Blockchain, the Bitcoin technology that changes paradigms
Interview with Alejandro Narancio about Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies.
Unalterable, decentralized and transparent, this tool promises to revolutionize several business industries; In Uruguay, some companies are beginning to develop products and explore niches.
When in 2008 Bitcoin was created by Satoshi Nakamoto (whose whereabouts and true identity are unknown) some people came to a very important detail: the blockchain, the technology behind the cryptocurrency.
Now the “chain of blocks” seems to be fashionable and it is not for less. Its technology may revolutionize the way companies and governments are managed. The key lies in the security provided by its information storage system.
The technology is similar to a database shared by many computers (nodes) around the world, which works as a ledger of operations or transactions (blocks) that are recorded chronologically with a code (hash). The only ones who can make changes are the “miners” (people behind the computers), who register and broadcast the blocks on the network so that the nodes verify their validity and update the status of the chain.
However it was Vitalik Buterin, a young man of Russian origin, who helped make the technology open to all areas. In 2014, he built the Ethereum blockchain technology in order to create his own cryptocurrency, Ether. What it spawned was even broader: a system that allows any element that is programmable to be transacted, with anyone, without the need for a central authority.
In Uruguay, several players have begun to research, test and even develop specific products based on this technology. Mauro Flores, manager of security services and technical leader of blockchain for Latin America at Deloitte understands that there is great potential in the financial and public sector and his consultancy is already working on solutions for these sectors.
«We are in the process of identifying, within the reality of each organization or company, where they could achieve significant benefits. It is like legos, they are constructive foundations, but what can be built varies a lot according to the needs of each business», he said. In his opinion, one of the aspects where it can impact the most is in the companies’ internal processes. «Internally, in organizations, in processes with complicated logistics such as the flow of internal approvals, internal contracts, contracting of internal services between areas; it can help improve management», he noted.
It can even reduce conflicts. For example, if a company must handle a very large stock and move it, traceability can be made more efficient with blockchain; to know if a merchandise was received or not, if it was moved, etc.
Sergio Fogel, co-founder of Astropay, indicated that his company began to experiment with blockchain (Ethereum). «We set up a laboratory to experiment with technology in various aspects», he asserted.
IIBM already works with this technology globally based on Hyperlegder (a closed blockchain system where few actors have access) since several years ago. It has also begun exploring the local market in areas of government, the financial sector, distribution, health and regulatory, said Gonzalo Boix, leader of blockchain initiatives of the technology giant for Uruguay and Paraguay. «There are many sensible cases in Uruguay, but we want to be sure to apply this with a return on investment for the companies or the ecosystem where it is applied. For example, its use in the management of medical history is very interesting, because it empowers the patient», he noted.
Alejandro Narancio, CEO of Infuy,also invested in blockchain and this year he launched ZirconTech, a spinoff dedicated to exploring this technology. «Since March we have been exploring our first product, a usage-based car insurance tool. Through an app or device, the driver’s information is ‘tracked’, which is sent to the blockchain for scoring calculations to be made. Everything is recorded and is immutable. The plan is to launch at the end of 2018. Now we are carrying out pilot plans with companies in Uruguay and Argentina and we have advanced negotiations with companies in Chile», he stated.
Another player that entered the market is the technology company Inmind, which began pilot tests of its first product, a “medical ledger”, two months ago. «Through a mobile application, patients access their medical history and are the only ones who can allow access to doctors. In this way, the patients, if they decide to change hospital or doctor, do not depend on communication between clinics to share the information. Likewise, patients will be able to use the application to obtain prescribed medications in the pharmacies as they will appear in their history», he explained. «One of the values of applying it in medical records is that it guarantees absolute and unchangeable traceability. If a doctor enters data incorrectly, it cannot be edited, a new record must be added to ‘correct’ the previous one. This provides transparency and guarantees when evaluating a treatment’s performance», he remarked.
Despite the “benefits” of the new platform, adoption is still slow. «It is a technology that changes the rules of the game, changes the scenarios and, for example, you have to be more collaborative», said Flores, expert from Deloitte . Perhaps this is where the chain has its weakest link.