HolaTECH attended the first edition of “Convergence – the global blockchain conference” held in Malaga on 11-13 November. Convergence was backed directly by the European Commission with the collaboration of three bodies it supports to promote the understanding and evolution of blockchain at different levels – socio/economic, policy and regulatory – to maximise the general benefits of the technology, whilst guarding against possible abuse. As the name suggests its aim was to bring together stakeholders in the development of blockchain, to drive collaboration in the evolution of distributed ledger technology and increase beneficial adoption through common standards and interoperability.
And it was generally successful in meeting this objective for a wide audience around the globe comprising public and private sectors as well as acadaemia. A key basic lesson is that blockchain is not appropriate to all situations requiring storage and exchange of data. The World Economic Forum (represented at Convergence) has published guidance on this.
In a nutshell, blockchain should be used when clear value is obtained by doing so compared to non blockchain solutions, particularly through the immutability of data in blockchains. This can be in objective monetary terms or by the notional value to society through eradicating social “evils” or promoting best practices, for example guaranteeing the origin of raw materials. This is recognised by the United Nations as a mechanism to meet its 17 sustainability targets. It was accepted that in some cases there can be no absolute guarantees of raw material provence (but Government certification of source can go a long way to achieving this). Ultimately, we have to trust the data contained within a blockchain but we can do this with the safeguards that blockchain offers in terms of prevention and exposure of data manipulation. HolaTECH’s “Scan2Know” solution is designed to offer this value, whether as a stand alone consumer oriented tool to fight counterfeits or as part of a modular system for track and trace, allowing companies to offer guarantees of product/material authenticity and provenance to their partners in the supply chain and, ultimately, to consumers.
Naturally, brand protection and supply chain were the themes of two well attended sessions. The European Commission and the EU Intellectual Property Office are developing a pilot to drive the adoption of blockchain solutions within the supply chain and meet the needs of stakeholders – public authorities, regulators (including Customs), brands and the consumer. HolaTECH is directly involved in the initiative and work to date was presented and discussed. This discussion stressed the need for technological convergence (particularly facilitated by APIs and standards).
This concept of modularity was a major theme of Convergence; the need for cross industry collaboration and development of open systems, given that no one solution will meet all eventualities. That will allow different parts of the blockchain global infrastructure to, indeed, converge and interact. At a practical level that suggests interoperability based on common standards, appropriately regulated. In driving wider understanding of blockchain, the European Commission, through its work with the bodies involved in Convergence, as well as with other EU institutions, particularly the EU Economic and Social Council, wants to promote structured on-going dialogue.
As a final point, it would have been surprising not to debate privacy issues. And, perhaps surprisingly, a panel of leading data privacy lawyers felt that the current General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was robust enough to meet the challenges and (business) needs presented by blockchain adoption. The caveat is that technology needs to respect GDPR and cannot drive changes as it evolves!
Sadly we live in a world that is becoming increasingly swamped with fakes. These can come in two forms: fake news and manipulation of video images and the spoken word – which is a more recent but equally worrying phenomenon – as well as the more visible and an age-old problem of product counterfeiting, though the sophistication and quality of these latterly is rising.
We have all become accustomed to seeing fake products and maybe even have succumbed to buying one. The most visible types of products are bags, footwear, clothing, electrical equipment, watches etc.
So clearly today QR codes are still an intrinsic way of engaging with consumers digitally, economically and easily. However, one of the drawbacks of them has been the ubiquity of QR code readers, and free versions tended to come with annoying advertisements.
It’s no secret, we all want cheaper products since the real ones are so expensive but because counterfeit goods are not subject to the regulatory standards and production norms that govern legitimate products, their consumption can pose serious health risks. A large proportion of alcohol poisoning deaths in Russia for instance—which numbered over 17,000 in 2012—are thought to be caused by counterfeit beverages with hazardous ingredients.
For many, there is hope that banning straws is just the start of single-use plastics being phased out for alternative solutions.
And please look in the mirror and say “I can do that, I can start a company” and this generation of female leaders are busy creating that pathway so look up.