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A Blockchain Story: Why We Named Our Cryptocurrency Koin

If you have been living on planet earth or anywhere in the vicinity, I am sure you have probably heard about blockchain or cryptocurrencies. One in particular springs to mind: Bitcoin. This particular crypto coin has seen exponential growth in investment and has been the hot topic to discuss with friends and family. Although you probably know what Bitcoin is and may even have dabbled in buying some coins for yourself, many are not aware of the backbone technology that makes Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies so special. This technology, known as blockchain, is empowering new groundbreaking innovations in currencies, and also has the potential to revolutionise many other practices. In this post, I’ll give you a sneak peak into some of these new uses for blockchain as well as how we are attempting to use blockchain internally at Outware.

What is a Blockchain

A blockchain can be simply explained as a ‘chain’ of ‘blocks’. Each block typically contains a ‘hash’, which is a pointer to a previous block, as well as a timestamp along with any extra data that is relevant to the specific coin or use case. For example, Bitcoin would store metrics such as the amount of coins transferred but a service for verifying your identity might store their name and birth date. Blockchains also come with one extra feature that makes them particularly useful, an open distributed ledger. This means that any record of an event is copied to multiple locations (‘nodes’) in order to verify that the event did in fact occur. Think of nodes as witnesses to a crime scene and their memories are the blocks. We could interview the witnesses to conclude that Professor Plum did in fact use the candle stick to murder Colonel Mustard in the dining room, but how do we know the witnesses’ memories are accurate?. While memories, paper, or even digital records are not always foolproof, blocks in a blockchain are verifiable and permanent. The fact that they are shared across many nodes means we now have multiple witnesses that can all give us the exact same answer.

Because blocks are shared to multiple nodes, the system is inherently decentralised, meaning that an individual or even a whole company no longer has centralised control or power to modify or change information within the blocks to suit their interests. Modification of one block would ruin the cryptographic magic used to verify individual blocks, resulting in a corrupt ledger, and breaking the entire chain. The result of these combined features is what we now call a blockchain. Using the unbreakable mathematics of cryptographic algorithms, this system is practically unbreakable and is a seemingly perfect candidate for the future of currency.

Uses

Blockchains have many other practical uses aside from keeping our digital dollars safe, most of which have yet to be explored to their full potential. The advantage of blockchain is that information recorded to the chain can be verified without exception. Netki and ShoCard for example, are using blockchain to verify people’s identities by having a verifiable record of ID cards safely stored within a blockchain, allowing for easy verification. In Ghana and Honduras, you can already utilise the power of blockchain to secure land titles, including GPS coordinates and photos. This is particularly useful in these countries where land fraud is an all too familiar problem. The list of potential uses is growing fast as new startups try to claim their patch of the blockchain industry. In the not too distant future, we could be using blockchain to store the entire internet that would then be securely distributed across multiple servers and possibly multiple planets.

For those wishing to bet on the future, Augur is a decentralised prediction market platform that is making betting fairer by cutting out the need for a person to centrally manage the market, removing any risk of the manager’s bias or corruption. It also gives anyone the ability to create their own prediction for a small fee, and allows anyone to bet on the outcome and potentially win some Ether, another cryptocoin worth mentioning. Ether has gone one step farther than Bitcoin and created an electronic currency that can have rules, known as ‘smart contracts’. These smart contracts could replace a lot of the paper-based contracts we use today, such as Minor’s Trusts. By using smart contracts distributed along a blockchain, Ether removes the need for a trustee to manage money in a trust. These examples are but a mere handful of the innovations we are yet to see emerge from blockchain tech. Prepare yourself for a future where your life and all its encompassing data is securely stored and distributed over blockchain.

Our experience

Here at Outware, we have also been experimenting with blockchain in our internal innovation team, known as the ‘Sandbox’. Recently, I had the opportunity to work on a small project in the Sandbox team as a UI/UX Designer exploring blockchain technology. We started thinking big, but soon realised that reinventing the internet might be a bit out of the scope of what we could achieve as an MVP. Instead, we started with the basics, creating a cryptocurrency for our employees that could be earned as a reward for outstanding work or career achievements, and redeemed for prizes or employee benefits. By popular vote, this currency has been dubbed ‘Koin’. Yes, with a ‘K’ (luckily we avoided the name Koiny McKoin Face).

With a name in our minds and an idea to execute we started designing and coding our dream app for future employees to trade Koins. We agreed that the first concept needed to be lean, but we ruled that as a minimum we needed a feature that would give people a reason to want to earn and trade Koins. Inspired by Augur, we came up with the idea to create a small prediction market that could be used to bet on tech-related news and events. “Will Bitcoin’s price rise above $50,000 in 2018?”; “Will Apple release a plus sized iPhone X?”. These are the types of bets we came up with to kick off the prediction market feature. Placing a bet on one of these predictions would cost a small amount of Koin, but if it turns out to be correct, then the winnings will be split amongst all those who guessed correctly. Thinking into the future we came up with ideas such as a Koin-enabled vending machine where employees can trade their Koin for something physical, or even allowing staff to purchase extra leave with their Koin (waiting to see if that one will get approval). We have yet to officially launch Koin internally but if you’d like to see a brief prototype I’ve made, jump onto our dribbble account and check it out for yourself.

All in all, I have learnt a lot about this new impressive tech and enjoyed working with the Sandbox team to come up with some fun ideas. I look forward to seeing the future uses for blockchain and all the industries it could potentially revolutionise.

Joshua Kenzie is a Visual Designer at Outware Mobile.

Originally published at www.outware.com.au.

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At Arq Group, we create unforgettable experiences, solve complex challenges and provides seamless, end-to-end solutions for businesses big and small.

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Joshua Kenzie

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