2 Weeks Ago

As more organisations turn to their lawyers for help and advice, lawyers themselves are struggling to recruit sufficient staff to fill their vacancies.

Many of the global law firms have been adding staff as demand has risen for data privacy and security legal expertise. Mary K. Young, a partner at Zeughauser Group, the law firm consultancy: “don’t focus on the crypto, focus on the blockchain. It will be a game changer.”

In Canada a new law firm is focusing just on CRYPTO believing that companies need help with this new asset class, a focus on the international challenges, without dwelling on national issues.

Lawyers advising on Blockchain technology will be need multi-disciplinary skills, especially those advising organisations in the financial sector. These lawyers will need financial services, data privacy, regulation, and technical knowledge to be able to effectively advise clients.

Given the recent price rises in many Digital Assets (partially fuelled by the rise of BitCoin and Ethereum), a number of firms that issued Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are now worth considerably more than they were a few months ago.

As we start to see regulators offering clearer guidance, as the SEC has recently, will plaintiffs engage law firms to start action against those organisations who would appear to have broken the law, when they originally carried out their ICO?

It has long been a challenge for artists to protect their intellectual property (IP), and ensure that they are paid fairly for their creations.

As we see more and more IP being created and circulated digitally, this has become a bigger challenge. There is now a massive market online: a billion people use Instagram, to post photos and images for example.

Some of these images “go viral” and are re-used globally by individuals and sometimes by corporations for their own marketing purposes, with no fees paid to the originator. While the likes of Getty images has armies of lawyers to protect their image rights, it is very hard for individuals to take action for themselves against those who use their IP.

However, this is beginning to change. Pinterest’s first employee has just started a new business:
Markerplace, to address this problem. Using Blockchain technology one is able to create, in effect, a digital record enabling an image to be sold on a limited-edition basis.

Another company, called File Protected, has a Blockchain solution too. This firm has been set up by Andy Rosen, a world-renowned photographer who was deeply involved with punk music in the 70’s in the UK and then moved to LA, producing videos for the pop music industry in the 80’s and 90’s. Andy has built a Blockchain-powered platform which enables IP rights to be transferred securely and transparently, allowing licensing agreements to be created and fees to be monitored using digitally.

This is a growing market as corporations are increasingly engaging with people on Instagram to help promote their products and services, using their photos and endorsements as part of these firms’ digital marketing strategy. There over
8 Million people using Instagram who have 50,000+ followers and who could potentially monetise their Instagram accounts.

Intellectual Property
Performing Arts
The USA government has announced that it intends to increase the amount it spends on Blockchain technology to $123 Million by 2022, compared to $10.7 Million in 2017, which would be a 1,000% increase!

Meanwhile, US investment into Blockchain technology outside of the government is expected to swell by over $37 Billion by 2025 from $1.8 Billion in 2018, which would be a compound annual growth rate of over 44%.
In Europe, a survey reported that it would spend by 2022 $3.5 Billion on Blockchain technology, and it cited as well as (financial services), manufacturing, resources, and distribution as the key areas in which it believes money will be invested in.
In spite of the naysayers, who have decried Blockchains and Digital Assets, we are starting to see governments, and multinational commercially-minded corporations investing in this technology and new asset class.

Blockchain technology is impacting our lives in many ways, and while there were lots of headlines in 2017 and 2018 about the price of Bitcoin and how Ripple had risen in value in a 12 month period by over 37,000%, large corporations have been busy behind the scenes.

Indeed, as the link at the end of this article illustrates, big businesses across the globe have been investing and trialing various projects to ensure that they are not left behind.

Blockchain technology offers a powerful combination of better security, greater efficiency, reducing costs of transactions and in many cases, reducing the number of parties which need to be involved in a transaction - and/or movement of goods and services.

What is interesting is that when you look at the list Forbes has compiled, typically of $ Billion businesses, they are from a wide variety of industries. It is more of a case of which business sector is not going to be transformed or impacted by Blockchain technology and, as CB Insights reported, listed 50 different industries and how they could change as a result of using Blockchain technology.

One way to look at Blockchain is to use a sporting analogy. In a game of rugby or football (soccer for our US readers), a player kicks the ball, then another player passes the ball and then passes to another team member, and then to another before they hopefully score. All these transactions are recorded in real time and all players and spectators can watch the game. Blockchains, in effect, digitise a series of shipments, transactions, and movements in real time, with much greater transparency between the relevant parties in the same way video records a football match. Once the parties have agreed what has happened (“blocks”) is real, the new blocks is added to the chain - hence Blockchain. Therefore, in effect, it enables the recording of transactions accessible to all parties involved and so no one can disagree or alter the information (who did “the throw-in” and who “scored”).

At any stage of the game and after it, everyone has an accurate, commonly-agreed picture of every move throughout the match.


3 Weeks Ago

The giant Dutch bank, ING, has called upon the cryptographic skills of Stanford University in California, University College London, and start-up Blockstream, to offer greater privacy when transferring Bitcoin, by hiding certain transaction details.

ING are calling this new method ‘Bulletproof”, and claim it is 300 times more efficient than some other methods of sending Digital currencies. Interestingly, this new method may be extremely helpful as a way to record data using Blockchain technology and still comply with GDPR regulations across Europe.Keeping user-information and data private has been a real challenge for exponents of Blockchain technology, and has led to some organisations turning to private or permissioned Blockchains.

Bulletproof Blockchains could also be ideal for security tokens, especially where the underlying asset is a publicly quote equity or may contain price-sensitive information. It would appear that, as it is now possible using ING’s bulletproof system, it could be possible to carry out transactions using a Blockchain, but not disclose the price of the asset, who is the buyer or seller, or how much is being transacted.

This would be a real breakthrough and would help to allay compliance officers’ concerns within asset managers and banks about having price-sensitive information in the public domain.

Enthusiasts of Digital Assets believe that if user's transactions can be made private and not available to prying eyes, it might help minimise scams and frauds, and attract more investors.


4 Weeks Ago

KT Corporation (KT), Korea’s largest telecoms company, is launching its new 5th generation internet service and will be using Blockchain technology to provide additional security, which they believe is important especially for the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market.

The reason they are focussing on IoT is, that according to KT, 99% of IoT devices have been subject to some form of hacking, but KT hopes that by using Blockchain technology they can make IoT devices more secure.Korea has been at the forefront of Blockchain and Digital Asset adoption, and KT had only a few weeks ago announced it was to trial the K Token in a city called Gimpo, in Korea. The K token is designed to help residents and shops in Gimpo to be able to carry out transactions faster and more efficiently, and interestingly, is also going to be used to help in social and community projects.

There has been a considerable number of patents being issued by companies on a global basis for applications using Blockchain technology, recently including Accenture, IBM and Thomson Reuters.

Accenture has filed in the US, a Blockchain patent around the interoperability of Blockchains, which a key concern for corporations as they do not want to be ‘locked-in’ using a Blockchain that will not interact with other Blockchains.

IBM’s patent involves the use of data and Blockchain technology for self-driving cars to asses nearby drivers’ behaviour. Collecting data from a variety of different sensors and then calculating the most - likely maneuvers of nearby vehicles/drivers.

Thomson Reuters patent, which is filed in the USA, is around storing identity-related data securely on a ‘token‘ on a Blockchain. 

One of the reasons companies register patents is to have evidence that they own Intellectual Property (IP) and so increase the intangible assets they possess. It is then possible, depending on where the company is based, to enjoy significant tax advantages. Depending on which country a firm files a patent, it is possible to claim tax relief going back for up to TWO years on most of the expenses relating to the creation of the patent, and associated research and development costs. This is significant, as even for small start-up companies it may be possible to offset not just corporation tax, but VAT and employment taxes such as National Insurance.

The chart shows the dominance of China in terms of Blockchain patents. One of the reasons for applying for a patent in China is that the income derived from an activity that has a patent enjoys a lower potential tax as the burden is reduced from 25% to 15%. Source: Coin Telegraph.

However, while The Chinese government is desperately keen to be an IT powerhouse, a significant % of the patents that are filed in China do not get granted. In 2017, China filed over 1.3million patents, which was an increase of over 600% from the 204.00 in 2008. To offer some context there were 525,00 patents filed in the USA in 2017, which was an increase of 20% from the 429,000 filed in 2007. However, of the 1.2 million Chinese applications only 26% were actually granted, while in the US over 50% of applications applied for, were successfully granted.

Companies globally are often valued on their intangible assets, such as their Intellectual property and brand value, so having a number of patents helps when they look to raise capital, or when they come to sell the business. This, coupled with generous tax breaks, may help explain the rise in patent applications around the world, although if you wanted to be cynical, patents are being sorted to gain some control over Blockchain technology for the future!


A Month Ago

A new UK start-up, International Property Network (IPN), have completed what they believe to be the first blockchain based property transaction, involving banks, conveyancers, agents, legal teams, buyers and sellers using Blockchain technology.

U.S-based law firm Squire Patton Boggs, U.K-based law firms Ashurst and Clifford Chance, Barclays, Commerz Real, SBI Nihon SSI, BBVA, Swiss Re and Royal Bank of Scotland are among 40 companies on IPN’s platform as they all seek to reduce the costs of real estate transactions while significantly speeding them up.

IPN has also been working with HM Land Registry’s Digital Street project to explore how they are able to use Blockchain technology to improve how it interacts with different parties.

IPN claims that cost-savings could be as high as $160 Billion p.a. as the current system is very reliant on analogue, predominantly paper-based, systems. The ability for many independent parties to work together on a property transaction in the same online environment progressing it in real time is revolutionary and could reduce the time to complete property transactions from months to weeks.

IPN, which harnesses R3’s Corda Blockchain, say recent trials have illustrated that businesses can use the platform within a few days without the need for complex changes to their back-office systems. This is because rather than creating yet another information storage, it provides a secure means of transacting with users’ existing technology - with each party retaining control over their own data.

This not only removes some of the GDPR challenges and other compliance issues, but also allows the various players to retain control, and their independence, while removing the cost of continuous re-checking and reconciliation of facts and information by each party at its ‘border’ - which adds much delay, cost and friction.

The platform could prove to be significant internationally too. It has the potential to greatly assist many projects globally which are looking to tokenise real estate portfolios in an effort to have greater transparency and liquidity, whilst also making property investments available to smaller investors via fractionalisation.

Real Estate
MISE has reportedly invested over 40 Million Euros into Blockchain projects, as Italy looks at using its wine industry to bring greater transparency to products made in Italy.

It is hoped this will empower the fight against counterfeits and fraudulent products claiming to be made in Italy, made elsewhere.

Fraud is a real challenge for the wine industry: It is estimated that the Italian wine industry loses over Euro 2 Billion due to wine fraud. This has encouraged Ernst and Young  (EY), to use Blockchain technology to help vineyards via its EY Ops Chain, originally launched over two years ago.

It is not just Italian vintners who are turning to Blockchain. Bufala Campana, famous over the world for its mozzarella, is using Blockchain technology and QR codes that can be scanned, using a mobile phone, to trace the products’ provenance.

One of the first companies to use Blockchain to trace the origins of a product was Everledger, which brought greater transparency to the diamond industry.  It is now turning its attention to wine, using Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology, via tiny silicon chips within labels and corks. These can be scanned, and the bottle’s provenance traced, giving consumers confidence they are buying wine as stated on the label.

Food & Beverages
IMF MD Christian Lagarde recently chaired the meeting – “Money and Digital Payments’ where the CEO of Circle (part owned by Goldman Sachs) extolled the benefits of a sovereign currency using Blockchain technology, allowing globally trade not rely on central clearing institutions.

Meanwhile in MFU- Japan’s largest bank has confirmed that it is to issue its own Blockchain powered digital currency later this year. Is it believed that digital wallets will replace physical wallets in the future.

This announcement follows Mizho’s statement that it was launching a digital currency, J Coin, pegged to the Japanese Yen, which will use QR codes scanned from a mobile phone. So far, Mizho have signed up 60 banks onto their new “Banking Digital Currency Platform”.

The Japanese seem to be taking a more accommodating stance towards Digital Assets, with proposed legislation being discussed that would relax their tax treatment. Which may explain why we are seeing a number of initiatives in Japan being announced.

In the UK, we have seen the announcement that Coinbase are to launch a VISA debit card that will allow conversion of digital assets to fiat and withdrawal cash from ATMs/ cash machines. The intention is that the card will be rolled out to other European countries in the coming months. Although users will be disappointed to see that transactions charges of 2.49% are to be levied, while usually there are no transactions charges using other types of debit cards.  However, an interesting feature of the new Coinbase debit card is that they will notify users if their passwords are found on other websites, automatically blocking the Coinbase card as a way to protect card users.

Digital Currency
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) was set up after WWI, in 1923, to help make global trade more efficient. It has signed an agreement with a Singapore-based business Perlin to use its Blockchain expertise.

John Denton, the ICC’s current secretary general, before his appointment said. “We think this might be one which we can look back on in 100 years and say the ICC shifted blockchain in a way that enabled the private sector to function more effectively in a sustainable way and actually create more opportunities for people.”

Bold words about a technology with challenges of scalability and adoption? However, with multinational corporations like Coca Cola, McDonalds and Amazon as members of the, along with its 45 Million other companies in over 130 countries, the ICC has the global reach to raise Blockchain’s profile.

The ICC is thought to be looking to use Blockchain technology to help with cross-border transactions, traceability and transparency of goods, and to improve the efficiency of how supply chains function.

Supply Chain
In cities across the world, Blockchain technology is being used to help tackle the challenge of mountains of rubbish which we create in our throw-away culture.

For example, in Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, Blockchain technology is being used to create a platform designed to cut costs for customers applying for permits, from several days to only a few hours. This platform validates, processes and store transactions about Sharjah’s rubbish.

Plastic bank has been using Blockchain technology for a while to track, monitor and record various projects aimed to recycle plastic waste. As multinational-corporations, are increasingly coming under pressure from shareholders to prove that their Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives have real value, Blockchains can, and indeed are, helping. Plastic bank is working with the SC Johnson program in eight villages in Indonesia, where tokens are being given to people to encourage them to collect and recycle plastic. These tokens can then be redeemed for clothes, food, medicine and even books. So not only is SC Johnson funding an initiative to help clean the environment, but also making a real difference in remote communities.

Shell is offering bonuses to staff if they are able to suggest ways to reduce its carbon footprint. We will likely see more incentives and gamification in the form of tokens to nudge and encourage clients to change behaviour, and create less carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, in Bangalore Blockchain technology is being used  to record complaints, creating a more transparent record. So when residents report and complain about rubbish, there will be a database, that cannot be tampered with, available for all to see about when and where the rubbish is reported, and follow up actions.

Initiatives using Blockchain technology like those in Indonesia and Bangalore, are not going to change the world, but will have a very positive impact on the local communities and hopefully can be replicated elsewhere.

Environmental Services
In a speech at the inaugural Council for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in Abu Dhabi, the UN aviation president claimed that air traffic is going to double up in the next 15 years.

He believes Blockchain technology can make the industry more efficient. Handling the huge amount of data and security measures required to transport passengers across the world is a real challenge for the airline industry. However, by using technologies such as facial recognition, interacting with government databases, and having access to information in a secure manner and real-time globally via a Blockchain, offers some solutions. It is not just dealing with passengers that it is thought Blockchain can help, but also to reduce the huge amount of paperwork and customs documentation required in the air cargo industry.

Then there is the necessity to ensure that aircraft spare parts are genuine, and as increasingly airlines and their spare parts suppliers start to use 3D printing to manufacture spare parts to avoid the need for lots of expensive parts to be held in multiple locations globally, there has been discussion about the need for “A Chain of Trust”. This refers to the use of Blockchain technology to protect the intellectual property (IP) when using 3D printing, by issuing a license.

Consider a situation where none of the parties (the airline, the printing service provider and the parts' manufacturer which owns the IP) do not trust each other. One needs to determine who owns the IP and whether the part has already been licensed by someone else.

It is helpful to think of Blockchain technology as a skeleton, infrastructure, from which other technology hangs, as it facilitates data to be stored and distributed in a highly secure manner enabling, where required, Artificial Intelligence, 3D printing, facial and biometric identification.

F1 is partnering with  Anomica Brands to develop an online game using Blockchain technology, called F1 Delta Time.

Anomica, which is known for its gamification, AI and Blockchain expertise. F1 intends to use tokens so that players, during the online game, can collect and use them towards upgrades. The first phase of the game, based on F1 race tracks, is aiming to be launched in May 2019.

Watched by over 1.5 Billion people in the 2018 race season, and with over 63% of its audience under 45; presumably, Delta Time is designed to attract and appeal to younger viewers especially in Asia, where economic growth is strong and global brands which typically sponsor F1, want to grow their presence.

The global gaming market is reported to be worth a staggering $137 Billion with over 2.3 Billion gamers. The F1 brand (one of the world’s best-known brands) is highly attractive to get the attention of gamers and a slice of this growing market.

F1 is no stranger to video games. Indeed, its drivers use them for training as a simulator, and last year Enzo Bonito, who had only used video games, actually beat an Ex F1 driver on a real race track in Mexico.

Is it too far a stretch to foresee that in time tokens, used in the new Delta Time online game, could be used either on F1 race tracks around the world or be traded on some form of digital exchange? What is certain is the gaming market will be monitoring this new F1 game, which incorporates Blockchain technology, as any unique marketing angle that appeals to this young expanding market and quickly copied.

Computer Games
While the recent rally in Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies has attracted much attention, and with over 100,000 searches on Google on 2nd of April for Bitcoin in one day, what is possibly more important is the announcement from China’s Cyberspace Administration.

It has just approved 197 firms which use Blockchain technology, including some of China’s most significant organisations - Tencent, and Alibaba - as China looks to review the opportunities and challenges that Blockchain technology can offer.

Allegedly created in response to some unregulated Initial Coin Offerings (ICO’s) carried out in China, is this list. As a result of this, companies must now be reviewed by the Chinese State Internet Information Office to be on the list. Absence from the list could indicate that a company is running unregistered offerings.

In the same way, we have seen firms like JP Morgan create their own Blockchain Quora to meet the criteria relevant to them in the financial services sector. How long will it be before the Chinese develop their own Blockchains and encourage more widespread adoption, similar to the way they have restrictions around the use of the internet for their citizens?

Over 100 organisations from a selection of different industries have signed up to the newly-founded International Association for Trusted Blockchain Applications (IATBA), spawned from a series of meetings held by the European Commission (EC).

The new members are developers, suppliers and organisations who are using Blockchain technology, to develop a "predictable, transparent and trust-based global framework".

The IATBA is relocating to Brussels, and it intends to work with governments and regulators to establish guidelines on interoperability (how each different Blockchain shares data) while promoting an open and inclusive global model of governance for the use of Blockchain technology. Members so far include traditional firms like IBM, Accenture, Barclays, BVVA and Deutsche Telekom, as well as companies active in the Digital Asset space, such as IOTA, Ripple, ConsenSys, and Cardona.

The EU has been monitoring Blockchain developments for a while, and in April 2018 it established the European Blockchain  Partnership that now has 29 members, with Hungary being the latest to join, as it believes the use of Blockchains will be at the heart of public services. To date, 141 Million Euros have been allocated by the EU to Blockchain related projects, and potentially up to 340 million Euros could be committed before the end of 2020, to explore how best to use this technology.

IBM has cited five reasons to use Blockchain – ‘greater transparency, enhanced security, improved traceability, increased efficiency and speed’. Interestingly, in a survey carried out by Capgemini, 93 per cent of UK companies, when asked why they were looking at using Blockchain technology, said it was to save costs (compared to a global average of 89 per cent). Secondly, 87 per cent was reducing risk followed by increasing revenues, at 85 per cent. 

The fact that organisations like IATBA, European Blockchain Partnership and established global brands like IBM, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Fidelity Investments, Deutsche Telekom, Mercedes Benz, Jaguar Land Rover amongst others all exploring and promoting the opportunities that Blockchain technology offers, we will see more and more applications impacting on our everyday lives.

The use of Blockchain technology, though not appropriate for all organisations, offers a powerful tool to cut costs, improve efficiency, increase transparency, and hold and share data using cryptographic security.

In an increasingly digital ecosystem, where the flow of money, data, identity and information is ‘in play’, we need secure digital solutions.

Central Banks have been encouraged to look at Digital Currencies by IMF MD Christian Lagarde, saying, “digital currencies issued by central banks can reduce the risk of global financial instability by eliminating the psychological motivation behind a bank run”. 

Blockchain technology, along with Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, Big Data and Machine Learning, will all help as economies migrate from paper, manual, and analogue processes to digital processes.

Several countries have recently announced their digital intentions, including UAE / Saudi Arabia, Iran, Venezuela, Cambodia, Lithuania and the Eastern Central Caribbean Bank.

Central banks have quoted various reasons as to why they are looking to issue their own digital currency – to tackle their black economy, to reduce their reliance on the “petrodollar”, and to improve the efficiency of transferring money internationally.

Digital Currency
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Blockchain (APPG Blockchain) that has been running workshops since January 2018 and has helped increase the awareness with MPs, about the challenges and opportunities that Blockchain technology offers.

The APPG Blockchain events, coordinated by the Big Innovation Centre, has this week organised a showcase in Parliament for ten companies to illustrate how Blockchain technology could impact, and in some cases how it is already changing the way that business is carried out.

The companies explained how they were using Blockchain technology to help improve transparency and traceability, reducing transaction costs of transferring money in the UK or overseas.

The UK is the only Western country to meet the United Nations foreign aid target donating $13.9billion i.e. 0.7% of the UK GPD. It has been calculated that it costs the UK government £13million in foreign exchange and banking costs to send this aid overseas. This cost could be cut significantly using Blockchain. Likewise, the technology can be used to help in the insurance, healthcare, energy, education and finance sectors.

Blockchain technology and Digital Assets are not only able to help in the commercial world, but can have a positive influence on society. In a recent article, Breakermag looked at how 73 Blockchain initiatives are having a positive impact for social good.

The report stated “… in the food and agriculture sector small farmers get left out of the market, food waste abounds, and sometimes we get poisoned by lettuce. The Blockchain solution is -  Supply chain tracking and according to the Stanford Graduate School of Business report, there are many organisations in Europe, Australia, and U.S. aiming to help people in places like sub-Saharan Africa.

It is encouraging that UK government is gaining exposure to businesses that are engaged and using Blockchain technology as it cannot afford to let the UK get left behind. In a recent survey, the UK was second only to the US in terms of job opportunities, of the 5,700 jobs being globally advertised currently that include the word Blockchain in the job description - the UK had 1,015 nearly 20% positions available.

LVHM, the owner of Louis Vuitton and over 60 luxury other brands, is France’s largest publicly quoted company, worth over $180 Billion.

It has been working on a Blockchain based platform to track its luxury goods from the components it uses to the final items being sold in shops.

The global online counterfeiting economy was estimated to be valued at over $323 billion in 2017. According to the Global Brand Counterfeiting Report 2018, luxury brands incurred losses of $30.3 billion through internet sales. So it’s no surprise the LVMH is looking at ways to tackle this loss of income. However, it is offering a solution for itself and its competitors.

LVMH is working with Microsoft and ConsenSys to develop a Blockchain built on Quorum, JP Morgan’s version of Ethereum which, according to reports, is due to be released in May or June 2019.

The platform is designed to offer proof of authenticity of goods and able to trace their origins from raw materials to merchants. Included the second hand markets. This platform aims to offer protection of creative intellectual property, exclusive offers and events for each brands’ customers, as well as anti-ad fraud.

LVMH intends to offer the platform in white-label form to other luxury brand competitors by vesting its intellectual property in a separate entity in which other firms can have equity ownership so allowing global brands such as Burberry or Gucci to use the platform so challenging the international fake market of their luxury brands.

Interesting to seeBlockchain technology being used to solve an industry-wide problem, which could mean a more robust solution and better outcome.

Intelectual Property
The World Bank has backed a pilot venture in Haiti to help empower farmers, to tag fresh produce ensuring transparency and traceability - making it possible to track food from farm to table.

There are numerous examples of governments exploring Blockchain technology use. Examples include India looking to offer Blockchain-based payment services for overseas workers, allowing them to send money home faster and more cheaply.

In Singapore BMW, Intel and Neilson are helping the government by offering Blockchain training, technical and mentoring. It is thought that once more people understand the benefits of Blockchain technology it will encourage more mainstream use.

In New Zealand, the innovation agency has demonstrated that it is supportive of Blockchain technology as it recognise the potential benefits for companies looking to stay one step ahead.
As with all new technology there are going to be challenges, and no government has all the answers, but it is encouraging that many governments are at least being supportive and exploring how Blockchain technology can be used.

Government Relations
America’s CFTC has been looking at regulation and the adoption of Digital Assets.

Significant as the International Settlement Derivatives Association (ISDA) has just published its Common Directive in an attempt to try and initiate an industry standard conventions on how derivatives are traded and processed.

The current system is manual intensive and the industry faces increasing regulatory costs. ISDA is looking for ways to introduce greater automation in the industry.

The derivatives market is said to be worth as much as ten times the world GDP, being valued at over $1.2 Quadrillion and was considered to be responsible for the onset of the 2008 financial crisis. If ISDA is successful with its Common Directive, it could make Smart Contracts much easier implement leading to much greater use of Blockchain technology in the derivatives market.

Regulators should welcome the greater transparency and traceability that this could bring. Paradoxically there are concerns that public Blockchains could enable “bad actors” to manipulate or falsify transactions when this is feasible only in DLP / permissioned chains.

CFTC in the USA, like a number of other regulators elsewhere , is trading a fine line as it offers guidance as to how to embrace Blockchain technology and Digital assets. If they are too draconian countries more receptive to the use of Blockchain technology will have a competitive advantage resulting in a loss of financial services revenue to laggards.

Digital Assets
Western Union, with 500,000 branches globally and revenues of over $5.5 Billion, is a significant player in the international remittance market - charging 5% to 9.5% to process transactions.

The Global remittance market was valued by the World bank at over $613 Billion in 2018, an increase of  7% since 2017.

This means the very poorest workers i.e. cleaners, nurses, security guards, etc. in more developed countries who are sending money back to loved ones are paying up to $60 Billion in banking and foreign exchange costs p.a.
It is hoped that  Blockchain technology will enable the same money transfers at a much lower cost.

Western Union has just announced a venture with TransferTo, which itself saw tremendous growth of over 900% in 2018, processing over $2 Billion of transactions. TransferTo has been using the Stellar Blockchain (as used by IBM). This venture allows Western Union to start digitising its remittance business,  which ought to allow it to compete with many of the FinTech firms we are seeing being established, using Blockchain technology, offering similar services.

Financial Services
United parcel Services (UPS), a global courier company established in 1907, which had revenues of over $64 Billion in 2017, has been looking at Blockchain technology for a while.

In Q3 2018 it joined The Blockchain in Trucking Alliance as it looked to improve transparency and efficiency among consumers, merchants and other parties that use its services.

UPS had filed for a patent in August 2018, which involved storing information dispatch to destination, creating a shipment plan, including payments, using Blockchain technology.

UPS’s Airline subsidiary, said at the end of December 2018, they were still looking for a “Killer App”, so not looking to implement Blockchain technology in the near future. However, UPS has now announced that it has entered a partnership with Inxeption to create Inxeption Zippy. A Blockchain-based e-commerce platform which helps merchants set up, sell, and ship products online. 

The B2B e-commerce market is set to reach $1.8 trillion by 2023, according to Forrester research. This new platform will offer manufacturers, distributors, and wholesalers the ability to create their own branded e-commerce website .

The platform enables the listing, marketing, and selling of products. According to an official press release the Blockchain component of this platform is designed to safeguard sensitive information such as individual pricing and negotiated rates.

A good example where Blockchain will be implemented without consumers realising the technology is being harnessed, yet they will be able to enjoy the benefits of greater efficiency and data security.

In an effort to help homes become both greener and energy producers Ikea are testing solar panels on the roofs of a miniature wooden village, built to 1:50 scale and incorporating Blockchain technology.

The concept is designed to track and improve the traceability of electrical power that a building is able to produce, for ‘microgrid” tokens.

The mock up energy self-sustaining model village is powered by solar panels enabling, households to sell any excess electricity or indeed able to buy some from their neighbours, if required, through a Blockchain.  All of the buildings are hardwired together to create a microgrid for energy sharing and trading in what Ikea claims is a fully scalable model.

According to a report by Mckinsey, “By 2020 the number of smart cities will reach 600 worldwide, and 5 years later almost 60 percent of the world’s GDP will be produced in them. Digital technologies could become the engine of economic progress, and blockchain, without a doubt, could be one of them”.
A number of countries are already exploring similar ideas. China has already set plans in motion to create hundreds of smart cities by 2025, to support its growing population.

Estonia has started integrating Blockchain technology into many of its government services, including its legislative processes, healthcare and ID and energy data management.
Meanwhile, Dubai has created it’s ‘Smart City Initiative’ which aims to transform the city into the world’s first Blockchain powered city by 2020.

Digital Technology