Busted! Blockchain is no panacea for IoE

Amsterdam: This week an international group of Internet of Everything (IoE) savvy people from different industries explored how to monetize, manage and build trust. The discussion about blockchain’s applicability to drive IoE’s growth was particularly lively.

It wasn’t just that the A-lister panel has strongly-held views – so did the audience. The panelists were Jon Matonis, Co-founder, Founding Director, Bitcoin Foundation and VP of Corporate Strategy, nChain, Alexandra Mikityuk, New Media, Blockchain and Tech expert, T-Systems, Assaf Ben Or, Co-founder & CEO, Solarchange, and Alpesh Doshi, CEO, Fintricity.

Scalability is huge factor

Initially blockchain was pitched as the panacea [a universal solution]that could be used right across IoE, but the audience challenged the scalability for all applications and especially pointed to the bandwidth requirements for some – blockchain is already having an impact on the consumption of electricity too. The audience was keen to discuss realistic criteria to help identify which applications could use blockchain for IoE.

The diverse and interesting debate ran way over and nobody cared. It was and followed by a workshop, run by Daniel Heinen from Capgemini’s Supply Chain and Transformation practice, to explore blockchain’s potential to enable monetization and trust in specific applications, depending on their characteristics. Different groups plotted applications on graphs, where the horizontal axis was monetization and the vertical one was trust, then shared and discussed their work.

A good number of participants argued that monetization “was a red herring [distraction]” when evaluating how suitable particular applications are for blockchain and smart contracts. Rather, the criteria should be to balance costs against the level of risk and importance of trust. For example, the integrity of voting systems is paramount. Blockchain could be used to authenticate digital identities and prevent fraud, but monetization would not be a factor.

Finding the sweet spot

Teams felt that the cross-over where the perceived risk and trust would improve through the application of blockchain assessed against gains in operational efficiencies is likely where the sweet spot is for the effective commercial application of blockchain in IoE.

Another example was storing personally sensitive information, such as passcodes or health data. The consensus was that blockchain may not be the most appropriate application as a single hack could seriously compromise people and blockchain’s decentralized nature presents more opportunities to access the data.

Some teams also looked how blockchain could help resolve conflicts needing arbitration. Indeed, how to address conflicts in the context of managing data platforms and federated platforms had surfaced as a hot topic earlier in the day.

Blockchain is not always about exposing data

There is a tendency to equate using blockchain in applications that expose open data or manage supply chains, but as many participants noted, existing technologies could be enhanced to manage supply chains effectively with much less overhead.

In summary, blockchain is not a panacea for IoE applications. Rather we need to consider carefully how and where it should be applied to enhance trust and reduce risk including potential future arbitration, offset against operational effectiveness, costs and simpler ways of achieving the same results.

It was a great debate and workshop. Our thanks to all the participants.


    About The Author

    VP, APIs & Ecosystems

    Joann’s career spans over 20 years in technology, ranging from consumer electronics, telecommunications mobile switching to OSS/BSS and more recently to industry collaboration. Joann is currently the program lead for TM Forum’s Open API & Ecosystems initiative, chair of the API Steering Committee and lead for the Open Hack program. Joann has significant experience leading complex large scale transformation programs for a number of organizations.

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