Blockchain heavyweights address South West businesses

Events | South West | Technology

National blockchain event, Crypto Curry Club, came to commercial law firm Thrings in Bristol for the first time on 20 September 2019 – bringing with it some of the leading minds in the field.

The high-level group, which included G20 speakers, former Facebook innovators, environmental and energy businesses, gathered with South West businesses to discuss the future of money.

Through cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, blockchain is thought by some to be challenging traditional banking and promoting ‘real financial inclusion’. Libra, the digital currency under development by Facebook, was put under the spotlight, with concerns raised around the centralised nature of the currency and privacy.

Also addressed was blockchain’s role in the circular economy, smart and demand-led energy systems and the future of ‘smart contracts’ in supply chains.

Elaborating on the event’s topics and best-use cases, a group of experts stayed on to participate in Thrings’ first Blockchain Podcast.

Areiel Wolonow, founder of financial consultancy, Finserv Experts, adviser to the UK’s Parliamentary Group on Blockchain and G20 speaker, is working on a blockchain project bringing micro-insurance against natural disasters to Indonesia.

He explained how the cost of providing the insurance service, including claims investigations and the delivery of pay-outs to disaster areas, made premiums incredibly high for ordinary people. Finserv Expert’s solution uses blockchain to automate payouts to policyholders in areas which have been officially confirmed to have been hit by a natural disaster.

Commenting further on the accessibility of finance, Steve Cochrane of Psyphr, said: “If Libra is going to give you something which you don’t have, and you’re willing to give up a level of privacy in return, then it might be an acceptable price to pay.”

Tony McGurk, CEO of CryptoCycle, is using the technology to incentivise behavioural changes and facilitate a truly circular economy. He said: “We’re building a blockchain solution called Reward4Waste, which is a deposit-return scheme that uses blockchain to secure the value of the bottle as it’s recycled – while eliminating all fraud.”

Providing end-to-end tracking of a product, the technology is expected to apply beyond recycling deposit machines to home recycling – and would still work across borders.

NappyTrac is another project by the environmental business. McGurk added: “A disposable nappy takes 200-500 years to breakdown in the soil and local authorities hate them. Companies are now beginning to build plants that can recycle nappies. I call it ‘profit from poo’. We’re applying the same tracking technology to incentivise people to put their nappies into special recycling containers.”

Speaking on blockchain’s application for electrical vehicle charging within smart energy systems, Neil Pennington from the Energy Web Foundation said: “The biggest issue is around having interoperability – a single unique digital identity in this space. In other words, making a charging point or a vehicle a unique and universally recognised asset that can be interoperable across platforms.”

Beyond its sustainable applications, Rob Gaskell, CEO of 2030 Asset Management, spoke of a world moving towards the tokenisation of assets. He said: “I know through demand for some of our products at 2030 that huge amounts of property and real estate will move to a tokenised market over the next year or so.”

Further benefiting the residential property market, McGurk added: “When a property is being bought or sold, why does your solicitor have to ask for all the information relating to the property, why do all these searches have to go out? It takes weeks to happen but it should take seconds. There are projects underway to help fix all of that.”

The legal industry is set to be affected by the technology in more ways than one. In this vein, Dave Karney, head of digital assets at online payments giant, Worldline, highlighted the potential of ‘smart contracts’ as a supply chain solution.

These blockchain coded contracts are already being used to track supply chains in agriculture, healthcare and environmentally responsible businesses, for private client matters and even to allow fractional ownership of assets such as art or real estate.

Will Foulkes, who recently joined the Technology team at Thrings and is leading the newly-founded Blockchain team said: “Smart contracts are the future and they will be a key part of how companies transact, how loans are provided and drawn down, how buildings are built, people paid and how you can make sure what’s inside a building is what you paid for.

“Lawyers are going to need to have a very good idea of how these smart contracts work, of how they’re put together and what the code is that sits behind them. By embracing this rapidly evolving technology ahead of its widespread use and teaching our lawyers how to code, Thrings is fast becoming a trusted advisor to businesses looking to navigate the uncertainty around the technology’s use, as well as those seeking to clinch the opportunities it presents.”

Crypto Curry Club is returning to Thrings’ Bristol office on 29 November 2019.

Foulkes added: “The Crypto Curry Club is a fantastic event, bringing together some of the best minds in the field. We are delighted to be supporting the event’s founder, Erica Stanford, and the incredibly collaborative blockchain community who are working on innovations that could change the world – for the better.”

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