Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Thoughts on the SLASSCOM Blockchain Event

When will I find a better place to keep these write-ups?

Blockchains and bitcoins are two words that have been thrown around for while, I know little about either and so to fix the situation I decided to attend a blockchain knowledge sharing session organized by SLASSCOM.

To be honest, I have tried figuring out bitcoin when it first popped up as a buzzword but the effort didn’t really lead to any substantial gain in my knowledge on the subject. Now, in retrospect, I can see that it turning out the way it did had more to do with the way in which I went about figuring it out than any other reason.

Here’s the deal, what I figured out during the session was that 'blockchains' is one of those topics that should be looked at conceptually than from an implementation point of view when you first go about trying to wrap your head around it. If you focus on the underlying implementation technologies too much you miss the point! From a technological point of view, blockchains are not doing anything radical or new for that matter. As far as I could understand they are mostly using batch processing technologies and proven security concepts that are old as the hills. Maybe it was because of this reason that I found it a little hilarious when two audience members tried to make it look like it’s just about security, in my humble opinion they added noise to the session(more rants on a similar subject here)

What one should understand instead is what it tries to accomplish and what benefits it has over what’s existing, cash money(yo!) One needs to understand concepts such as what is money? What does a 100 rupee note really represent? Concepts that don’t come to us engineers too naturally.

Blockchains are a huge one up on paper currency because it provides absolute traceability and improvements in authenticity. All four speakers were competent on the subject and delivered their segments well. I was especially impressed with the segments Jayamin Pelpola from Alfinity Ventures and Tharindu Dissanayake from MillenniumIT delivered as they were focused more on real world implications/experiences, areas of future growth and were driven more towards getting the concept across, which I felt was best suited as the topic is a lot more novel conceptually than technologically. Though it must be stated that Omega Silva from VirtusaPolaris did a great job of explaining the technical nitty gritty.

Bottomline, Blockchains can be used as a tool for organizations to optimize situations where they need to process money or other tokens that needs to be held in the same light and add an additional level of integrity and authenticity to transactions. But for you and me Blockchains wouldn’t really make a difference either way for many many years to come. It is only if and when blockchain systems such as bitcoin become adopted(or projected to be adopted) by a majority would you and I really reap benefits of trading in the metal coins in our wallets for their digital counterparts, regardless of how accurately they can be tracked down to their origins or significance of their processing improvements.

Yet another great event by SLASSCOM.