What are businesses and other organisations doing to advance innovation in blockchain technology? Here are some of the latest developments that have been reported:
County in Washington state eyes blockchain innovation campus
With local cryptocurrency mining ventures struggling in the current bear market, Douglas County in the US state of Washington is considering another way to appeal to the industry: by developing a new blockchain innovation campus in the region. “There is more to the [cryptocurrency] story than the boom and the bust,” Lisa Parks, executive director of the Port of Douglas County, told the Seattle Times earlier this month. “We have some unique assets that make our region appealing to that industry.” One selling point the area has is its access to ample, low-cost power produced by five local hydroelectric dams. Parks noted that the county has a high-speed computing sector “in large part because bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining pushed it in that direction”.
‘Blueprint for Blockchain and Social Innovation’ released in Davos
Working with Tata Trusts, the New America think tank released a “Blueprint for Blockchain and Social Innovation” during the annual Blockchain Dinner in Davos, Switzerland in January. Described as “a guide to blockchain technology for public sector and social impact leaders”, the blueprint notes that, while blockchain has so far been more focused on business sectors such as finance, “many of the technology’s most promising applications lie in the ﬁelds of social and civic innovation”. The guide examines a number of case studies where blockchain can help with managing humanitarian aid, land records, supply chains, energy, financial inclusion, mobile voting, social investment, environmental sustainability and the battle against fake news. It concludes: “While determining which features to include in a potential blockchain solution, an organisation must carefully consider the context within which that blockchain will function. The ‘best’ blockchain does not exist, only the best blockchain for your organisation and the goals you’re aiming to achieve.”
Irish hackathon prize goes to blockchain project for statistics tracking
First prize in the recent Blockathon Ireland went to a project that uses blockchain technology to add timestamps to files submitted to the country’s Central Statistics Office (CSO). Team AiL, led by Clodagh McCarthy Luddy and Rosa Devine, was awarded €5,000 for the proposal, which is aimed at “increasing trust between the CSO and the public while preventing administrative errors”. Second place went to a ConsenSys proposal for frictionless vehicle toll collection, while a project for medical device tracking won third place. Nine teams in all competed during the event at the Innovation Academy in Dublin. “They have all played their part in helping to accelerate the pursuit of Irish blockchain innovation,” Paschal Donohoe, minister for finance and public expenditure and reform, said in a statement at the end of the competition.
IBM-Columbia accelerator partners with 10 blockchain startups
The IBM Blockchain Accelerator, a programme led by IBM and Columbia University, has announced new partnerships with 10 startups it's identified as “the most promising companies with existing traction to scale their blockchain business networks”. The partner companies include Securitize, which is working to tokenise corporate debt; Lucidity, a marketing analytics firm; TigerTrade, a B2B marketplace; Phunware, which has developed a blockchain-based loyalty offering; Connecting Food, a company focused on creating transparency in the food supply chain; Ferrum, an equipment lease financing company; Backwagon, a ticketing network provider; IPwe, which offers a blockchain-based patent platform; MetaMe, which is developing an outcomes-based health insurance blockchain network; and Credly, which is collaborating with IBM to create a blockchain-based network for learning and professional credentials. As part of the accelerator’s network, startups receive business support, technical support that includes IBM blockchain and cloud services, access to Columbia University blockchain experts and other academics, and an opportunity to present to corporate partners, investors and the media.
China, US, Australia lead in 2018 global blockchain patent filings
Nearly one-third of all the global blockchain technology patents filed last year were submitted by Chinese companies, according to a recent study from the UHY accounting and consultancy network. Out of 314 patents filed with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in 2018, 32 per cent originated in China, 29 per cent were from the US, 13 per cent were from Australian businesses and 11 per cent came from UK companies. The largest single filer of global blockchain patents was the London/Vancouver-based research firm nChain, with 48 patents filed. While European companies have filed only “a limited number of patents at the global level through WIPO, many have been more active at a local level”, UHY said in a press announcement. “For example, while German businesses have filed no patents for blockchain technologies with WIPO in the last year, there have been six filed with the DPMA, the German Patent and Trademark Office.”
Blockchain collaboration aims to reduce errors, friction in healthcare industry
A blockchain-based network could improve transparency and interoperability in healthcare, according to several companies that plan to work together to develop such a programme. The collaboration, announced on 24 January, includes Aetna, Anthem, Health Care Service Corp, PNC Bank and IBM. The companies hope to develop a blockchain network that can reduce administrative errors and enable information to be shared more efficiently, which they say will enhance patience care and reduce unnecessary costs. “Timely access to medical information has been a stumbling block for creating a seamless consumer experience”, Rajeev Ronanki, chief digital officer of Anthem, said in a press statement. “The fact that these major healthcare players have come together to collaborate indicates the value they see in working together to explore new models that we think could drive more efficiency in the healthcare system and ultimately improve the patient experience,” added Lori Steele, IBM general manager for healthcare and life sciences.