Cryptocurrency the least interesting application of blockchain

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18 June 2018 | 0

Niall Kitson portraitMy key take home from last week’s MoneyConf at the RDS was simple: cryptocurrency is the worst application of blockchain. Even worse, it’s probably the most damaging and certainly one that’s likely to hold up mass adoption of blockchain.

Here are a few items of trivia against cryptocurrencies: there are about 1,800 cryptos in circulation around the world; crypto mining accounts for 0.32% of all the energy used in the world; and initial coin offerings (ICO) are happening at a rate of six per week with an average value of $24.3 milllion. The belief that ‘this changes everything’ persists though no one seems sure what mass adoption will look like. Indeed, sitting at the crypto stage was a frustrating experience with the same points being made by a revolving cast of entrepreneurs, investors and pundits.

The only point of conflict was on the issue of regulation where European and US contributors clashed over basic consumer protection over the techno-libertarian dream of an unfettered market guided by fast-moving technological innovation.

If you were in the market for snake oil you were well served.

Which brings me to the application of secure, transparent and personalised logging of data. The good stuff that makes blockchain an exciting proposition and that, done right, will be completely invisible to the average user.

Two applications in particular caught my attention. The first, AID:Tech is an Irish for-profit company that uses blockchain to manage charitable donations. The proposition is simple: charities have suffered from a lack of transparency in recent years of waste and bloated executive pay. AID:Tech takes both these problems away by providing a payments platform that lets the user specify the charity they wish to support, the campaign they wish to donate to, in what form (cash, food or medication), even down to individually registered people in need. All this information is recorded on the blockchain and presented through a mobile application. Easy to use, accountable and traceable – though your identity remains private by default.

The application is being trialled in the developing world, where donations are logged on a smart card held by the receiver to act as identity verification. In some respects this model reminds me of how some countries dealt with 3G rollout by skipping 2G completely and thus not having to worry about legacy technology or doubling up on infrastructure costs.

The second, Mycelia, is the brainchild of Grammy-winning musician Imogen Heap. Cuttrntly at the proof of concept stage, Mycelia is a digital passport for musicians, logging song catalogue files and metadata (including lyrics, credits and even instruments used), along with a system for managng royalty payments from record labels and rights bodies. The benefits are obvious, a one-stop-shop for career management through your smartphone.

In discussing the project with Heap I she was at pains to make sure blockchain remained in the background of the digital passport, humming away while users reap the benefits. In the long-term it is envisioned that any creative professional would have a Mycelia passport. Given the amount of time wasted on admin work, having a centralised facility that cuts down on management is to be welcomed.

There will be more from MoneyConf on a forthcoming edition of TechRadio but thankfully there won’t be much discussion of bitcoin. I promise.

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