Blockchain technology can help people, businesses and governments perform a variety of activities such as banking more efficiently and securely.
However, several key issues need to be addressed, including its ease of use. These were the experts' opinions in a panel discussion entitled "Blockchain and the Decentralized World" at SGInnovate's Deep Tech Summit, which was held on the second day of Singapore's Innovation and Technology Week (SWITCH).
The annual SWITCH, which took place from 17 to 20 September 2018, was organized by the Singapore National Research Foundation and Enterprise Singapore to bring together experts from technology, innovation and businesses from all over the world.
Blockchain applications are decentralized, which means they are not controlled by a central authority but instead use nodes in a network to validate transactions and record data.
"With this radically decentralized infrastructure, systems can be built for faster interactions"
said Joseph Lubin, founder of the blockchain software software company ConsenSys and co-founder of Ethereum, an open blockchain-based software platform that allows developers to create and deploy decentralized applications.
Furthermore, since each blockchain transaction creates a block of information that is added to the chain of records (hence the term "blockchain"), the malicious actors should modify all blocks of information simultaneously to tamper with a single transaction. The computing power required for such an attack also grows in tandem with the size of the network.
"[In] laws or contractual agreements, the decentralized blockchain may be impossible to subvert "
Mr. Lubin said. Meeta Vouk, director of technology giant, IBM's research center in Singapore and its chief digital officer in blockchain technologies, has agreed and added that any transaction with intermediaries can be interrupted.
Other participants in the discussion noted that blockchain will force incumbents into various sectors to be more efficient. Martin Lim, Electrify's chief operations officer, a Singapore startup that uses blockchain to allow users to purchase electricity from energy retailers and other consumers, said:
"For a long time, energy has been centrally controlled, you build a massive power plant and then sit there and make money, and there is no incentive to improve, and decentralization will change that."
Humayun Sheikh, founder and CEO of Fetch.AI, which aims to build a self-learning blockchain network that will allow cameras, cars, sensors and other participants, both human and non, to communicate and exchange data and services, said blockchain is necessary in the saturated world of today's data. With the development of new technologies, there has been an explosion of data and centralization is lagging behind in managing this.
However, in the blockchain sector, several improvements are needed to maximize the appeal and utility of technology for people, the participants said.
"There are many blockchain projects now that are fundamentally fundamental blocks." We will see many of these technologies put together in more complex systems that are more interesting to consumers, we really need scalability "
Mr. Lubin said.
Mr Sheikh added that making technology easy to use could help accelerate absorption. This means building not only the framework for blockchain but also tools so that anyone can participate in this decentralization. Mr. Lim adhered and went on to suggest that the blockchain should be forgotten, similar to how people today use the Internet without thinking about the underlying structure.
Mr Soeren Duvier, managing director of Blockchain's Asia office in the Transport Alliance, who seeks to develop blockchain standards and education for the freight industry, says that collaboration among developers would be beneficial.
"However, bringing people in the supply chain together will be a challenge because they are competitors, after all"
he noted. Furthermore, more people need to be educated about technology to handle regulatory and compliance issues.
Emma Cui, managing director of Longhash Singapore, a network of blockchain incubators and moderator of the panel discussion, also recounted his bad experience with the different types of blockchain wallets and purses.
"We are still in the nascent phase of the industry and even the leading products have daily users that count only in hundreds or below, and we also need to address key challenges such as scalability, user experience and regulatory issues. However, people want to regain control of things like the ownership of their data, and blockchain makes this possible.The people are enthusiastic about the blockchain and we will continue to see many projects to push out products of work. "
Featured Image Credit: panelists share their views on blockchain at the Deep Tech Summit, a SWITCH 2018 partner event (Photo: National Research Foundation Singapore)