Welcome!

Cloud Security Authors: John Walsh, Elizabeth White, James Carlini, Xenia von Wedel, Mehdi Daoudi

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Machine Learning , FinTech Journal

@CloudExpo: Article

The #Blockchain Question | @CloudExpo #FinTech #AI #DX #MachineLearning

One of the challenges is determining, ‘when should I be thinking about blockchain?’

The Burning Blockchain Question - Should I Be Thinking About It?

Shiny new toy syndrome. We all see it, we all experience it. Who doesn't like the shiny new toy?  Whenever a new technology hits the high points of hype, everyone starts talking about it like it will solve all their business problems. Sadly, frequently without even looking at what problem they are trying to solve. Blockchain is one of those technologies. According to Gartner's latest report on the hype cycle of emerging technologies, blockchain has just passed the peak of their hype cycle curve. If you read the news articles about it, one would think it has taken over the technology world. The reality is, as Gartner put it, that ‘most initiatives are still in the alpha or beta stages' and ‘Enterprises are still deciding how to navigate this technology.'

One of the challenges is determining, ‘when should I be thinking about blockchain?' It's a question I get asked frequently, both from the business and from technologists as well. I have heard comments as far ranged as ‘I have no use for blockchain as my business has nothing to do with bitcoin' (a common misperception I wrote about a while back Blockchain - Why its so much more than bitcoin) to ‘I want to use blockchain to replace all my database systems' (a definite case of shiny new toy reaction).The reality is, as is usually the case, somewhere in between the extremities. Let's talk about some of the things that might be reasons to think about blockchain as potential tool to help solve a business challenge.

Chain of custody
This is one of my favorite concepts when talking about blockchain. Anyone who has ever watched a police procedural understands the basic concept of chain of custody. If I have a piece of evidence, I need to ensure I can document the entire chain of people/places where that evidence has changed hands. For it to be valid evidence in court, that chain can not be broken. There can be no gap, or gray area, as to who had control at any point in time. This parallels quite nicely into the business world. You have assets, whether they be physical or digital in nature. You need to be able to adequately and reliably track those assets. If that chain of custody is important to the business, and you have had challenges being able to track that chain of custody, then blockchain may be an option. Let take a look at a couple of examples.

  • Mortgages: We are all familiar with mortgages. Banks buy and sell mortgages to each other all the time. Some of you may remember a little problem with mortgages and the economy back in 2009? One of the many problems that occurred was that some banks were selling the same mortgage to multiple other banks. Suddenly home owners had multiple banks and mortgage companies claiming ownership of their mortgage and demanding payment (I had several friends live that problem). The challenge was forensically tracking down who was the true owner of the mortgage. Chain of custody, pure and simple. There is a great blog that discusses how blockchain might have helped in that situation here.
  • Supply Chain: Ultimately, if you think about it, supply chain is all about chain of custody. I have product that originates at its point of .creation. That product moves through various channels, handled by various entities, until it reaches its destination or consumer. For any industry, knowing where that product has been, where it currently is, and where it is going is crucial, and can be a challenge. Some recent examples across industries looking at blockchain as a solution include:

Chain of events
Chain of events is similar to chain of custody and could overlap (such as in supply chain, which as well as tracking the asset, is tracking events that occur with the asset during its lifetime). I call it out separately as there are other business scenarios specific to this concept. Chain of events is exactly like it sounds, tracking a series of events where it is important to know when the events occurred, and have a trusted way of verifying the event and where it occurred in the sequence of events. For example:

  • Coursework and transcripts: There has been a lot of discussion and investigation into using blockchain to help maintain and track course work, ultimately providing the information in college transcripts. University of Texas recently did a fascinating POC in that space
  • Electronic Health Records: Probably the best example of a chain of events. Your health care is a series of events, treatments, medications, tests, etc., that are sourced from many locations. Having a way of ensuring the valid sequence of those events is a critical part of your health care. I recently wrote about how that industry is looking to blockchain as a possible way of solving the challenge.

Trust and Multiple parties
Inherent in both of the discussions above is that there are always multiple parties involved, and, due to that fact, being able to trust the information is key to the success of the system. Invariably in most systems today, all the parties have their own copy of information, whether it's a transaction, an asset, or an event. Duplication of information, discrepancy in the information, causes significant time, resources, and money being spent on reconciling and re-confirming the information.

  • This challenge is well known in the financial services world, which is why there are third-party clearing houses whose sole purpose is to validate and reconcile business transactions, providing that extra level of trust needed between parties. This is probably the most well-known and understood use case in the blockchain space. (and why many third-party clearing houses are spending a lot of time and energy on investigating blockchain)
  • I recently had a conversation with someone in the specialty pharmacy space. One of the challenges they have is that multiple entities are involved in tracking the events that occur with a customer. The simple example they gave me was verifying health insurance. Throughout the process, as each business entity processes the flow for the customer, a check is done with the health insurance for coverage. Even if that check has been done previously, it's done again, because that check was done by someone else. This is time-consuming and costly. They are looking at blockchain as a way of possibly dealing with that rework and trust issue. This falls both into the supply chain as well as the EHR both discussed above.

Technology is the vehicle, not the destination
Those of you who know me, know one of my favorite mantra's is ‘Technology is the vehicle, not the destination, figure out where you want to go first, then choose the vehicle that will get you there.' Blockchain is a fascinating technology that could potentially have transformative impact on a variety of industries. That being said, it's still just a vehicle, just a tool. When to use it should be based on business needs and goals. The scenarios I described don't mean ‘If this happens you should use blockchain.' They are meant to be guidelines as to when you might want to be considering blockchain as the possible vehicle. As technologists, it's our responsibility to help the business understand what vehicles and tools are available, and what the tradeoffs involved are. I am thankful to have blockchain as one of those tools and options available to me. Where it goes is still up in the air, and time will tell if it is transformational or not.

More Stories By Ed Featherston

Ed Featherston is VP, Principal Architect at Cloud Technology Partners. He brings 35 years of technology experience in designing, building, and implementing large complex solutions. He has significant expertise in systems integration, Internet/intranet, and cloud technologies. He has delivered projects in various industries, including financial services, pharmacy, government and retail.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
"There's plenty of bandwidth out there but it's never in the right place. So what Cedexis does is uses data to work out the best pathways to get data from the origin to the person who wants to get it," explained Simon Jones, Evangelist and Head of Marketing at Cedexis, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CrowdReviews.com has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5–7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CrowdReviews.com is a transparent online platform for determining which products and services are the best based on the opinion of the crowd. The crowd consists of Internet users that have experienced products and services first-hand and have an interest in letting other potential buye...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
It is of utmost importance for the future success of WebRTC to ensure that interoperability is operational between web browsers and any WebRTC-compliant client. To be guaranteed as operational and effective, interoperability must be tested extensively by establishing WebRTC data and media connections between different web browsers running on different devices and operating systems. In his session at WebRTC Summit at @ThingsExpo, Dr. Alex Gouaillard, CEO and Founder of CoSMo Software, presented ...
WebRTC is great technology to build your own communication tools. It will be even more exciting experience it with advanced devices, such as a 360 Camera, 360 microphone, and a depth sensor camera. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Masashi Ganeko, a manager at INFOCOM Corporation, introduced two experimental projects from his team and what they learned from them. "Shotoku Tamago" uses the robot audition software HARK to track speakers in 360 video of a remote party. "Virtual Teleport" uses a multip...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics gr...