• Giancarlo Farfan

DLT Investment & application by Sector - Obtained from Blockchain Quaterly Q1 (2020)

The highlights of the latest #DLTapplications, by sector, according to the investment & applications among main industries. Note, the intention is not to provide an exhaustive review, given the abundance of existing major projects.


Insight: some elements relevant to this sector review can be found in the section that reviews tokenized assets.



1.1 BANKING


  • Crédit Suisse and the start-up, Paxos, performed what they regard as the first on-chain settlement of US equities. Société Générale is also involved in the pilot.

  • We have previously reported on a number of similar trials to manage financial titles using DLT technology, however, for one reason or another, there have lately been relatively few reports on such endeavors. Is this because institutions are slow to communicate, or is it because they have slowed down their development? We would opt for the former.

  • The merger of Quorum with Consensys may be a boost for the JPM coin, which does not seem to be taking off.


1.2 INSURANCE


  • The insurance industry has been incredibly slow to embrace blockchain. There is not a single sizable start-up that is poised to disrupt the sector, based on smart-contracted policies…

  • On the other hand, B3i, the sector’s consortium, has some news to report this quarter. It has written and deployed 30 reinsurance contracts, which can be considered as either resources to be exploited by insurance market players, or as templates to build more specific contracts.


1.3 SUPPLY CHAIN


  • News like the following are routinely found: “The Italian football club, ASC Fiorentina, is tracking the authentication of on-field-worn jerseys, thanks to blockchain and with help from the start-up, Genuino. While not very significant, it shows that there is no limit to ideas for tracing objects, thanks to various types of entries on a blockchain.


1.4 INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS


  • Very interesting events are taking place in the telco sector, illustrating once again that, for each ecosystem, the main actors must gather around a table in a constructive way to define blockchain infrastructure suited to handle their business interfaces. Major service providers worldwide including, Telefonica, AT&T, Verizon, Orange and Deutsche Telecom have created the CBAN – the Communications Business Automation Network. It is assisted by leading technology providers that are going to compete for the development of the ad hoc platform (Consensys, R3, etc.). So far, a reference architecture description is available, and the task ahead for the consortium is to further define the solution.

  • The Korean high-tech giant, Samsung, produces 19% of smartphones globally. The frenzy around cryptocurrencies in Korea has been the most hectic in the world, which explains why Samsung was one of the first to embed crypto wallets in their products. Their commitment to do so is unparalleled among other manufacturers, and their Keystore wallet is gaining traction. Physically in the phone, a distinct processor is used to manage the private keys, making it a real separation, actually integrating a ledger-type physical wallet in a single device. Hopefully, the wide-spread use of this will have a positive impact on crypto adoption by the public!

  • The Amazon Web Services Quantum Ledger Database (QLDB – still no clue what ‘quantum’ is doing there, but anyway…) is increasingly being seen as a real alternative to blockchain. Wherever the use case revolves around a central authority, or uses a permissioned environment, fully decentralized solutions are not competitive. So, the aim of services such as AWS is to compete, while providing their customers with transparency and immutability that can be cryptographically verifiable.


1.5 MEDIA, INCLUDING SOCIAL NETWORKS


  • Baidu unveiled Xuperchain, an infrastructure targeted towards businesses. It will be possible to deploy decentralized applications on it, in a user-friendly fashion, and compliant with Chinese government standards.


1.6 ENERGY


  • Projects trying to use blockchain in the energy sector have been plentiful. However, the lack of a holistic approach, in the long run, will limit the potential of delivering on the promises of blockchain.

  • An initiative has launched in Switzerland for the concerted definition of a protocol for DLT-based applications and for the specification of a distributed execution platform to serve the power generation and trading industry. Forty entities, covering all the segments of the value-chain, are participating in the effort, at the invitation of Alpiq, under the umbrella of the Swiss Norms and Standards Institute (SNV), and with support of the Federal Office for Energy.


1.7 TRANSPORT


1.7.1 AERONAUTICS


  • With logistics related to technical parts, we expected the aviation sector to be leading the pack, but adoption seems to be quite slow, after all, the sector is quite conservative: when something is working, you do not want to change and risk introducing a problem.

  • However, the company, SITA, has taken a significant step in proposing the MRO Blockchain Alliance (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) to track, trace, and record aircraft parts. They are onboarding a number of players in the industry, with the aim of building an effective industry standard.


1.7.2 AUTOMOTIVE


  • Blockchain is being applied to using the energy in batteries of electric cars to balance the grid. Delegating the charging sequence of cars batteries to the grid provides flexibility, which crucially enables energy to be re-injected back into the network to resolve the increasing presence of intermittent energy sources (solar and wind). Car manufacturers are keen to cooperate, as this will provide some added value to car owners, making the total cost of ownership more attractive.


1.7.3 SHIPPING


  • The Tradelens platform is gaining significant traction. Close to 100 commercial ports have implemented the system. Customs authorities are also getting involved – this is already the case in Jordan and Thailand. Ten million shipping transactions are reported to be recorded in the system every week. Right now, the group of companies behind the initiative has requested the US Federal Maritime Commission to examine the system for further deployment in the US.

  • In fact, the Tradelens project is of particular interest to monitor, because it was previously researched and proven by Maersk, a major actor in the industry. However, its competitors, particularly CMA-CGM, regarded the initiative with mixed feelings. The benefits of implementing a blockchain-based information management system were obvious to everyone, just as it was evident that it would make sense and provide process improvements and cost savings only if the system is globally adopted by all actors.

  • The Danish company correctly acknowledged that the project should continue only if it could convince the other industry giants to be part of it. And indeed, it was only when Tradelens was founded jointly with CMA-CGM, Ocean Network Express, Mediterranean Shipping, etc. that the initiative started to gain momentum again.

  • If Tradelens succeeds in becoming the industry standard in the shipping business, it will prove that a dominant actor, committed to the solution, can manage the pushbacks from competitors, and instead, bring them to the table to collaborate and contribute to the solution. And more importantly, it will prove unequivocally that only when the full panel of partakers in a given eco-system are involved and have ownership of the system, can they agree to work with a DLT infrastructure and successfully define how to manage their business interfaces.

  • Even more interesting is the business model that was drafted for the system: Maersk believes that the shippers should be paying for access to the data.


1.8 HEALTHCARE


#Healthcare industry using traceability, supply chain management, #patientdata market place, and #clinicaltrials even before #COVID19 are now well known. This leads to a number of competing initiatives, which will need to merge in the future to provide a comprehensive healthcare blockchain platform:


  • The PharmaLedger project was kicked off in Prague on February 29, 2020. The project is under the Innovative Medicines Initiative (“IMI”), whose members are 12 global pharmaceutical companies and 17 other organizations spanning hospitals, universities, legal firms, and software development companies. It is Europe’s first and largest healthcare-focused blockchain business network. Another unique aspect is that it appears to have been initiated by the industry, and is thus vendor and technology-neutral. Dan Fritz from Novartis indicated in an interview that “the main purpose is to establish a blockchain platform for the healthcare industry so that we have a platform for all potential use cases”.

  • IBM, Merck, KPMG, and Walmart have completed the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) Interoperability Pilot in December 2019 and are now starting the Pharmaceutical Utility Network (PhUN). “PhUN takes an open-source platform-first approach – a similar concept to the Apple App Store – to empower stakeholders to comply with regulations and to use them as the basis for innovation. At scale, PhUN will integrate regulatory requirements such as the DSCSA into the platform, allowing solution developers – pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors, dispensers, software vendors, and others – to comply with ease”.

  • On the same use case, leaders from 24 companies in the US pharmaceutical supply chain have urged the FDA to use blockchain for drug tracking, and collaborate to submit the MediLedger DSCSA Pilot Project Final Report to the FDA, proposing blockchain for an interoperable track and trace system for US prescription drugs.


SAP and IBM are the two software companies that are committed to work with the industry to create a blockchain platform. The convergence of the initiatives and interoperability between the platforms will be key for blockchain to scale in the pharma industry.


Besides, with the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, China has turned to blockchain technology to manage medical data, track the supply of virus prevention materials, and consult the public.


1.9 ADMINISTRATION AND POLITICS


  • In past centuries, representative democracy prevailed in non-autocratic communities because there was no better way to function, primarily for logistical reasons: having people from various regions gather and discuss what should be done was neither practical nor economically feasible in a pre-digital world. Blockchain definitely enables more direct democracy, not to mention liquid democracy, as some research has suggested. How democracies will evolve to leverage the possibilities is open to conjecture, however, it is interesting to see that some countries, including France, are witnessing populations taking to the streets to demand more direct democracy channels.

  • Aragon has received money from private investors to continue the creation of digital judicial courts built on the execution environment created by the Spanish start-up.

  • Apart from that, from time to time we have seen some voting experiments conducted; but no full-scale system as yet.


1.10 GAMING & ENTERTAINMENT


  • UEFA (European Football Association) will use blockchain to send tickets to fans over the course of 2020. The stated reason for using this technology is to make access to stadiums seamless and transparent for fans. In particular, receiving the ticket via a mobile application will avoid the need for supporters to get the physical ticket at a collection point.

  • Copyright protection, thanks to notarization of intellectual property footprints, is a commonly researched topic. Regular proposals in this direction are made, for instance by the .JPG organization to assist with the verification of images. One wonders, however, whether the hash fingerprint of a picture, after slightly changing one pixel, is going to be completely different from the original. This hardly seems to be a deterrent for thieves.


1.11 CHARITY


  • ·A platform has been implemented on Ethereum for donations to UNICEF in Kazakhstan.

  • UNICEF is also completing a pilot in Tunisia, experimenting with community currencies to help boost economic activity in areas burdened by high unemployment.


1.11 CONCLUSION ON INDUSTRIAL APPLICATIONS THROUGHOUT THE SECTORS


  • What some people call “enterprise blockchain” is clearly on the rise. That is, everything related to providing a distributed execution environment for a group of businesses that form an ecosystem. Business-wise, start-ups that have invested in this field have received interest from bigger corporations that are either acquiring them or investing in them, since they often present a good starting base, an embryo of what the ultimate ecosystem platform can be. The promise being, as repeatedly pointed out, to streamline and automate processes, eliminate wasteful elements of supply chains, cut inefficient middlemen, and introduce systematic traceability and transparency, to ultimately make markets more efficient overall.

  • In that respect, the development of Tradelens is especially encouraging, as it demonstrates that, when an industry organizes itself properly, momentum is easily gained. It will be extremely interesting to continue following this initiative, as, at some point in time, it might be the first to reach critical mass adoption, which is a situation where the system is so widely accepted and used, that its ultimate domination is irreversible.

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