Meetup Recap: Blockchain as a Social Technology

Cover for meetup Livestream 2019-01

In our first Meetup of 2019, we invited people to Werk1 to listen to three presentations around the topic of “Blockchain as a Social Technology”. The special thing about this Meetup was the decentralized nature of the event. Parallel to the event in Munich there was a meetup hosted by the University of Bayreuth and Fraunhofer FIT. The two locations were linked via a live video feed. Additionally we piped in guest speakers from remote locations in Denmark and the USA. Everything was broadcast in real time via a live stream on our website. You can rewatch the video here!

The first presentation was held by Jon Hearty, Business Development Director of Origin Protocol. He gave us some insights about blockchain-based decentralized marketplaces and the many social implications of this innovation. Moreover he talked about his blockchain platform for building decentralized marketplaces ‘Origin Protocol’.

According to Jon, many of today’s marketplaces that seem to be fully P2P have central companies sitting in the middle of all transactions which hoard and swallow the data to monetize it later. With the use of a blockchain-based decentralized marketplace, problems like these can be avoided. He sees four major advantages to Origin’s approach to decentral marketplaces.

  1. The drastic reduction of transaction costs. Companies who run the platforms often request high transaction fees for basically just matching a buyer and a seller. With the use of blockchain there is no need of an intermediary so that the transaction fees can be put back in the hands of the buyers and sellers.
  2. Redistribute value more fairly throughout the networks. Users have a major impact on the success of the platform but hardly benefit from it compared to the platforms’ founders or directors. Cryptoeconomic incentives provided by a blockchain powered platform to distribute the value more fairly within the platform so users also benefit as a network effects set in.
  3. Promote free and open commerce. Many marketplaces aren’t available all around the world, they are limited or banned to a special region or heavily regulated. In the face of regulation, a company who runs the platform is a single point of failure. Decentralized Platforms don’t have this characteristic which makes them able jump in where where platforms like Uber, AirBnB are banned or regulated.
  4. Making services available to the unbanked. Billions of users worldwide don’t have access to financial services but they do have access to cheap smartphones and therefore wallets to store their values. The unbanked can leap from traditional financial system and make transactions over a blockchain-based network.

Origin Protocol itself just launched a blockchain-based marketplace as a dApp (decentralized App). As underlying technology Orgin Protocol uses the Ethereum Blockchain and IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) for identity management. Go and check it out on https://dapp.originprotocol.com/#/.

Jon and Pablo over Video Call

Our second speaker of the Meetup was Pablo Velasco from the University of Aarhus who focuses on the digital culture through its technical infrastructures including the political and social aspects of technology. In his research, he deals with topics such as how the development of social technology happens and how it contributes to micropolitics such as how social relationships modify the outcomes of certain technologies.
As an example, technology can be used as a political tool for including or excluding relevant stakeholders in a system.

Regarding the blockchain technologies that rose up during the last years, Pablo said, that they can be merged together as a list of attempts of some sort of parallel payment system or decentralized, electronic money. In Bitcoin, for instance, the key element was the exchange of economic value using cryptography and this cryptography was a elementary need for the social integration of the technology.

He also pointed out how different technologies have impact on the social interaction. As an example, sending coins over a blockchain network requires a new and different trust paradigm and therefore builds up a new type of social interaction.

Rebecca and Anna-Laura during their presentation

In the third presentation Anna-Laura Liebenstund and Rebecca Johnson from the European Blockchain Association presented the importance of a governance model in decentralized organizations.

They pointed out why it is important to have regulations in the use of technology and how the interaction impacts our social behaviour as well as the way we think.

A key aspect was that we have to be very careful about the inputs, design processes and implicit cultural assumptions behind our development of new technology. Artificially intelligent agents, for instance, will always be a reflection of the training sets to develop them.

Technology without principals will become antisocial sooner or later.

As a result, we need governance as a framework for techno-social interactions. Recent projects like ‘the DAO’ failed and Bitcoin and Ethereum got forked because of inconsistent governance.

Therefore it will be important for decentralized organizations to establish common principles, ethical code of conducts, membership rules and a solid basis in existing social networks to ensure the durable success of the organization.

Anna-Laura during the presentation

We want to thank the speakers for their very interesting presentations on this, the opening meetup of 2019! Also, thank you to the team of Werk1 who provided the location, organized the catering as well as providing support for the A/V setup. And we thank ZD.B for supporting the meetup in general!

We also want to thank our audience in Munich and Bayreuth for attending. We hoped you enjoyed the Meetup. Feel free to give us your feedback.

Our next Meetup will take place on Tuesday March 19th, 2019 on the topic ‘Privacy by Design?’. We would be very happy to see you there again!

Deepening Blockchain Governance Toolkit with Two-Factor Authentication 2FA

tyntec_screencast

Datarella demoed a new PoC for off-chain governance with our friends from tyntec at the TADSummit in Lisbon, Portugal this week. Using tyntec’s 2FA service we were able to demonstrate a proof of concept for using strong authenication to secure an Ethereum transaction. This is one elementary piece of the puzzle for creating robust governance structures for the blockchain.

What’s blocking the blockchain from going mainstream? Datarella and tyntec at TADSummit Lisbon 2018

One of the main issues holding back adoption of blockchain-based applications is that we’re still at a pretty basic level when it comes to governance.  Much ink has been spilled over the parity multisig wallet bug and the hack of the DAO. The exact causes of those incidents are beyond the scope of this article but both have to do with complexity and with finality.

One of the major selling points of Ethereum it utilizes the solidity programming language, which is Turing complete. This is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because this makes it technically possible to build very complex smart contracts which are capable of doing just about anything – that’s a big part of the promise of blockchain. The curse part of the equation is the fact that these complex programs may have unforseen bugs which end up irrevocably committing transactions on a large scale to public blockchains.  This is where finality comes into play. Once approved Ethereum transactions are subject to increasing probabilistic finality. 

In layman’s terms this means that there are no chargebacks, no refunds, no do overs and no room for error. The combination of complexity and probabilistic finality means that if we want to build blockchain applications that are ready for mass adoption we will need significantly improved safeguards and governance before transactions are committed to the blockchain.

In order to be useful, systems that transfer value have to exhibit some kind of finality. When you use a credit card to purchase a latte at your local store the money is transferred on a centralized ledger maintained by visa or mastercard. The money stays transferred unless there is a dispute. If you discover fraudulent charges on your card you just call your bank and prove your identity.  They roll back the charges on your account and an insurer takes care of the damage done. In other words, in the credit card system, finality is limited but sufficient and flexible. In the blockchain world what you commit to the chain remains on the chain. If you loose your private key or a bug in some complex code allows an unintended value transfer, it’s game over.

We can’t change the finality of blockchain and in most public cases we don’t want to. What would be nice is if we could put additonal controls on what the holder of a private key can do. This is useful as a component of our developing blockchain governance toolkit in a number of situations.

Some example use cases:

  • Resetting access to a wallet
  • Restricting malicous transaction attempts
  • Enabling multiparty quorum transactions without relying on complex on-chain multisig wallets
  • Off-chain voting mechanisms

Take a look at the video of the demo above. What we’ve implemented is a smart contract which requires a one time password provided by the tyntec 2FA API in addition to the private key before any transaction can be finalized on-chain. This opens the door to all sorts of governace options which we’re working on for our product RAAY and as part of the Codelegit arbitration libraries which we provide to the Blockchain Arbitration Forum.

We’d like to thank the awesome team of tyntec for their continuing collaboration on this. We’re really looking forward to the role such tech can play in moving blockchain-based governance procedures forward.

Blockchain Project in Humanitarian Supply Chain – Datarella and UK Gov. DFID

We at Datarella are very proud to announce that we will work with the British Government Department for International Development (DFID) to develop a pilot project on the topic of “Blockchain in Humanitarian Supply Chains“!

The project is supported by the DFID innovation and future technologies programme, Frontier Technology Livestreaming. They source ways of improving how DFID works across the world using new technologies from DFID staff. Naturally, blockchain is one of those technologies, and supply chain operations is a very applicable area for this technology for three main reasons:

1. Transparency – Humanitarian supply chains could benefit from having the right tools to achieve increased transparency in a secure manner. More transparency could also facilitate collaboration across organisations.

2. Efficiency – If the operatives working at organisations in DFID and similar organisations (e.g. USAID, the UN World Food Programme, etc.) could rely more on the quality of data, they could focus on other matters. This could contribute to decreased “shrinkage” and thus improved efficiency as more goods are delivered to those in need.

3. Collaboration – Having a shared database of goods, shipments and importantly accountability, where many can write and read, but not change the history, is an ideal setup for collaboration. This could enable the creation of standards for data models and improved service to both those funding (mostly tax payers) and those on the receiving end.

With these prerequisites in mind, we are looking forward to the coming phases and sprints of the pilot where we will implement a live blockchain solution, hopefully of great use to many people, especially those in need of immediate and unconditional aid.

The project consists of building a blockchain-based system to track a shipment of plastic sheeting shelter kits (try to say that ten times in a row) from an offshore warehouse, by multiple logistics service providers to a country where they are needed. There they have to be cleared through customs, meaning that a consignee will need to assume responsibility for the shipment. This will also be tracked using a smart contract. Thereafter, a so-called implementing partner will start transporting and deploying the kits within the country.

If you have experience or are interested in learning more about this project and blockchain in humanitarian supply chains, feel free to @ @mountbranch or @datarella on twitter! Also, here’s a link to a Medium post by FTL themselves about the initial phase of the project!

Datarella: Mentoring Blockchain for the FC Bayern Hackdays

We are proud to support FC Bayern, Germany’s leading soccer club on their Hackathon:

Thinking of fan experiences and services in a new way. Testing and applying innovative and new technologies within and outside the stadium. Bringing the emotional connection of our club to life even more through technology and digital infrastructure. Learning from each other and creating new things together.
For the first time, FC Bayern Munich will host, together with its fans, partners, leading experts, start-ups and students from all over the world, the #FCBayernHackDays to learn together, face new challenges and to research new innovative possibilities.

Link to the event: hackdays.fcbayern.com

Blockchain Meetup 9: Blockchain, Quo Vadis?

Rob Habermeier

On blocks, tangles and meta-chains – what is the next step for Blockchain?

This time, we will return to the more technical aspects of blockchain: what is the actual state of different platforms, what’s going on with Bitcoin, IOTA, etc., and where does this all lead us to?

In the first talk, Datarella CEO Joerg Blumtritt will provide us with an outlook, especially on the following aspects:

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The Blockchain Killer App

At yesterday’s Blockshow Europe , a one day blockchain conference by Cointelegraph, I’ve seen the blockchain killer app. At least, these were the words on the first slide of a startup pitch. Oh Lord, won’t you build me a blockchain killer app? My friends all build features, I must make amends. Really?

Man wants to populate Mars, to live forever and to create unicorned products. That’s true especially in the field of blockchain: a modern wild west scenario enabling anyone with either a computer becoming a blockchain node or using some change money to participate in the latest ICO to make a fortune. Some do and bet on the right horse, most don’t. And that’s perfectly fine – no new foundational technolgy ever came without some supersized creativity at the beginning.

Investing in crypto currencies seems to be a relatively sure bet these days, since the crypto market has been steadily growing in its entirety. Just check the numbers from time to time and you will see an amazing growth of the crypto market capitalization of $10bn in the last 6 months alone.. Still: you easily lose all your money due to a very high volatility even of the Top 10 currencies adding or losing billions of value from one week to another.

However, the currency aspect of digital tokens is just one perspective of the field of blockchain, and a quite non-technological one. Another aspect is the use of the blockchain as a foundational technology layer on top of the internet. Most experts agree that blockchain will significantly change conventional transactions. And nearly everybody is looking for the holy blockchain grail – the killer app, or – as we should say – the killer Dapp – since it would be a distributed app. Quibbling aside, my feeling is that there won’t be a killer dapp. I’m totally with Benedict Evans of A16Z, who stated:

Looking at a strategy doc I worked on in 2006. All the ‘next big things’ weren’t. Then they came back as check-box features in every app

Having worked in the blockchain space with industrial, financial services and media clients for two years now, I’d suggest not to look for or believe someone telling you that she had built a killer app. What the market really needs isn’t the fancy disruption but rather the boring evolutionary approach: hundreds, thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of incremental optimizations. Sure, these little improvements are based on a completely different technology, that means you do have a certain disruptive aspect here: the “getting rid of the middleman” stories could be sold as some kind of disruption – but middlemen have been an endangered species for a long time already – that’s not to be credited to blockchain.

Most people don’t like changes. Most managers don’t like changes. So, why not throwing away the sword of Damocles like disruption talk and start collaborating, inventing and creating useful products and services that are relevant to many more people than to founding team of a startup only? The old world, the not-yet-familiar-with-blockchain world, is ready for blockchain. Most companies are more open and willing to embrace this new technology than the typical crypto nerd might imagine. The thing is – nobody wants to be laughed at, because he isn’t familiar with the game theory assumptions of PoW. There is plenty of room for collaboration between the crypto blockchain nerds and the old world.

In 2017, corporations are ready to embrace blockchain. And that’s why, in my opinion, clever startups analyze the needs of the market, come up with blockchain solutions for the real world and will then be rewared with great collaboration opportunities. We see that already happening and i hope we’ll see even more startups jumping on that train.

That’s it.

Blockchain Meetup 6: IoT Blockchained

Dirk Siegel

We are very happy to have Dr. Dirk Siegel, Partner of Deloitte, to discuss the question: Blockchain and IoT – A promising model?

Dirk is Partner with Deloitte and leads the Deloitte Blockchain Institute in Germany. He has 25 years of consulting experience in Financial Services, both Banking and Insurance. Throughout his career he has been exploring the interplay between business processes and technology. Dirk holds a PhD in Applied Mathematics from Cambridge University.

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Blockchain Meetup 4: Finance Industry Blockchain Use Cases

Dr. Markus Hablizel

After our deep dives into Ethereum Solidity, some Ethereum showcases in the energy sector with RWE and last meetup’s cultural shock with Meredith L. Patterson facing us with major security issues of Turing-complete machines, we want to focus on the finance industry and its respective blockchain use cases in this meetup.

We are very happy to have Dr. Markus Hablizel, blockchain evangelist (the organizer’s wording) of Allianz, an insurance company, presenting some perspectives of corporate blockchain use cases.

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The biggest thing in tech 2015-2025?

From time to time we contemplate about which developments, movements or innovations are those that really matter, and that make this frequently mentioned difference. The results of these intellectual games must be subjective and are generated from a uniquely individual perspective. Things get fascinating, though, if you’re convinced that a specific development not only qualifies as your personal No 1 but should be on many people’s A-list. 

Speaking of technology, my personal No 1 which back in 2009 was ‚Apps’, since 2015 is „Blockchain“. Beside developments such as VR and AR that certainly will honour their promises, the blockchain will fundamentally change the way we use the internet. You can regard it as a layer on top of the internet which allows a completely different approach to transactions – i.e. the end-user perspective – and supply chains – i.e. B2B perspective.

Without summing up and repeating all aspects of a blockchain, let’s focus on just one aspect (which, by the way, is the only reason for using  a blockchain, anyway) – the automated consensus made possible by smart contracts. A smart contract is an algorithm defining and executing a set of rules, i.e. without an additional notary service deciding upon whether all contracting parties comply with all rules. Now, without knowing the technical details behind smart contracts, just ask yourself: how many manually executed processes immediately pop up in your mind that could be substituted by an automated process that minimizes time and costs.

VR and AR have been around for years now. Many companies have been founded, many have been shut down. From my perspective, both, AI and AR, need new use cases and new hardware  to demonstrate their raisons d’être. That’s why it takes so long until they can really demonstrate their added value.

Don’t get me wrong – I can see the sexiness of many VR and AR prototypes. But, still, our world is heading towards automated processes; i.e. automatisations of already existing processes. And here the blockchain comes into play: it’s the great enabler of this global development. That’s why I hereby submit that in 2025, the blockchain will be regarded as the biggest development in technology of the last 10 years.

Comments?

PS: This posts reflects my personal view which is not necessarily congruent with the Datarella team member’s

Blockchain Meetup 2: Global Chained Delivery Network

Carsten Stöcker, RWE AG, working in the ‘RWE Innovation Hub’ on blockchain technology use cases, will present and discuss his perspective on:

A Global Chained Delivery Network

• Sharing, Decentralisation, Access to Assets, New Forms of Value Exchange

• Physical Delivery and different types of delivery networks

• Chained Delivery Networks

• Example Use Cases

Some of us might have heard about this project of Carsten’s team: a teamwork with slock.it to explore some use cases in the energy sector.

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