Across two days, attendees at the 14th Ritossa Global Family Office Investment Summit in Dubai heard from businesspeople, academics and innovators on the exciting projects which are set to transform the world, with blockchain – and Bitcoin SV in particular – featuring heavily.
Switzerland’s Bitcoin Association Founding President Jimmy Nguyen gave a keynote presentation on Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS), while he and members of the Bitcoin Association-led delegation hosted or featured on a number of blockchain-focused panels at the event, all of which explored the value that can be delivered by blockchain technology in a variety of different contexts in sectors as disparate as commerce and healthcare.
Blockchain and Bitcoin SV were featured early and often on the first day of the conference, with Nguyen introducing the topic by way of a keynote presentation on Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS).
He started by pointing out that while most of the excitement surrounding Bitcoin is currently based on its speculative value or, at most, its use as a ‘store of value’, Bitcoin has the power to transform everyday life, if only we learn to use it. This is what Bitcoin SV is doing: focusing on the utility of blockchain as a tool to store, manage and access data.
‘Data is the most valuable commodity, and many people would say it is the new oil of the digital economy,’ Nguyen said.
‘There’s so much of it across the world now, it’s mind boggling. Every day, over 306 billion emails are sent, 500 million tweets, and on Instagram 95 million photos and videos – every day. Each one of you in this room is creating every second, whether you know it or not, 1.7 megabytes of data, and that means every day over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created.’
This all has tremendous value, but for this value to be realised, Bitcoin and blockchains generally must be made accessible: governments and companies need to be able to understand the great value that is being offered and be shown the vision of how it can be integrated with business. This, said Nguyen, is where Blockchain-as-a-Service comes in.
‘Blockchain technology is too complicated for most companies and government agencies to fully understand and easily implement. We need a layer between the blockchain and enterprise/government applications, which are BaaS infrastructure platforms, to make it easy for normal applications to plug into the blockchain without doing complicated work,’ he said.
Nguyen pointed out that this approach is happening on Bitcoin SV right now. UNISOT’s enterprise supply chain management platform is being built so that the same technology that allowed SeafoodChain to track seafood throughout the supply chain can be used in other contexts and by other businesses. What began as CryptoFights, a competitive video game in which every move is recorded on the blockchain and users play for real amounts of BSV, has since become a platform called FYX, which allows other game developers to easily integrate their products with the Bitcoin SV blockchain.
This, Nguyen said, is the Bitcoin SV story: open, scalable, integrable, interoperable. It is why there has been successful use cases which are not only delivering the value of their intended purpose, but have gone on to become pillars supporting the development of other projects using Bitcoin SV. It has never been easier for governments and enterprises to integrate their products and services with the blockchain than it is right now.
Blockchain: better public services, communities and smarter cities
‘Infrastructure’ is a word closely associated with both blockchain and Bitcoin SV. As a protocol, Bitcoin SV is a vital piece of technology which has the potential to underpin virtually every project which makes use of data – in other words, all of them. It seems natural, then, to focus on how blockchain technology can be the infrastructure that supports the infrastructure of society.
This was the focus of the first panel hosted Nguyen, which looked at how blockchain can improve public services and communities. This is a question that must be addressed, because society is increasingly producing and becoming reliant on data: by 2024, there will be 83 billion Internet-of-Things endpoints around the world, collecting massive amounts of data throughout society.
Nguyen welcomed Muhammad Salman Anjim, Chief Mate at InvoiceMate; Ahmed Yousif, digital transformation leader and strategic head at The Holy Makkah Municipality in Saudi Arabia; Dave Washburn, CEO of nChain; Saeed Alhebsi, advisor in AI at the UAE’s ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation; and Robert Rice, CEO of Transmira, creator of the Omniscape blockchain platform focused on monetising VR, AR, IoT and other technologies in the context of smart cities.
The balance on the panel between those working within government and those providing private solutions made for a diverse range of perspectives on the topic of developing better communities and public services through blockchain.
Ahmed Yousif was able to speak about blockchain projects which are being developed in (and for) the municipality he works for in Saudi Arabia.
‘Being in Mecca in Saudia Arabia, there is a lot of data of people coming to visit Saudi Arabia throughout the year. That creates a large amount of data. But at the same time, the use of this data was not common before,’ Yousif said.
‘Recently, we started looking into the blockchain to solve our ecosystem. We have about nine or ten services provided by different government agencies, all which require permits for, for example, visitors require things like visitor visas. All of [these agencies] created challenges.’
‘We started looking at the blockchain as a project for this ecosystem. I always say that the journey to digital transformation starts by bringing technology that generates data and using this data to create value. The value that we received from a short-term proof-of-concept made us realise that this is going to be a big game changer and it’s going to help us in providing the service in a faster way, secure and transparent way, and it also brings integrity to the whole process.’
However, perhaps the most significant example of blockchain helping deliver improved public services is the work that Dave Washburn and nChain are doing to transform the public infrastructure of an entire nation in Tuvalu. nChain is working to totally digitise Tuvalu using the Bitcoin SV blockchain, overhauling everything from payment infrastructure to national record-keeping.
‘One of the reasons we think it’s so important to use our platform for this is the concept of interoperability of data. Being able to take data out of the silos and making sure that various ministries can communicate, can get a holistic version of the data associated with people allows that country to understand the data better and lead to better decision-making processes,’ Washburn explained.
Though the project is massive, the population of Tuvalu is small enough so that nChain’s work there will serve as something of proof-of-concept, showing that transformative, national-scale digitisation projects are not only possible using blockchain, but here’s how to do it.
Improving life and health
The next panel, moderated by Nguyen, looked at health, life and how blockchain technology can be used to improve both.
Data associated with the provision of healthcare is almost universally given special protection under data privacy requirements around the world, while at the same time being one of the most widely relied upon classes of data in a functioning society. As a result, any innovation in healthcare must be concerned with protecting the integrity of this data from the outset.
As with all the blockchain sessions at the Summit, the panellists emphasised on pragmatism and real-world solutions as opposed to offering a solely aspirational vision painted with broad brush strokes.
His Excellency Hussain Al Mahmoudi spoke as CEO of Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park and CEO of the American University of Sharjah Enterprises. His work with government initiatives such as the Technology and Innovation Park involves building an innovation ecosystem focusing on different sectors, including healthcare. He spoke of a project they had recently embarked on with a private technology provider in concert with the Ministry of Health and external medical providers. The project uses blockchain technology to authenticate the identity and data of medical patients and then store their medical history on-chain, allowing medical providers to access a single, unimpeachable record of a patient’s history while giving the patient control and ownership over that data.
Sidney Wheatly, CIO at the Private Office of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Salman bin Abdulla bin Hamad Al Khalifa of the Kingdom of Bahrain, explained his office’s interest in blockchain’s healthcare applications as follows:
‘Specifically for healthcare, there are a lot of problems that healthcare has had for a long time that have been trying to get solved – for example, the portability and security of your own healthcare data.’
‘This has been solved in a small way before, but now it can actually be solved in a scalable way.’
Phillip Runyan, co-founder and managing partner at data integrity platform Veridat was on the panel. Data is vital in healthcare, not just because of its value in the provision of care to patients, but also the running of drug and other treatment trials.
‘The process to create drug therapies is a long, arduous and incredibly expensive road to haul. You’re looking at an average of about 10 years to the tune of 1 billion US dollars just to get to market,’ Runyan said.
The time involved means there will always be incentives to cut corners in getting the drug to market. Even beyond the risk of fraud, the sheer amount of data involved means that bad data management practices can have outsized and costly effects. The time and expense that goes toward the various parties in the healthcare supply chain verifying data from drug trials can be massively cut down thanks to the single source of verifiable information the blockchain can provide.
Stephan Nilsson is co-founder and managing partner at UNISOT, and he brought a similarly practical depth of experience to the panel. UNISOT has been praised for its SeafoodChain project, which uses the blockchain to track data on seafood throughout the supply chain, from farm to table.
The medical profession was also well represented. Dr Ruchi Dana, a physician and investor in healthcare startups, has seen first-hand the many use-cases that blockchain allows for – vaccination tracking and verification using blockchain, for example, or how having a single source of truth is giving patients greater visibility over the care they are paying for versus the care they are receiving, or how being able to tie medication to a blockchain record tracking the drug’s movements from factory to pharmacy can massively curb counterfeit drug industries.
Blockchain: better data for better businesses
Blockchain was the subject of another panel, this one hosted by Patrick Prinz, Bitcoin Association’s Europe and operations manager. This time, the topic returned to business and how the data collection, management and verification of businesses can be vastly improved using the blockchain. Businesses not only produce enormous amounts of data for their own use, but they rely on data which might be held by other providers in order to function. Stakeholders in a business rely on this data to make informed decisions, be those employees in the business, the end-customer and everything in between. Blockchain’s offering, therefore, is highly relevant.
Prinz welcomed panellists Muhammad Salman Anjum, once again of InvoiceMate; Jorge Sebastio, CEO of Global Blockchain Organisation in the UAE; David Washburn, again from nChain; and Torje Sunde, CTO at Abendum in Norway.
Washburn focused on why blockchain has so many implications for how businesses manage data, in many ways thanks to the work of companies like nChain.
‘One of the most crucial parts when we talk about getting data on blockchain is about how it’s structured, how it’s organised, how it can be accessed and what it costs to do so. One of the inventions that came out of nChain – something called the Metanet – you can think of as the Internet for blockchain. It’s a relatively complex hierarchical structure for data on blockchain, but the really key element to it is that by structuring it in this way on the Bitcoin SV public blockchain, it allows for concepts of permission to access. That’s a really critical function for ascribing monetary value to [that data],’ he said.
‘If it’s my data, I can access it. But if I grant you permission to, for example, one subset of that data, and if you are going to want to pay me for it, then I’m really interested in making sure that data is accessible, accurate and transparent.’
There is great value to be added within businesses, too, as Torje Sunde of Abendum explained. He used the common example of businesses being audited. It takes time to get external confirmation of accounting records, which might be stored in a range of different places. The physical transmission of data from data silos is not only a large administrative burden, but it introduces points of vulnerability from which data may be unintentionally leaked or lost. This is what Abendum seeks to address by developing scalable and cost-effective triple-entry accounting systems which introduce blockchain to the bookkeeping process.
In addition to discussing each panellist’s own business experience with blockchain projects, the discussion looked ahead at what barriers or priorities lie on the horizon for blockchain-powered business. Jorge Sebastio had a clear answer in mind:
‘I think one of the key milestones in the region today is regulatory acceptance. One of the leaders in the region has obviously been Bahrain through its sandbox which started almost three years ago. But not to be outdone now, we have similar and more advanced work being done in the [UAE’s] Monitoring and Control Center (MCC) and the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). If we want to bring value to data, especially if we are talking about digital assets – whether it happens to be real estate tokenization, shares, funds, etc. – you need regulatory authority in place,’ Sebastio said.
‘Regulation tends to try to catch up because they need to first understand what the technology is capable of. And I think one has to understand that technology is moving faster. We are going beyond digital assets.’
Batter up! Best Ideas Pitching with UNISOT’s Stephan Nilsson
Stephan Nilsson, who featured on two of the blockchain-themed panels at the event, also made a pitch during the Summit’s ‘Best Ideas Pitching’ session. A select number of businesspeople were given five minutes each to present to the crowd on their best investment idea for the next 12-24 months.
‘The challenges we have today in global supply chains and the reason for the global economy stagnating in the last 7-10 years is because we have very inefficient supply chain systems today.’
In Japan, home to the most efficient supply chains in the world, supply chains are operating at an efficiency level of under 20%. This, he urged, is because of the lack of data cohesion between different systems throughout businesses and wider society which do not interoperate.
Fortunately, UNISOT is already building the solution. A decentralised Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform which provides total visibility and connectivity using the blockchain, connecting every actor in the supply chain using a single, secure, scalable and universal source of truth. Using Bitcoin SV’s scalability and throughput capabilities, UNISOT is tokenising every asset which occurs in a given supply chain – everything as small as the seed that will eventually become a vegetable on a plate in a restaurant – allowing each asset to be ascribed data as it moves through the supply chain. A piece of seafood on a plate, in terms of pure data, can be traced back through the supply chain to the salmon farm it came from; a complete record of the asset’s location and all other data you might want to know about it (temperature, weight and so on) is available as a matter of public record.