How blockchain is accelerating emerging markets

At a recent workshop I was asked to provide examples of new markets that blockchain technologies are creating. I could not answer that off the cuff and on further reflection I remembered back to the days of the internet and world wide web when the same question was being asked. Historically we now understand terms like e-commerce, e-markets, e-business etc…

I recalled that this new disruption to the then current ways of doing business evolved and did not come pre-packaged with the technology; as a then emerging technology the innovation and disruption evolved as critical mass in users occurred, the technology became more robust, access to the internet improved, speed of the internet improved, and of course some confidence developed among users, enterprises and governments. It was then over to those visionaries to ‘create’.

I recall my company, which was at the leading edge of B2B e-commerce in Australia surged forward thanks to the improvement in the internet speed (we started with those squealing 56k modems.) and the acceptance of online payments. The latter took around 9 years to gain some meaningful acceptance and uptake… but here we are… and our first questions now is generally ‘can I pay for that online please?’

Blockchain is again an emerging technology that experience tells us will create new markets and new ways of doing things… what all of them are, or what will be the absolute game changer is yet to be seen … but there is plenty of evidence of the disruption and innovation already…

Emerging Markets

I was reading an interesting article on Medium that discussed how and why blockchain is accelerating the emergence of some markets. In it they identified criteria that are specific for emerging markets:

1. Low income per capita
2. Rapid Growth 
3. High Volatility 
4. Low trust in the government 
5. Openness to innovation and disruption

Leapfrogging

This is an interesting article that also describes a strategy known as Leapfrogging where emerging markets instead of following the traditional path, are choosing new alternative technologies that can speed up economical or cultural development of the country, organization or industry. Check out this article here:

New Use Cases

We are seeing the term ‘Use Case’ widely used in the blockchain space. I suspect it will be from these exciting new use cases that we could well expect the rise of a truly disruptive event and likely new ways of doing things. There are numerous articles and YouTubes that describe how a wide range of sectors are transitioning to blockchain technologies, cashing in on the tenets of blockchain. This is a nice article by CB Insights on a range of interesting Use Case. Checkout this article here:

Disruption

In our course we describe disruption as totally changing something, not just incremental innovation. In my mind the big disruption will come with the development of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence… but that is for another article.

Thanks for reading
Marcus

Getting Visibility over the Blockchain

Functional Requirements Specifications?

It is important to remember that a Functional Requirement Specification (FRS) is not a Technical specification. From the ‘applied blockchain’ perspective, we talk often about developing a Functional Requirements Specification. We are in fact specifying what the blockchain network is required to do … and not what technology is required to make this happen.

Distinguishing between what a system does and how it does it provides a separation of ‘functional’ and ‘non-functional’ aspects, and a framework for developing a ‘high level’ Functional Requirements Specification that will inform developers of the behavioural expectations of the system.

Daniel Drescher describes a really neat and simple way of getting visibility over the functional requirements. He proposes that a system can be partitioned in two ways:

  1. Application vs Implementation
  2. Functional vs Non-functional aspects

In this article I wanted to provide some further clarification around ‘Functional vs Non-functional’. This becomes particularly important when preparing an FRS. The developer needs to understand not only ‘what’ the system needs to do (function) but ‘how‘ it is going to do it (non-functional). This will inform the developer of the expected behaviour of the function. Let me give you an example:

Functional aspect: Sending emails
Non -Functional aspect: Messages are sent fast

Let’s look at a typical functional aspect of a blockchain now:

Functional aspect: Clarifying Ownership
Non-functional aspect: Highly available, reliable, pseudoanonymous

Clearly in both instances you could apply this definition:
Functional aspects focus on what is done, while non-functional aspects focus on how things are done.

It is fair to say that most users are concerned with the functional aspects of the application layer of a system, while non-functional aspects of a system, in particular those of the implementation layer, are less visible to users.

Let’s talk about some typical non-functional aspects that describe the quality or expected behaviours of the blockchain:

  • Highly available – no down time
  • Censorship proof – no one dictates the content of a block
  • Reliable – can be trusted to clarify and transfer ownership correctly
  • Open – Is open to everyone without excluding certain users
  • Pseudoanonymous – identifies ownership without revealing identity
  • Secure – is secure on both transaction and whole system levels
  • Resilient – Withstands a wide range of attacks
  • Keeping integrity – free of logical errors

Consider these non-functional aspects. I hope this helps with your approach to developing a Functional Requirements Specification.

Marcus….

Blockchain & IoT

I was trawling through the IBM website, as you do… and came across a blog on their Iot Blockchain Service. Now this article is not meant to be an advertisement for IBM, but rather it illustrates that significant work is being done in developing robust infrastructure to support IoT applications, using distributed ledgers in the form of blockchains.

For those of you considering use cases for blockchain and how it fits with IoT then this article will provide some insight. IBM has labeled the benefits as S.A.V.E. Here is a summary gleaned from their blog.

  1. Status – When you’re collaborating in large eco-systems of partners who deliver product, process, or code, you need to know what was delivered and when. In connected cars, which makes up thousands of suppliers of hardware and software, you need to share real-time information on the status of things as they move through the distributed system.
  2. Accounting – Knowing once an item has been received or an action taken, it’s posted to the blockchain. Recording transactions through blockchain virtually eliminates human error and protects the data from possible tampering. Keep in mind that records are verified every single time they are passed on from one blockchain node to the next. In addition to the guaranteed accuracy of your records, such a process will also leave a highly traceable audit trail.
  3. Verify – Falsified inspection certificates, substandard materials, safety hazards, these are some of the challenges faced by multinationals who have materials sourced from different suppliers and producers. IoT Blockchain Services could ensure the original inspection certificates are not false and enable approval through consensus.   Blockchain can also provide accurate ‘birth to death’ of a raw materials (copper, steel, aluminum) in the supply chain, which can make the task of finding substandard products much easier.
  4. Execute – Knowing once an item has been received or an action taken, it’s posted to the blockchain and we use business process automation to execute a Smart Contract.  A typical blockchain comprises a digital and distributed ledger for monetary transactions but what if we used asset data from an event to confirm transactions between parties and automate payment. That’s where smart contracts come in.

Whilst I cover off the Internet of Things in the course, here’s a nice explanation from Forbes that gives us some interesting statistics on why IoT should be on our radar.

In the course I have provided some examples of how IoT is being used across enterprise use cases. Libelium is a great source of inspiration for how objects can be connected to create value and solve problems. Combine this with S.A.V.E. benefits and it is not difficult to see the potential and future of IoT…

Commercialising public blockchains

Early adopters of blockchain have predominantly been building their models on private or consortium blockchains. Seems to be a far easier transition from a centralised system I expect, both technically and culturally and in terms of scaling.

At one point I was wondering about the future of public blockchains beyond crypto then I read this great article about the Huobi Group and their venture into developing a public blockchain using open source code for the decentralisation of financial services.

So what does decentralising of financial services mean?

The Financial Stability Board (FSB) provides a great explanation.

There are a number of different types of decentralisation in financial services. These vary in the degree to which they affect different segments of financial services, but generally take three broad forms:

Decentralisation of decision-making. This involves a move away from a single trusted financial intermediary or infrastructure towards systems in which a broad set of users is able to make decisions about whether and how to undertake financial transactions.

Decentralisation of risk-taking. This involves the shift away from the retention of risk (e.g. credit and liquidity risk) on the balance sheets of individual traditional financial intermediaries towards more direct matching of individual users and providers of financial services.

Decentralisation of record-keeping. This involves a move away from centrally held data and records, towards systems in which the ability to store and access data is extended across broader consortia of users. Verification of such data and records may also be more distributed, for example via consensus mechanisms.

Whilst it is very early days, the vision and strategy is clear. Of particular interest is their leveraged model and their aim to be ‘regulator friendly’ where regulators can be active actors in the ecosystem.

I am keen to follow this project to see how they actually address scaling and hash rate with the PoW consensus protocol… but maybe that is a technical problem for others to solve as we work in the area of strategy!

Check out the post here

The public blockchain lives on!

Marcus

Beyond the blockchain hype

.. I had a flashback to the late 80’s and the development of the World Wide Web … yes that ‘dot com’ era.

In those heady days I joined the party with a start up that focused on B2B e-commerce. Of course I had the usual sceptics and nay-sayers insisting that the internet and online applications were a ‘flash in the pan’. Of course there were the plethora of scammers, but the idea stayed true and stood the test of time… as good ideas generally do.

That company went on to become a shining light of innovation in Australia, regularly written about and feature by the Financial Review and AIIA in their publications around what was happening in the ‘e-world’

That flash in the pan idea carried on for a further 15 years until I sold ou, ready for the next big revolution… which came in the form of blockchain and distributed ledgers.

It was with an element of deja vu that I read this article in Forbes. where mState CEO Rob Bailey discussed the adoption of blockchain among the startups’. He says:

“Last year we had industry temporarily dominated by hype, insane funding rounds, unproven technology and prolific scammers,” Bailey told Forbes. “This year we have the opposite—an industry with more measured expectations, more proven products and founders building amazing things.”

Forbes published its first Blockchain 50 list of enterprises generating revenue or valued at more than $1 billion.

It is certainly worth checking out the Forbes 50 List to get some insights into how companies are embracing and adopting blockchain and distributed ledger technologies… traditional middlemen are re-inventing them selves to create value and avoid potential disintermediation…

A good read and I encourage you to grab a coffee and spend a few minutes to have a read.

regards
Marcus



Where’s the value in applying blockchain?

It is true that blockchain is not a solution for everything. The saying “if it ain’t broken then don’t fix it” has a lot of truth. There are decisions to make about the cost benefit of transitioning existing centralised systems (that work) to a blockchain solution. However will this future proof the system or organisation?

In this article I have outlined the four main ways that blockchain can create and deliver value. I think there is something here for everyone, regardless if you are an existing organisation with systems, or a start up with a blank canvas. It all comes down to one question … are you creating or providing compelling value?

We know that blockchain’s structure and capabilities support end-to-end automation and easy data sharing across companies and more recently across chains, and can significantly reduce manual processes. Additionally transaction histories can significantly improve regulatory and audit compliance, decreasing the associated costs and improving response times. Blockchain technology enables “smart” contracts, with machine readable logic that requires no human interaction.

Let’s take a peek at these four sources of value that blockchain use cases can deliver, and which businesses can mix and match in different ways:

  • New Business Models. Blockchain-supported innovation can help businesses create new revenue streams. In the energy sector, for instance, blockchain platforms can help individuals and entities trade excess energy stores autonomously and in near real time over the grid. Blockchain innovation can also allow product companies to move up the technology stack and expand their portfolios with higher-value service offerings, such as track and trace (provenance) or services based on data captured by blockchain.
  • Operational Efficiency. Blockchain enables process automation and the removal of unnecessary intermediaries to help organisations improve productivity and performance. It also supports audit and regulatory compliance, generating significant time and cost savings. The use of smart contracts, for instance, can automate routine business functions, such as invoice generation and reconciliation, customs clearance, and property title transfer. In the banking sector, , for example, financial institutions could generate $billions in savings by applying blockchain to streamline and automate many back-office activities.
  • Risk Mitigation. Companies can use blockchain-related applications to improve tracing and authentication across the supply chain. Better provenance and transparency throughout the supply and distribution chain, for example, could reduce counterfeiting and associated health and safety issues from fraudulent parts, thus mitigating financial and reputational damage.
  • Social Impact. Blockchain platforms can be used to support a wide variety of initiatives, including voting and election management and ethical sourcing. The Democratic Republic of Congo, for instance, is using blockchain capabilities to build a new e-government platform that will help the country manage its natural resources and social welfare programs. Estonia is pioneering the use of blockchain for securing citizen information and is planning to adopt the technology to support other public welfare initiatives, such as those relating to personal ID and health records.

The disruptive implications of blockchain are clearly far reaching…

Reference: Article by Boston Consulting Group – Capturing the Value of blockchain

Why Individuals & Companies Should Educate Themselves on The Blockchain

I read an interesting post on Blockgeeks that is bang on and provides a compelling case for real education in blockchain. Here is my summary of the post.

Simply, they don’t have any choice.

#1 To Not Be Left Behind

Let’s take a look at the spectacular demise of Kodak as an example.

Kodak owned the photography industry. The term “your Kodak moment” became synonymous with photography. Sadly they went into denial that the digital photography revolution was in fact happening., and paid the price!

Steve Sasson, the Kodak engineer, actually invented the first digital camera back in 1975. “But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, ‘that’s cute—but don’t tell anyone about it,” says Sasson.

Kodak failed to see digital photography as a disruptive technology.

Fear Sets In …

A former vice-president of Kodak Don Strickland says:

“We developed the world’s first consumer digital camera but we could not get approval to launch or sell it because of fear of the effects on the film market.”

The management was focused on the film success and they missed the digital revolution after starting it, subsequently filing for bankruptcy in 2012.

#2 Upcoming Interoperability

We are entering the era of third-generation blockchains. Blockchains like Cardano, ICON, AION identify as third-generation. One of their key objectives is achieving interoperability.

Interoperability … enabling interaction across chains, big data oracles and legacy networks.

What does that have to do with education?

Interoperability enables more companies to incorporate and interact with blockchain companies. Therefore, they will be looking to hire people who have some education or qualification in applying blockchain technologies.

With the current lack of talent available right now, they are upskilling and educating their current workforce in the foundations and application of the blockchain technology. This will make sure that they do not follow the Kodak example.

#3 Upskilling vs Hiring

Let’s take a look at some data this report prepared by McKinsey Global InstituteIt puts the upskilling vs hiring debate to rest as it is far more economically efficient to upskill existing employees than to hire new ones.

According to the report, approximately 14% of the global workforce (equating to around 350 million workers) may need to switch occupations as digitisation and automation disrupt the world of work. The significance of this change is “akin to coping with the large-scale shift from agricultural work to manufacturing that occurred in the early 20th century in North America and Europe, and more recently in China”.

Retraining and upskilling the existing workforce is an urgent priority, and is the responsibility of corporations and individuals and not the government.

Let’s look at some of the results of the survey :

66% of the companies around the world believe that addressing the potential skill gaps is at least a top 10 priority, with 27% believing that it is a top 5 priority if not more.

Seventy percent of executives at companies with more than $500 million in annual revenues see technological disruption over the next five years affecting more than 25% of their workers.

Only 18% of the companies believe that hiring is the only way to go forward, while an overwhelming 41% feel that retraining is the way to go.

The surveys clearly show that companies feel like re-training their employees is the way forward in the upcoming digital age.

At least 58% of those polled believe that enterprises need to take charge in addressing these skill gaps. Not the federal government, not the state government, not even education institutes. It needs to be enterprises.

Why Should Individuals Educate Themselves on Blockchain Technology?

Currently, there is a enormous demand for blockchain-related jobs.

# Lots of Money in the Space

Firstly, there are institutes set up by early investors and hence made huge ROI in their investments. Plus, there are startups who have raised ridiculous amounts of money from various ICOs. ICOs are an extremely controversial topic enabling companies to raise millions of dollars in super fast time.

ICOs have raised twice the amount of money they did in the entirety of 2017, in the first five months of 2018 alone! Also more institutional investors have entered the space to fund these projects as well.

So, what does all this mean?

There is a new growing sector which needs more manpower, however, there aren’t a lot of people out there who have the required qualification, skills and knowledge. As a result, because of the demand, the salaries offered are usually extremely attractive.

#2 Remote Flexibility

According to another study done by Softchoice, they found out the following two facts:

  • 74% of employees say they would quit their jobs to work for an organisation that would allow them to work remotely more often, even if their salary stayed the same.
  • Compared to Baby Boomers, millennials are twice as likely to feel more productive and better-equipped working at home than at the office.

Also, according to this report by CNBC,

“more than two-thirds of people around the world work away from the office at least once every week, according to researchers.”

Remote jobs are advantageous for both employees and employers.

For employees it:

  • Increases efficiency and productivity
  • Decreases stress and increases overall happiness

For employers it:

  • Helps save up on office real estate prices
  • Reduces the overall employee turnover

This is another area where blockchain companies outdo their legacy peers.

#3 Being Part of Something Revolutionary

There is no doubt about the fact that blockchain technology is revolutionary. We have a system where an asset isn’t owned by a single person/entity and the entire system is transparent(if needed) and untamperable. So, keeping this in mind, who doesn’t want to be part of something this revolutionary?

Here is what we know:

  • Enterprises need to take charge of the increasing skill gaps
  • Individuals can heavily benefit from learning about the blockchain technology.

Here comes the bad news. Remember the McKinsey survey that we were discussing a little earlier? According to it,

“only 16% of private-sector business leaders in this group feel “very prepared” to address potential skills gaps, with roughly twice as many feeling either “somewhat unprepared” or “very unprepared.” The majority felt “somewhat prepared”—hardly a clarion call of confidence.”

The Uber Academy offers focused short courses and partners with selected RTO’s and colleges to deliver the actual accredited qualifications in Applied Blockchain. We believe that the courses and qualifications on offer will definitely give your career a huge boost. So, do not miss out on the Blockchain Revolution. Check out our educational programs now.

Building momentum with your studies

Maintaining that initial excitement and commitment to gaining your qualification is not a given!

Like everything worthwhile it takes discipline, planning and persistence to achieve your objective. Study is absolutely no different. As a veteran trainer & assessor in vocational education, I find the single biggest issue facing students is in building and maintaining their momentum.

We all face the realities of work, personal and family commitments, but is in how we address these that separates the achievers from the rest. I am going to share some of my experience from the many students I have worked with over the last decade. It is my hope that some of what I am going to share will resound with you and help you achieve your qualification!

Take Responsibility

Getting you through your studies is not the responsibility of your educator. They are there to share their knowledge and provide clarity around new concepts. Take ownership of your educational outcomes and the benefits that you will derive from them later… after all it is your qualification and it is you who is the beneficiary of the knowledge and qualification that you will earn.

No Pain = No Gain

Let’s face it… if it is easy, then how much actual value will the qualification carry, and what benefit will obtaining your qualification really have? It is my experience that things that challenge us not only give us an enormous amount of satisfaction, but move us forwards as human beings, and set us apart for the rest.

Study requires discipline

We all tend to take on way too much. We try and apply Time Management strategies to keep on top of everything… I taught and spoke often on Time Management, and can share with you that the big mistake most people make is having an expectation that Time Management Skills are all about making time to do more and fit everything in our given available hours.

WRONG!

Good Time Management starts with identifying what is important, and then getting the ‘right’ things done. By that I mean understanding creating a framework that gives you focus. Break down your year into maybe 3-5 things you want to focus on … these are not measurable goals, but rather the areas where you will work; anything that does not fit under these areas should be ignored or maybe set aside if you have spare time. This will take some discipline for sure, as there will be many ‘seemingly valid’ interruptions where people will steal your time and head space for their purpose and gain. Here is an example of areas of focus to get you thinking about a likely framework:

  1. Be excellent at what I do
  2. Future proof my career
  3. Attract new clients; or work towards a promotion
  4. Be part on the next revolution (no not overthrow a government!)

Everyone’s list is different, but it must resonate with you and what you want your life to look like.

Build momentum

If studying and gaining that qualification fits into your framework (eg future proof my career), then you need to apply some discipline and give yourself the required time to get that study done! If you have determined that you need 8 hours each week to achieve your qualification, then start setting time aside each week… consider 2 hours initially then build to your 8 hours… build momentum. Once you start seeing your progress, then it will be much easier to maintain that momentum. Take responsibility and apply some discipline to your week.

REMEMBER: YOU are the beneficiary of your study… so don’t make your future the responsibility of someone else.

What is Applied Blockchain?

It maybe easier to describe what Applied Blockchain is not!

Applied Blockchain is not about developing blockchain code or building a blockchain network or ecosystem, but rather how blockchain technology is applied to a new or existing business model.

Applied Blockchain addresses the strategy and planning that sits behind a blockchain implementation… There is much work to plan how the tenets of blockchain can be applied to create value… yes you heard correctly … it is fundamentally about value creation.

Applied Blockchain is a specific area of focus for people considering a career in the emerging technology. Whilst the technologies are constantly changing, many of the fundamentals in merging blockchain technology with business models remain just that… fundamental. Fundamentals such as ‘ crafting a disruptive business model using blockchain‘ or ‘developing governance policy for a blockchain network or ecosystem’  and ‘ developing functional specifications for a blockchain network or smart contract‘ . These are just some of the areas that must be addressed to ‘apply blockchain’.

It is said that ‘Applied Blockchain’ addresses strategy, planning and implementation … the Why & How blockchain can be implemented rather than the technical development and deployment of a blockchain network.