DIGIT – ScotChain17: Crypto, Containers, Fog, And The Blocktopus

Get in touch today

0141 225 0130

As the hype around blockchain grows and the value of cryptocurrencies climbs ever higher, ScotChain17 looked behind the hysteria to see how the technology is actually evolving.

The twelve months between ScotChain16 and ScotChain17 have been decades long in terms of blockchain hype. From the initially obscure ‘magic’ technology behind Bitcoin, to the saviour of the Internet which will honestly and totally transform all businesses and the whole internet forever, rarely has a technology promised so much – or been so widely misunderstood.

ScotChain17 brought some much needed clarity and sense to the debate around distributed ledger technologies, blockchain and crypto currencies, with a stellar line-up of speakers and experts.

The event took place in the conference centre at RBS’ headquarters on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Seating around 300people, the venue was noticeably busy with most sessions standing room only.

Paul Wheelhouse, the minister for business, innovation and energy kicked off the morning. He noted the ongoing inclusion and increasing value of tech across all sectors and industries and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to innovation and support for technologies to help Scotland’s economy grow. He mentioned several initiatives including the country’s innovation centres and the CivTech programme to highlight the ways in which technology is being utilised in innovative and practical ways to drive change.

Alexander Holt, the head of the CivTech programme followed. If you’ve not yet come across CivTech, it’s one of the most pioneering and disruptive projects to hit the public sector. The goal is to transform the way in which public sector procurement (a notoriously tortuous and protracted experience) operates and make far greater use of the agility and creativity the private sector and startup scene can offer. “How can you procure what you don’t know exists?” asked Holt. The focus on and a fear of breaking ‘the rules’ is part of the reason for such a cautious approach to procurement, argued Holt. He challenged this idea by looking at the the three key areas the public sector must adhere to: guidance, legislation and rules. If you are complying with legislation and guidance, he suggested, then you can bend (or ever so slightly ignore) the rules to help innovate and find new ways to address the ever evolving challenges facing society.

This focus was maintained by Peter Ferry from Wallet.Services who took to the stage to discuss the ways in which blockchain can be used in the public sector. The company was an early beneficiary of the CivTech programme and has grown to the point where it’s not only helping to advise the Scottish Government on Blockchain policy, but recently received an award from the International Monetary fund for it’s innovative SICCAR service.

Ferry highlighted the issue that in many cases, public sector services are simply a web front-end on an existing process, or ‘the webpage lipstick on the paper process pig.’ Calling for data to be shared openly, privately and securely, Ferry called for ‘disclosure without exposure’ and a radical reformation of the public sector to put the citizen at the heart of services.

Kent McKenzie and Ross Laurie from Deloitte were next. A tag-team looking at the rapidly evolving blockchain landscape and the ways in which it’s already changing businesses. Starting with basic questions about the very nature of value, ‘Rosstradamus’ led the audience through a turbo-charged series of concepts and new technologies which are changing business, from Directed Acyclic Graphs (no idea) to the ‘world computer (mostly got it) and Fog Computing (think we understood this one…) This led inexorably to the ‘Blocktopus’, an infographic of the businesses and activities which are already being transformed by blockchain and DLT. It all starts with identity, Laurie told the crowd. We haven’t cracked that. It needs to happen before everything else can.

Professor Bill Buchanan OBE followed, with a hugely entertaining and informative presentation which touched on a huge range of topics, from why GDPR is a good thing (once CEOs realise they could end up in jail they’ll have to start taking data seriously), to the fundamental problems with the infrastructure of the Internet (if Google lose their private key, we’re all stuffed). Professor Buchanan’s presentation built from the basic realities of cyber security and focused on building a new Internet in which the citizen is at the heart of a truly secure new service.

The inherent insecurity of the current Internet, the almost total lack of trust within systems such as e-mail were contrasted alongside politicians failure to grasp things like the laws of mathematics, or the difference between hashtags and hashing. As an example, Professor Buchanan highlighted the fact that many police forces in the UK do not yet use the more secure HTTPS standard, leaving them vulnerable to hacking.

It was an astonishing, illuminating, fascinating and terrifying presentation about the realities of the Internet and just how much radical reform is needed before trust becomes built in.

See the full article here – DIGIT

Written by
Brian Baglow