In 2017 there was a real “run” on information about Bitcoin and Blockchain, the number of search queries increased by several 100% in each case. The value of all crypto currencies – in addition to Bitcoin, by far the leading crypto currency, there are more than 1000 other crypto currencies – increased fortyfold within a year, not a few reminded of the time of the gold rush in the 19th century.

In the meantime, the excitement around the account currencies has calmed down, the clearly overheated market capitalization of all crypto currencies at the turn of the year 2017/2018 (at the beginning of January this was an amount of more than 800 billion USD) has decreased to a value of a little more than 200 billion USD by the end of September 2018. This may look like a real crash, but on the one hand the market for crypto currencies is traditionally very volatile and on the other hand this USD 200 billion still means an increase of more than 1,000 % compared to the value at the beginning of 2017.

In addition to the crypto currencies, the possibilities of the blockchain technology on which the crypto currencies are based are increasingly becoming the focus of interest. Because: with the ingenious combination of different technologies, which today is called blockchain, it is possible to transfer values directly and securely from one point to another via the Internet without the use of intermediaries. And, of course, this is of great interest especially in the business world.

Bitcoin was the first application to use blockchain technology, and in the meantime the technology field has developed and professionalized at an extreme speed. An important step for the development of the technology field was the launch of Ethereum in 2015. So-called Smart Contracts offer extended possibilities to automate business processes and thus make them safer, faster and more efficient.

Ethereum today has by far the largest developer community, and many companies have successfully completed initial tests and prototypes. It is expected that in 2018/2019 the number of Ethereum-based enterprise applications will increase significantly.

There are several very promising further developments in the blockchain area, which will successively solve the still existing challenges of blockchain technology (e.g. transaction volume and speed). At this point, however, we will not go into this further development.

Bitcoin and Ethereum are so-called “public blockchains”. With public blockchains, there are no access restrictions – anyone who wants to can write and read data in the distributed system. This is called “permissionless” – i.e. without access restrictions. This blockchain type is considered the safest way to store data unalterably.

But this publicity is rejected for many business applications, understandably not everyone should be able to see who does which business with which company. Against this background the variant of an “Enterprise Blockchain” (also called “private blockchain” or “permissioned blockchain”) was developed. Here, access rules and procedures are defined according to the desired procedures, so there are – unlike with public blockchains – central entities that define the set of rules. With leading enterprise blockchains, such as Hyperledger, an enterprise blockchain developed within the Linux Foundation, it is also possible to program Smart Contracts.

For many business processes, the possibilities of the Enterprise Blockchain are completely sufficient; in principle, one can synchronize data stocks securely and automate business processes with such systems. However, the security of these enterprise blockchains is not on the same high level as with public blockchains.

In the meantime, very good solutions have been developed for the requirements described above regarding the confidentiality of transactions and other company-specific requirements for public blockchains. Furthermore, the emerging possibilities of the so-called token-based economy, in which various assets in public blockchain systems receive a digital image on a blockchain system, probably cannot be implemented to the same extent with enterprise blockchains.  It will be interesting to see which of the two blockchain philosophies will have which part in the corporate environment: the enterprise blockchains following the classical enterprise philosophy or the philosophy of distributed structures and networks of public blockchains.

In the few years since Bitcoin was the first blockchain application to see the light of day in the digital world (2009), the possibilities and relevance of blockchain technology have been explored.

At the second day of CeBIT 2017 the first “CeBIT Blockchain Summit” took place. The full day, fee-based, event was very well visited (around 140 tickets sold according to the organisers) and the structure of the international audience varied: some visitors were quite well experienced, others still seeking for a first base understanding what blockchain makes so powerful. It is somehow logical that this diverse knowledge level among the audience members must have been a challenge for the organisers to find the right setup for the summit.

To my mind for the future there is some room for improvement when it comes to a proper structure. It would be beneficial to divide the event into some logical segments like “basics”, “technology” and “business” or so. But besides this the summit was a success. The CeBIT team provided a nice speaker lineup with great talks (among others: Meinhard Benn from Satoshi Pay, Sven Laepple from Astratum or Fabian Vogelsteller from Ethereum), the feedback from the visitors was impressive. I look forward how this format will be developed at CeBIT.

Talking of CeBIT development: on the day following the summit Oliver Frese, head of CeBIT, announced a radically changed CeBIT concept from 2018 onwards: a mixture of business, conference and festival – no longer in March, but in June. Please see the official announcement here. It will be interesting to witness, how this new concept evolves. And what roll blockchain technology will play.

Attached you find some impressions from the summit as well as from the press announcement for CeBIT2018. Last not least there is a link to my CeBIT Blockchain Summit 2017 presentation “Blockchain in Business: Technology Overview and Current Projects.” on Slideshare.

 

 

 

Some days before Christmas “Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)” invited to hold an expert talk about “use cases for blockchain technology” on behalf of the Bundeswirtschaftsministerium BMWi (Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy). The meeting was well organised by Matthias Kuom (DLR) and had the main purpose to discuss the innovation potential of blockchain technology among a small number of experts from academics and business on the one side and a couple of members from BMWi and DLR on the other side. The accountable department from BMWi uses that kind of event formats during the opinion-building process when the necessary steps shall be defined to foster the development of attractive ICT solutions for the national economy , especially for the German “Mittelstand”.

As a start I was asked to hold a 15 minutes presentation on blockchain (you find the presentation below), after that each out of our expert group of seven had the opportunity to comment on three mayor topics: “state of play”, “disruptive potential” and “the role of the government”. The further participating experts were (in alphabetical order):

Raimund Gross (Innovation Manager Blockchain from the SAP Innovation Center Network)
Prof. Wolfgang Prinz (Vice Chair Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT)
Philipp Richard, Project Director at the “Deutsche-Energie-Agentur GmbH” (Dena)
Stefan Teis (SVP, Group Product & Business Development, Deutsche Börse AG and Member of the Governing Board of the Hyperledger Projekts)
Stephan Zimprich (Partner at the law firm Fieldfisher and head of the competence group blockchain at the eco association)

In a closing discussion round some additional experts played an active role. With Kirsten Hasberg, energy expert BlockchainHub Berlin, gave very interesting insights into blockchain based projects in the market for renewable energies. Another expert was Dr. Martin Holland, who is a member of the management board of PROSTEP AG and the responsible coordinator of the interesting project SAMPL (Secure Additive Manufacturing Platform), which you can find here.

During my business life I happened to attend a couple of events with the target to convey the standpoints of academics and business to responsible persons from the government. The expert talk “use cases for blockchain technology” for me was an outstanding event. The chosen format (brief introduction presentation as a start, afterwards a round of questions to well chosen experts following a clear framework and finishing with a discussion round) was well fitting the complexity of blockchain. And our “target audience” – the members from BMWi and DLR – were well prepared and put intelligent questions what led to good and intensive discussions.

For sure there will be further events “politics meets blockchain”. The many-layered aspects of the blockchain technology bear enormous potential, where politics can, and probably here and there must, play an important role – either when we look at regulations challenges or when we look at the gonvernment as a user.

 

 

 

Almost six months after my article to give a general introduction to blockchain technologies was published (click here to read the related post) I wrote a brief explanation on the use case section on this website. In the article on intelligente-welt.de you can find some explanation about the structure of the use case section and how how you can filter the for you interesting projects out of the far more than one hundred entries. Here you find the link to the article (German language only).

 

 


Three months after the start of the MIT Fintech Certificate Course “Future Commerce” the winning “Capstone Projects” are announced. The project “Community Token”, developed in cooperation with Christoph Martin, was awarded by the tutor team as one of the top eight projects out of more than 200 projects.

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The following article (in german language) I wrote with he target to provide the interested audience:

‚Üí An overview, how the technology works
‚Üí Present several use cases
‚Üí Explain some of the political framwork

Article on www.intelligente-welt.de “Blockchain – programmiertes Vertrauen”