Startups are not the only ones using blockchains and distributed ledgers - established enterprises are also aboard with the concept, noted Mike Butcher, editor at large at TechCrunch, as he kicked off a panel discussion during Block Show Europe in Berlin.
According to Artiona Bogo, blockchain development expert at SAP, using blockchain technology for agriculture is one of the avenues for using the technology to reach end consumers. The presence of blockchain will not replace current powerful systems, but may be a complimentary layer to established business processes, she said.
Some of the most exciting implementations, according to the panelists, go beyond agriculture and ethical supply chains. Sustainable timber supply chain has been one real-world application which shortens administrative tasks and paperwork. For small artisanal manufacturers, certification on the blockchain may be a handy source of proving the origins and quality of the product.
The blockchain turned out to create a new business model, by creating an online catalogue and reaching new buyers, explained Marc Taverner, worldwide ambassador of BitFury. Local craftsmen managed to offer their artisanal products in premium-priced catalogs, due to the availability of blockchain certification.
Pharmaceutical supply chains have been tackled by SAP, for an efficient way of controlling counterfeit drugs. Joost Volker also added that blockchain certification could be used in the pharmaceutical industry in Africa, where counterfeit drugs are a big problem. If government grants some support, enterprises could move into blockchain technologies and offer a working solution, added Volker.
Marc Taverner also believes governments have a key role when it comes to enterprises adopting blockchain technologies. He believes government permissions and regulatory clarity are key, and that blockchain solutions would take off just like the Internet, which was slow initially.
Mike Butcher also raised the question of the shortage of technical talent - a lot of early blockchain adopters may be unwilling to join corporations in their blockchain development efforts, when they could just as easily take up a project of their own.
Antoine Verdon, co-founder and CEO at Proxeus Swiss Entrepreneur, noted that even now it is difficult to find cutting-edge developers to join a corporate blockchain solutions team. Most experts prefer to build their own projects, or ask for very high consultancy fees. Verdon believes the future is in widgets, toolboxes and ready-made solutions, which his team will aim to offer. This would help corporations go one step down the technical side and focus on the business side, he said. Some corporations may not need to hire in-house talent.
Most innovation still comes from startups, and not from older companies that may be carrying obsolete processes, said Frank Fu of Meitu, advisor to the Fantasy Sports platform, MyDFS.
Some enterprises use the newly emerged innovations, the panelists agreed - and open source projects are a good entry point for large corporations. Most projects have open source code allowing corporations to build their in-house solutions from freely available code. One example is IBM (NYSE:IBM) testing the Stellar solutions for cross-border payments.
Mike Butcher added his observation that the newly emerging blockchain market is increasing collaboration between the public and private sectors, as well as between large corporations and startups.
The discussion showed that giants like SAP and Oracle (NYSE:ORCL) have readiness to enter the world of blockchain development, but for now, the process is very tentative, with questions on the best way to attract talent, as well as the problems that can be solved.
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