Last week we were fortunate to attend Untraceable’s Blockchain Futurist Conference in Toronto. It was an awesome event. We met a lot of great people from the community who are working on some really exciting projects.
The conference acted as a barometer of sorts. It gave us a sense of where the industry is today and where everything is going.
Here are our main takeaways from the conference:
Bullish turnout in spite of bear market
Last week the crypto markets nosedived. BTC and ETH reached their lowest prices all year. Not to mention, the alt coin market took it on the chin, too. In spite of that, attendees and speakers were very bullish on the space. It wasn’t a matter of “if” the industry would continue to grow, mature, and ultimately explode, it was more a matter of “when”.
It’s still soooooooo early
The space is evolving at a frenetic pace, but we’re still a long ways away from mass adoption. Problems associated with scalability and usability must be addressed.
A handful of speakers and attendees drew comparisons to where the Internet was back in ’89-’91, when commercial ISPs began to emerge and helped make the Internet accessible. Others feel we’re closer to ‘94-’95 when Netscape hit the scene and made it easy for anyone to browse the web. In any event, we still have a long ways to go.
DApp usability *must* improve asap
In order for blockchain technologies to reach mass adoption, dapp usability has to improve dramatically. Most dapps today require far too many on-chain transactions. This imposes a financial burden on users and it also wastes their time as they have to wait for their transactions to be processed.
Perhaps more importantly, the barrier to entry for new dapp users is simply too great at the moment. In order to use a dapp today, you have to:
- Setup your wallet
- Secure your private key
- Convert your fiat into cryptocurrency and purchase your cryptocurrency through an exchange (after going through a KYC process)
- Make a deposit into your wallet
- Familiarize yourself with tools like MetaMask and the concept of issuing transactions and consuming gas
This makes it very difficult to grow the user base. It leads me to believe 2019 will be the year we start to see real innovation on the usability front.
Security Token Offerings (STOs) are here and they’re going to be big
Perhaps the biggest news to break at the conference was the release of Polymath’s tokenized securities platform. Their platform is using the newly developed Security Token standard (ST-20) in order to issue security tokens in a regulated way.
Through Security Token Offerings (STOs), indivdiuals and companies can issue ST-20s that are backed by assets such as a company, real estate, artwork, or shares in a fund. Like any other security, the value of a particular ST-20 token can increase or decrease on the basis of the perceived value of the asset.
The idea is that ST-20 tokens will become the default form for all financial securities. As the Security Token Standard team puts it:
“In the same way that the ERC-20 standard helped to create the boom in utility tokens, the Security Token standard will help create the boom in security tokens. All participants in the ecosystem will be able to speak the same language and become confident building on this new and exciting technology.”
*Real* enterprise solutions are coming
Along with the rise of STOs, the conference made it evident that enterprise distributed ledger technologies are being ushered in that will radically change how many different industries operate today. We’re now seeing corporations, startups, and governments make headway in the following sectors:
- Accounting — Smart, distributed ledger solutions that enable enterprises to streamline their accounting practices, and make them more cost-effective, resilient, and error-free. Corporations in this space today include BNY Mellon, Deloitte, PwC, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and Oracle.
- Trade finance — Distributed ledger solutions are being used to improve financial operations which include issuing letters of credit, clearings and settlements, factoring, and credit and insurance exportation and validation. Corporations in this space today include Bank of America, Barclays, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, IBM, Wells Fargo, UBS, and Walmart.
- Supply chain management — Supply chain management solutions are at the forefront of most of the existing enterprise blockchain efforts being worked on today. They’re being used to reduce costs and inefficiencies, as well as introduce transparency and combat against fraud. Corporations in this space today include Deloitte, Ernst & Young, FedEx, IBM, Nestlé, and Walmart.
- Data provenance and securitization — Organizations have started to use blockchain-based solutions to track the provenance of data across their networks. For instance, the healthcare community has begun to explore using data provenance solutions to store patient health data and enable secure sharing of the data with healthcare providers (e.g., EMRs / EHRs). We’re also seeing data provenance solutions being used to assist with compliance, risk verification, and business reporting. Corporations in this space today include Deloitte, HeatlhNautica, IBM, and Philips.
- Digital identity — National and enterprise identity management systems today are inefficient and error prone. Enterprises have started to pilot blockchain-based solutions in order to introduce decentralized identity management solutions that can be used to securely authorize and verify a user’s identity. This can assist with role-based access control (RBAC) solutions and permissions management. Corporations in this space today include Accenture, AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, Spring, T-Mobile, Verizon.
- eGovernance — We’re now seeing smart contracts be used to institute prototypes of new governance models known as decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). DAOs can be used to facilitate an entity’s cooperative decision making in an efficient and transparent way. Corporations in this space today include Barclays, IBM, JPMorgan, and Philips.
A look ahead
All in all the Futurist Blockchain Conference was an existing opportunity to measure the current state of the industry. It was wonderful to see so many new, smart people with varying backgrounds and perspectives rapidly entering the space.
We’re still a ways away from mass adoption, but it’s coming. It will be interesting to see the paths we take in order to get there.