David Hennah: Not all blockchain is created equal

Blogs are the author’s own opinion and not necessarily representative of Misys or the World Trade Board.

At the recent Banking Commission meetings in Jakarta I was very much encouraged to hear less and less buzz about blockchain and more and more dialogue on distributed ledger technology (DLT). Not wishing to be too pedantic but it’s high time we got our terminology right instead of so-called ‘experts’ jumping on the blockchain bandwagon. Whilst all blockchains may be considered to be distributed ledgers, not all distributed ledgers are blockchains. Of course, blockchain enables us to share data. So what? We know how to share data, don’t we? What is of fundamental importance – in my view – is that the distributed ledger enables us to share control of the data, therefore making it immutable. At the recent internal Misys hackathon, my team won first prize for ‘best business idea’. Our Misys Smartchain concept combined a distributed ledger with smart contracts to support automated workflow and smart objects to allow tracking and tracing in the Internet of Things. The sooner we move on from the hype and hyperbole of blockchain and focus on the true potential of DLT, smart contracts and IoT, the better.

Also in Jakarta the ICC launched its new Working Group on Digitisation. It was agreed to set up specific work groups to tackle three work streams:

  1. To evaluate ICC rules and ensure they are “e” compliant. i.e. enabling banks to accept data vs. documents
  2. To conduct a legal review of enforceability of data vs. documents (e.g. Bills of Lading) that banks use as security for trade finance transactions
  3. To develop a set of minimum standards for digital connectivity across legal, liability, information security and technology

It is fair to say that wonderful as technology may be we cannot bring scalable solutions to market without the support of relevant rules and standards. Therefore, any initiative designed to streamline the processes around the creation of such rules and standards is to be welcomed.