Rising from the crypto hype, blockchain enters the corporate world now. To learn what the main issues are in blockchain adoption by large organizations, and how to overcome them, Digital Asset Live Editor-in-Chief talked to Dr Marta Piekarska, Director of Ecosystem at Hyperledger.
Q1: 2019 saw blockchain adoption by large corporations, ten years after the famous whitepaper by Satoshi Nakamoto. Why do you think it has taken a decade, do you think the adoption will go quicker from now on?
A1: It sounds like a decade is a lot. But it is not – look at any other technology: Internet started 1983, and wide adoption happened in late 90s. AI was born in 1956 at a workshop in Dartmouth college. We are still finding new applications of these and discovering the mistakes we did when introducing the technologies.
It is quite fenomenal to me that 10 years after a concept was described and implemented it is so popular that a random passer-by on a street will at least have heard of it. The adoption will go quicker when Blockchain becomes more standardized and we get clear understanding what’s the position of it in the highly regulated environments.
Q2: You have recently stated that the hype in cryptocurrencies is passing. Why? Is it because they did not deliver upon their promises, human greed to “hodl” and not to spend, or the issue is absence of pegging/backing by real life assets?
A2: The fact that hype is passing is not a bad thing. Moreover I think it is the hype for blockchain not the cryptocurrencies. I am too far removed from the cryptocurrency world to actually have an opinion. I am glad and was looking forward to the day when we can say that the hype passed.
This means focus of implementers and an opportunity to evaluate what does and doesn’t make sense. In the hype cycle people basically throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks. This is not good for building trust in the technology. Past hype we can sit down, take a breather and think. Start developing solutions with products in mind. Not just a POC Tsunami
Q3: Amongst your members, what are the main areas of adoption? How would you define the current trends?
A3: Good question. We have over 275 members spanning across all industries. I would judge the interest based on the Special Interest Groups we launched: these are proposed and organized by our community members and attended by people from the industry (members or not). We have Telecom, Supply Chain, Trade Finance, Social Impact, Healthcare, Identity, Public Sector and Capital Markets SIGs. These are probably the “hottest” areas of adoption.
Q4: What are the main current issues in blockchain adoption? Is it interoperability issues, organizational hurdles, absence of ideas, lack of developers?
A4: Lack of Education and Regulation, Scepticism and Overcuriosity. Let me untangle it. First problem is connected to lack of objectivity in the space. There are still not enough companies that help you choose technology and implement solution based on whats a good fit for your problem. This leads to religious fights in the community of X being better than Y. And the trust is that X and Y are equally good, its only the application that makes one or the other a better fit.
Regulation is an interesting one. While Blockchain as a technology doesn’t need to be regulated (we didn’t need to regulate programming languages, neural networks or Machine learning), there are fields where it makes sense to have a clear understanding of what are the consequences of poor implementation. Or even if it is allowed to use that tech in a given field. I hear way too often, from people working in certain fields, that they are holding back because they are not sure if the solution they introduce today will not turn out illegal in a year or two.
Scepticism is a new one: as the hype passed, not it is fashionable to be a “blockchain sceptic”. I understand that many people were overly excited and that lead to general eye rolling. However blockchain is just a technology: it is not a binary “amazing” and “never use it”; there are places where it makes sense to use it and places where I would never even think of putting blockchain.
Finally my favourite one – overcuriosity. That is a paradox to the first one. We do not have executives holding back the decision making until they understand cryptography. They ask their stuff to make sure it works. And yet, they still are digging into the details of blockchain and want to understand ZKSnarks. While I command the efforts it is not needed. If we wait for everyone to be confident they can explain RAFT to a 3 year old, we might never see blockchain in production.
Q5: On the lack of developers, I am about to launch a Jobs section. Hence my question, how do your members find blockchain developers?
A5: We have a jobs board where our members can post their openings. We in Linux Foundation have an internship program where many members submit proposals for projects and later on find students that are worth hiring. Most importantly we created a certification program for developers and administrators. This should help with finding people that are truly proficient in the Hyperledger space.
Q6: Judging upon the trends above, how many blockchain standards do you we will end up with?
A6: It is impossible to say. Blockchain is a complex system and given how many flavours of blockchain we have we may end up with plenty or not at all. I am sure we will see standards around bits and bobs of blockchain – like we already have the DID standard, Verifiable Claims or Interledger Protocol. I do believe that standards will be useful tool for interoperability improvements
Q7: As the Director of Hyperledger Ecosystem, please describe the blockchain ecosystem in short term (1-3 years), mid term (3-5 years), long term (5-10 years)
A7: It is the hardest to judge the short term. Everything else is easily forgotten so we can say whatever we want. If I really need to I would say that short term we will see growth in Hyperledger community. Some stronger leadership and guidance from our Technical Steering Committee and leaders of the ecosystem. Slow acceptance for need of collaboration and openness, maybe some more projects to be included in our greenhouse.
Mid term I think we will see consolidation of a few frameworks (inside and outside of Hyperledger), a lot of products using blockchain technologies, growth in consortias, and moving to stronger cryptography. Looking in my glass ball, I see a future where blockchain stops being a main selling point and nobody talks about it; it becomes technology as any other. Once this happens, we will know we won.