Blockchain technologies at BlockBali Conference 2017

With mentions of Blockchain technology now seemingly appearing daily in the global media, it is natural that a huge number of people from diverse backgrounds are now keenly interested in its progress toward mass acceptance. With this in mind, Bali played host to the BlockBali Conference 2017 in October.

BlockBali was touted as an event at which Blockchain and Cryptocurrency enthusiasts could rub shoulders with representatives of the Fintech, banking, insurance, manufacturing and supply chain industries to discover more about the latest innovations using Blockchain technologies, and crystal-ball where it may lead in the near future.

With this much innovation going on, Mitrais was always going to be involved. One of our most experienced Account Managers, Freddi Muliantono, represented Mitrais at the conference and was interested in what he discovered. Having attended the previous Blockchain event in Jakarta in May, he was impressed with the local representation in Bali. He estimated that the Jakarta event crowd was around 80% Indonesian, but that foreign visitors had risen to nearly 40% at the Bali event.

Blockchain is a highly innovative technology that facilitates secure online transactions using a decentralised digital ledger across many computers. Data associated with these transactions cannot be altered retroactively without altering all subsequent blocks across the network, meaning that Blockchain transactions offer a previously unprecedented level of security. Initially used as the basis for the digital currency Bitcoin in 2009, Blockchain still serves as the public ledger for all Bitcoin transactions. Blockchain technologies are now being investigated for use far beyond financial transactions, though. In 2016, the Central Securities Depository of the Russian Federation announced that it was looking into the development of Blockchain-based automated voting systems, and Accenture estimated that Blockchain already had a more than 13% implementation rate within the financial services sector. Other potential uses include payment systems, crowd-sales, insurance applications, prediction markets, back-office settlement systems, data storage and medical records information systems. The Big Four Accounting Firms (Ernst and Young, PwC, Deloitte and KPMG) have all acknowledged that they are testing independently developed private Blockchain systems. It seems clear that Blockchain is exploding in the business world globally.

The event featured presentations by international experts, networking opportunities with industry peers and experts, and showcases of the latest innovations around Blockchain. There was a number of specialist speakers covering topics as diverse as Blockchain adoption in Indonesia, Blockchain in e-commerce, cloud mining, anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist funding techniques, and the integration of Bitcoin into the Fintech vertical.

Amongst the key speakers were I Made Wisnu Wardana, Indonesian Police Commissioner, and Oscar Darmawan, CEO of Bitcoin Indonesia. Mr Darmawan gave a fascinating insight into the demographics of Bitcoin in Indonesia, pointing out that it’s typical registered user was now at least 40 years old. In his opinion, this indicates that Bitcoin/Cryptocurrency is now considered a legitimate trading platform, and is being taken increasingly seriously by traditional investors and speculators. Mr Darmawan also highlighted the steady growth of female users within this community, a trend that continues year by year. Although the use of cryptocurrency as a method of payment is still prohibited by Indonesian law (it is not legally acknowledged as valid currency), it is still allowed to be bought, stored and invested as for any other asset. He also mentioned that Bitcoin Indonesia is now busy developing a platform to sell digital assets in Indonesia with tokens and that he expects that to be launched before the end of this year.

Other speakers included Mr Roberto Capodieci, owner of Blockchain Zoo, an association of Blockchain experts and technology professionals. Roberto is based in Ubud and was amongst the first to apply Blockchain technology to supply chain and trade finance. He hosts regular meetups around the topics of blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Other interesting proposed applications using Blockchain that were presented included distributed content distribution, a private wealth management platform using AI and blockchain, sales of cryptocurrency and services at any physical store in the world, the storing, trading, managing and issuing digital assets, a supply chain management tool based on blockchain, and a personal data marketplace where people could store and sell their own data collected from their phones.

Freddi believes that, although the path to the commercial implementation of Blockchain technologies is obviously well advanced within the IT, business and finance sectors worldwide, mass adoption by the general public (at least knowingly) is still some way away. The complex nature of the Blockchain concept means that it is difficult for non-experts to understand the breadth of it’s potential beyond Bitcoin, and therefore to embrace it fully.

Some start-ups have begun experimenting with Initial Coin Offering (ICO), an unregulated (and somewhat controversial) means of sourcing capital based on issuing newly issued cryptocurrency to investors in exchange for legal tender or other established cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. If proven, this establishes a far easier method of capital funding than traditional IPO or Angel Investors. Banks will likely be early adopters and significant investors in Blockchain technologies if only to protect their existing business models from disruptive players.

Events like BlockBali remain a goldmine of current information on technological innovation and showcases for out-of-the-box thinking on Blockchain. And where such innovation is taking place, Mitrais will be there.