Episode 11: First Impressions from Blockchain Expo Global

In this episode Andrew is ruminating on the blockchain industry and looking at what’s hot in blockchain at the moment.

This week the 345 / Glu team were at Blockchain Expo Global at Kensington Olympia, seeing what’s happening in the world of blockchain and talking to people from across the industry. From this I’ve distilled some thoughts about what’s hot at the moment and what’s not. This is my personal take on the expo, I’m sure the rest of the guys will have more to add!

On the 345 Tech Talks podcast we haven’t even started talking about blockchain yet, so it would be unfair for us to dive in too deep. Good job, because this is a good starting point for an overview.

What’s Blockchain?

So what’s blockchain? Well, we can conceive of a blockchain as a type of database where chunks of data (“blocks”) are written one after another to form a series of connected links (“chain”), thus blockchain. There you go. Not too hard was it? The clever stuff is making that actually work, but from an application point of view, a database that has chunks of data written in sequence in a way that can’t be tampered with is a great starting point on which you can begin understanding everything else.

Use Cases for Blockchain Technology

Owing to the write-once-and-it’s-there-forever nature of blockchain there are certain applications that are best suited to the technology. For sure, cryptocurrency payments were the genesis of the technology. They’re a great example of a permanent immutable record. Other areas that are great applications for blockchain are any type of legal document or assertion that needs to be recorded and used as evidence later. Proof of ownership. Copyright assertion. Land registry. Auditable events. All these are great examples of blockchain in action.

The Rise, Fall and Rise of Cryptocurrency Tokens

A year ago tokens were all the rage. People were setting up crypto businesses, creating tokens, inventing “tokenomics” for their business and then hoping people would buy into it. The mania ended soon afterwards, and lots of projects went with them.

In some ways this is a good thing, because we need to sort the wheat from the chaff, sort the good and durable from the Ponzi schemes. Cryptocurrency tokens are in fact a great way to represent ownership of real things. You can make the indivisible divisible. You can own a millionth of a house, a tenth of a car and buy a sack of next year’s harvest.

In short, cryptocurrency tokens, backed by smart contracts (software code embedded within the token you own that enforces rules), offer a way to bring the tools of finance to everyone. You won’t need to be able to access capital markets in London or New York in order to raise equity for your business in future. It’s going to be available for everyone.

We’re a few years away from this, and this application of blockchain is in a bit of a lull. It’s going to come back though, because the underlying need to widen access to finance hasn’t gone away.

Wallets and Storage

A difference between this year and last is the level of sophistication there has been in the wallet space. Last year people were writing wallet apps and getting people to use them. This year we’re talking integrated hardware, software, multi-signature workflow. You name it, the storage of cryptocurrency assets is maturing. Essentially, these are the modern equivalent of safety deposit boxes for your crypto assets. Really friendly people on the stands too.

Talking about Glu

The project the 345 team have been engaged on lately is Glu and the expo was an ideal place to validate our product ideas with industry insiders. Glu is the definitive product catalog for cryproturrencies, tokens and blockchain so in many ways we were pushing against an open door. The general feeling was that there is a need and an opportunity for Glu’s product in this industry, to bind everyone together and help build trust in an industry so known for individuality and infighting.

We left the expo with a renewed sense of mission to complete the Glu product. The live beta launches next month, so be sure to keep checking the website to see when it’s landed!

Thanks for listening, see you next week when I’ll be back talking tech with Paul.

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