Hong Kong Blockchain Week 2019: What to Expect for the Future of BlockchainBy Mar 20, 2019 7 Min Read
Hong Kong Blockchain Week 2019 is an event held by NexChange that brought together members of the blockchain community from all over the world to gather in Hong Kong for several events during the week. The two core events were Block O2O, hosted by NexChange, which was held from March 5-6th, and Hybrid Summit, co-hosted by Hybrid Summit in collaboration with Chaineer, held on March 7th.
Throughout the conference panel discussions and speeches from blockchain leaders went through topics ranging from regulation, tokenization, financial analyses, blockchain adoptions and applications, as well as problems we currently face in the blockchain industry. Although the industry seems to be going through a period of decline, the energy was still very positive and shed some light on what we are to expect in 2019. The speakers were from all walks of life with one thing in common, their faith in the future of blockchain technology. Projects from all over the world gathered to share what they were doing to make a difference in the industry.
Hong Kong Blockchain Week 2019 Highlights
There were numerous speakers and panels throughout the week on various topics, so there is a lot of ground to cover, but here are some messages that we felt were important takeaways to think about.
Redistribution of blockchain talents with the advent of regulation
Regulation was probably the top buzzword of the event since it seemed no speech or panel could get away without at least mentioning the word at least once. The blockchain industry is currently facing a period of regulatory uncertainty since most regulators are still trying to figure out how to leverage blockchain technology. This serves to remind us that the blockchain industry is still at a very early stage and there is still a lot of work to be done. We have various regulators in different jurisdictions putting forth regulation that promotes innovation and showing support for the developments in the industry.
According to Jason Hsu, entrepreneur and member of the Taiwanese legislature, Taiwan is set to be one of the first regions in Asia to have regulations on security token offerings (STOs). Jason has been a prominent figure in the development of blockchain-friendly regulation in Taiwan, helping to ensure that blockchain businesses continue to operate the support of the government. Taiwan is also considering a national currency for trade finance as well. One of the keynote speakers of the conference was Brittany Kaiser, the whistleblower behind the Cambridge Analytica scandal. She explained how personal data was being collected and used by companies. She later co-founded the Digital Asset Trade Association (DATA) and joined forces with the Wyoming Blockchain Coalition to work with regulators in Wyoming to establish forward-looking blockchain regulation. To date, Wyoming has passed around 13 blockchain laws and is the first state to do so.
Overall, the sentiment was that regulators need to improve their knowledge of the technology and should set clear regulatory frameworks to allow the industry to grow and innovate. Bart Chilton, former commissioner at the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, recommended principles-based regulations that are like bamboo, strong enough to provide structured framework yet flexible and adaptable to change. In coming years, talent will move to less stringent regulatory environments like Hong Kong and Singapore as projects continue to relocate to areas that allow them to innovate and do business. Talent was originally concentrated in areas such as Silicon Valley and China, however we will see the decentralization of this trend continues.
Tokenization will open up the market to greater future opportunities
The blockchain community turn their attention towards asset tokenization as one of the significant trends in future. The tokenization of assets will enhance market liquidity and allow for more stringent regulation. Tokenization can also potentially bring everything that we know in the real world onto the blockchain, creating a true digital future.
Project teams are now starting to incorporate this concept to create more value for the customers and change the playing field. REITIUM is a project that uses the Hyperledger platform to make it easier for people to make partial investments in property in a regulated way. It primarily aims to open up the market of millennials who lack capital in property investment. Animoca Brands, the creators of Crypto Kitties, is also working with several players in the blockchain industry to allow for the tokenization as well as the purchase and sale of virtual game items. This is expected to create a new revenue stream for game companies as gamers will use tokens to pay for in-game content.
An interesting question to leave all our readers at the end of this topic, posed by Kevin Murcko, Founder & CEO of CoinMetro, at the Regulation and Compliance panel is – once everything is tokenized, will there still be a need for the cryptocurrencies that we are familiar with today such as Bitcoin and Ethereum? The purpose of the major cryptocurrencies today might change drastically as a result of this event. That would be a question to ponder about as we think of the future that tokenization will bring to the world of blockchain.
Blockchain can be used to benefit the underprivileged and open the industry to a broader range of use cases
Blockchain technology mostly deals with the issue of trust and how to create an automated system that can assure this layer of trust. Blockchain technology is especially beneficial to areas where there is a lack of infrastructure and where it can be used for social good. Simple steps can be made to change the way things are done and truly allow society to experience the benefits that technology can bring.
According to Mekong Club, a non-profit organization set up to fight modern slavery, 40.3 million people in the world are subject to modern slavery where they are forced to work against their will. Of this population, only 0.2% of victims are being helped each year. One of the reasons this is happening is that employers are taking away the documents of migrant workers and forcing them to work. These workers usually cannot seek help from federal enforcement or the government because they have no way to prove their identity. As a step towards combatting this issue, Mekong Club has teamed up with Diginex to create eMin, a blockchain based app that helps fight employment contract abuse. Through eMin an immutable copy of the employment contracts and employment terms can be stored on the Ethereum blockchain, which increases the transparency in the supply chain and reduced risk of undocumented workers. There will be a pilot program held in Thailand this month to deploy eMin in the identification of workers in shrimp farms.
Charles Hoskinson, CEO of IOHK and Founder of Cardano, explained the trends of modern society and how blockchain was going to move towards a more decentralized model. Although institutions are exploring the use of blockchain, he viewed implementations such as JPMorgan’s JPM Coin as the “the last vestiges of a dying industry trying to achieve some form of relevance.” Blockchain will revolutionize the way people do business and the overall infrastructure. Simple implementations of blockchain can be integrated into the real world to spur the advancement of adoption. Cardano is now working with several African countries to establish implementation of blockchain for real use cases. One example is that they are working with Ethiopia to establish a supply chain system for the coffee bean industry. They also work with local girls from Ethiopia and Uganda to train them on how to program smart contracts in Haskell. They are creating digital identities to establish a system for credit rating and history. An entire ecosystem will be reconstructed around blockchain that benefits the lives of all those connected to the coffee bean industry and solve crucial issues that are plaguing the area.
We will start to see greater changes in the landscape as different players enter the industry and adopt the technology to solve real problems
Even through the bear market the atmosphere at Hong Kong Blockchain Week was quite positive with a major focus being mainstream adoption and the real-life use cases of blockchain technology. Many were focused on solving real-world problems with blockchain and making it easier for people and businesses to use blockchain in their daily lives.
Blockchain is still quite far from mainstream adoption. Jon Malach, advisor to uBucks, provided an analysis of user data and revealed that the data pointed to mobile crypto wallets and stablecoins as current trends that will drive the mainstream adoption. The value of stablecoins are backed by assets or fiat currencies, this storage of value preserves the wealth of crypto investors especially under the bearish market. It is worth noting that around 1.7 billion mobile phone users don’t have bank accounts. These “unbanked” populations present huge market potential for mobile crypto wallet providers since they help to bank the unbanked and facilitates financial inclusions, especially in developing countries. uBuck works to address these two issues through their mobile app that allows users to transfer money worldwide using stablecoins, or to spend the money themselves through the uBuck Debit MasterCard.
Institutions are increasingly interested in exploring the feasibility of blockchain technology into real-life applications. According to Richard Ma, CEO of Quantstamp, many companies start deploying blockchain with permissioned settings because security risks are much higher in a permissionless network. Many of them are turning to open source solutions like Hyperledger, which make it must easier for businesses to implement blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) rather than having to create everything from scratch. Tencent Cloud technical director, Jackey Li, mentioned that Tencent uses BaaS to help client's access into blockchain in as fast as 20 minutes, simplifying the overall adoption process dramatically.
To wrap up...