their products, supply chains and develop customer experiences. Richemont’s goliath rival, LVMH, is already trialling their own blockchain track and trace platform.
3. No more blockchain hype — corporations are now realising the value of blockchain
Blockchain has suffered from market hype, largely because of its conflation with volatile cryptocurrencies. However, the value of the underpinning technology is now well understood and the competitive advantages of its utility are being evaluated — fast.
From illicit trade and counterfeiting, to finance and supply chain, corporations and small businesses alike are discussing blockchain with clarity and foresight.
For example, Unilever in partnership with ScanTrust have delivered a blockchain-based solution that allows millions of customers in Vietnam to easily trace the origin of pork meat on the popular Knorr packet soup sold globally. Customers simply scan a QR code on the food packaging which reveals the farm the pig was raised in, when it was slaughtered and when the soup was produced and packaged.
This gives Unilever a significant advantage in this competitive market by assuring consumer trust. It works at scale (underpinned by the open source blockchain framework, Hyperledger Sawtooth) and we can likely expect to see similar projects across the 190 countries that Unilever operates in.
You can find a full technical case study here.
3. Stop talking about technology stacks, corporations care about the business case first and the technology second…
There are a plethora of technology solutions when it comes to blockchain. From the business-focused Hyperledger Foundation and its open source blockchain technologies to the public Ethereum network. However, corporations are focused on the bottom line — how will this technology secure a competitive advantage and win over our customers?
4. However, this means future interoperability is crucial, which will be solved by smart contracts
Insiders often talk about the ‘ledger wars’ — they attempt to bet on which blockchain framework, be it Hyperledger Sawtooth or Corda or others, will ultimately win. However, the industry needs to look further up the software stack towards the language layers where interoperability can be achieved.
In this case, smart contract languages like DAML, developed and open sourced by Digital Asset, who just raised a $30M Series C round to accelerate its adoption, will become more prominent. Such languages are focused on making the development of multi party business processes easy and interoperable.
DAML is already used to power a variety of high level projects, notably the wholesale replacement of the clearing and settlement processes of Australia’s Stock Exchange and Quantum Material Corp’s anti-counterfeiting platform that brings their nanoscale unique optical signatures to high value supply chains.
6. Real businesses are being built on open source technology today
Open source is the standard for corporations who want to leverage blockchain and distributed ledger technologies. The blockchain frameworks incubated by the Hyperledger Foundation — notably Hyperledger Sawtooth and Hyperledger Fabric — were particularly well represented, along with R3’s Corda Enterprise. It is no surprise that when it comes to emerging technologies, open source projects yield the best technological results due to their ability to capture relentless development talent from all over the world. However, open source is also crucial to solving imperative business problems around interoperability and auditability.