Blockchain within the Internet of Things (IoT) is a ‘natural fit’, but there are plenty of obstacles which need to be overcome.
That’s the verdict of Sally Eaves, of Team Blockchain, an independent group of experts aiming to help organisations make sense of emerging technologies, from blockchain to artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, as well as create return on investment and improve competitive advantage.
Speaking at the Cisco IoT World Forum in May, Don Tapscott, author of Blockchain Revolution, spoke of the concept of a ‘ledger of things’ and an ‘internet of value’, riffing off the IoT phraseology.
Like Tapscott, Eaves (left) says the finance sector will be the most impacted by blockchain short term. “There are so many costs that can be removed through blockchain, and coupled with new entrants coming into banking as a result of PSD2 [the second payments services directive] across Europe, they will actively use this new technology and not be handicapped by legacy system complexities,” she tells The Block.
“There is a critical role for blockchain in respect to data security, privacy and identity management which crosses sectors and organisational types,” adds Eaves. “In particular and coupled with PSD2, this will help individuals to gain better transparency, protection and control of how their personal digital assets are utilised and, indeed, monetised.”
Finance and payments is a given, but where else can blockchain be disruptive? Healthcare is an area Eaves is particularly keeping an eye on. “In the medium term, there are huge opportunities in the healthcare sector,” she explains. “As populations increasingly age, we need to find ways to be more efficient with healthcare budgets using technology as an enabler, and thereby allowing a greater focus on illness prevention, rather than cure.”
Likewise with insurtech, where blockchain is ‘already beginning to disrupt long established business models’, as Eaves puts it. Eaves gives two examples of companies that are of interest in this area; InsurETH, a company which offers flight insurance powered by Ethereum and Oraclize, where if there are delays funds will be released avoiding the faff of claims procedures; and Plex.ai, a company which provides an automotive telematics platform for a distributed model of insurance combining blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI).
Of course, there will be many problems to overcome in the interim; take the recent news around the hard fork of Bitcoin as proof that not all entities – and with blockchain, these are plentiful – are on the same page. Eaves shares similar concerns. “There remains a lot of talk about the technology itself but perhaps not enough with regards to the purpose and the specific problems it can solve, underpinned by actual case studies demonstrating blockchain in action,” she says. “I believe this is critical to build engagement and enable the broadest audience to understand why blockchain matters and how it is personally and professionally relevant.
“Reach and mainstream adoption will be constrained unless issues of scalability can be addressed,” adds Eaves. “The growth of a reliable and scalable ecosystem will necessitate international collaboration, a duty of care that looks ahead at the potential unintended consequences of this transformational technology, and lastly that precious commodity, time.
“However, with the conversion of hype and early proof of concept designs into reality, whereby individuals and organisations can see the tangible benefits, I am confident that greater, scalable and sustainable levels of cross-sectoral adoption will occur.”
You can find out more about Team Blockchain here.