MIT Media Lab alumna Cristina Dolan is the Co-Founder of OneMain.com and insideCHAINS. She describes herself as an Internet Pioneer, Engineering Solutionist and Blockchain Expert. She is also a professional speaker and kindly accepted our interview request.
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Would you briefly inform us about yourself, your company and your products / services?
InsideChains works with organizations to help them create new business opportunities by architecting solutions that utilize blockchain, AI, edge computing, IoT and other transformation technologies. Blockchain offers a layer of trust within the next generation eco-systems, supply-chains and marketplaces, yet there are several other important layers which are part of these transformational systems including the roles of customers, suppliers and partners.
As an engineer, computer scientist and a graduate of the MIT Media Lab, I have always been involved in utilizing the latest transformational technologies to build revolutionary products, services and businesses. My experience in building connected products and communities in combination with my experience in financial markets has given me a unique perspective on how this evolving palette of complementary technologies can be integrated with Blockchain 2.0 to create valuable marketplaces. We live in a networked world powered by the internet, mobile and open source software and standards, making it possible to assemble solutions quickly, and enable consumer access through a variety of connected devices.
What do you think about Bitcoin?
Timing is everything and Bitcoin launched just months after the financial crisis which motivated adoption because trust in the institutional banking was very low. Bitcoin didn’t require trust, because the peer-to-peer architecture doesn’t require a counterparty agreement or a trusted entity on the other end of the transaction. It is also deflationary since there is a limited supply, unlike fiat currencies that can be printed indefinitely.
There are over 700 cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin is the most highly valued and traded of them. All currencies require faith, including fiat currencies and paper money, otherwise the perceived value will be lost. Timing is everything, and it is clear that the loss of faith in traditional financial institutions during the 2008 financial crisis motivated the birth and growth of Bitcoin.
Which one is more important: Widening Bitcoin Spirit or Researching its technology for the innovation that will create a revolution for the banks and financial institutions?
Bitcoin was the application that demonstrated the value of blockchain. It would not have achieved its superhero status without the success of Bitcoin. Blockchain will provide the fuel for innovation not just for the financial markets and banks, but for many industries.
The next generation eco-systems, marketplaces and supply chains are being created on the next generation blockchains. The real art is understanding the business models that can be supported with this technology, and architecting the right solution. This is an area where my company, InsideChains, has been engaged to help clients understand the opportunities the next generation business models offer and to architect effective solutions that utilize blockchain. Today there are several different flavours of blockchain technologies. Some work in a permissioned environment with simple distributed ledger technologies and others offer complex blockchains utilizing proof of work or proof of stake with the ability to execute smart contracts. There are many other technologies that can to be layered around blockchain to generate value. For example, IoT devices, edge computing and AI are just some of the technologies that enable this digital transformation.
Anyone that has tried to create an open consortium with shared IP can understand how difficult it is to discuss IP ownership with a number of organizations. Few organizations would even consider providing full access to their data to a group of partners, suppliers or competitors to create a new view on the data relative to an asset or customer to extract value.
Blockchain offers a unique way to pull in only the data that is relevant to an asset or customer over a period of time. Customers benefit from having a full record of services provided by numerous suppliers over the time they own an asset stored in one immutable place. Some customers will choose to only work with suppliers or vendors that are capable of updating the blockchain records to insure complete and centralized records are available for their asset.
Transparency and data access are always going to be sensitive topics, especially when there are regulatory requirements around data. Blockchain makes it possible to create a new data type where each member of an eco-system can contribute an element of data relevant to an asset or record to create a new data type with greater value to everyone. If the asset is owned by a customer, they will gain value from the consolidated record and may drive business to suppliers and vendors that are part of the ecosystem, making it an interesting business model.
Do you agree that blockchain is the fundamental technology that makes Bitcoin a reality?
I agree with this. The market cap of Bitcoin makes it worth hacking, but it has not been hacked yet and as a result it has proven its value. As a result of Bitcoin’s success, blockchain is being utilized by companies that want to demonstrate trust and transparency as part of their brand.
Blockchain is evolving beyond the original architecture that powers Bitcoin.
Which one is more important: Blockchain or Bitcoin? Why?
Blockchain has far more potential. Combined with other technologies it will power the next generation eco-systems, marketplaces and supply chains. Bitcoin demonstrated the ‘trust’ that generated the interest in blockchain.
Many times you mention “trust” in relation to Bitcoin and Blockchain. In a world where we see so much day-to-day corruption, cybersecurity is becoming a much bigger problem. How can people put trust a digital system in which to trust each other?
Blockchain 2.0 allows numerous organizations to share a segment of a customer record in a neutral location. Together the eco-system has a holistic representation of customer records that provides greater value to enable new business models. Some companies are utilizing blockchain throughout their supply chain to demonstrate quality or to prove the organic certification of their suppliers. These types of data-centric collaborations are much more difficult in traditional systems.
How do you define disruptive technologies?
Digital transformation is by definition disruptive. There are many open source and standard programs available today that make it easy to create new networked solutions that people can adopt rapidly through a variety of connected devices. This digital transformation has been disrupting and disintermediating numerous industries over the past two decades.
What are the roles of Bitcoin and Blockchain for this disruption?
I like to think of these technologies as transformative and not disruptive. There were many articles explaining how cryptocurrencies and blockchain were going to disintermediate the financial markets, but that didn’t happen. Instead there has been an evolution that has come from the involvement by financial organizations.
All technological innovation can appear to disruptive because digital transformation requires change and continued learning. This can be very disruptive but it is the nature of the technology industry, it never stands still.
How do you expect that the markets will change? What will be the role of blockchain about this change?
Regulatory requirements alone are driving change in trading systems where best execution and trade reconstruction can seem impossible to achieve by year end. Blockchain is being applied to some aspects of the trade lifecycle, yet other technologies like artificial intelligence are being utilized to effectively address the required trade reconstruction.
Financial markets have always embraced technology to create a highly profitable competitive advantage. Blockchain smart contract performance hasn’t reached the throughput of traditional high-performance trading platforms used institutional traders. Traditional trading platforms are far more sophisticated when it comes to executing complex trades.
There will be continuous experimentation and innovation. Many organizations are participating in working groups where they can understand the dynamics of a multi-organization networked marketplace.
How do you see the future of money?
The future of money will have to provide for frictionless cross-border payments both through financial institutions and on a peer-to-peer basis to facilitate a global economy. Countries that resist will limit participation in a global economy, which will limit growth. A World Bank report stated that digital payments were critical to emerging and developing countries to broaden economic growth and individual financial empowerment. While traditional banking may not be an option for the underbanked, 75% of the population has access to mobile phones which can facilitate more effective options.
How should companies develop strategies to adapt themselves for the revolutionary change?
Financial organizations need to build better relationships with customers, especially since they value their relationships with their mobile devices and social apps because they offer critical connections to family, jobs and their community.
The mobile device is central to people’s lives, and consumers are able to dictate what and how they are going connect to the services through their devices. Companies will have to focus more on improving the experience that consumers will engage with if they want to keep customers.
Do you want to add anything else?
Digital transformation is bigger than just Bitcoin or Blockchain, and incorporates a growing number of exciting technologies that can be assembled together to create new solutions that will enhance and support traditional business models. There is an even greater wave of innovation that will evolve from next generation marketplaces powered by Blockchain V2 and Blockchain V3 combines with a variety of exciting technologies like edge computing, IoT, data science, AR/VR and artificial intelligence. Understanding how to innovate with this constantly evolving palette of networked technologies requires a strong understanding of the technology, business models and customer needs. That is why InsideChains was launched, to help customers create value for their businesses and their customers through the use of these transformational networked technologies.
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