For a long time in the blockchain space, we have seen a wide range of financial and non-financial applications as well as an array of promising companies leveraging the distributed ledger technology. Blockchain certainly doesn’t suffer from the lack of attention from banks and entrepreneurs, which explains the pace of adoption and experimentation.
In the quest to adopt blockchain technology, a range of entities moved from theory to practice and launched blockchain-powered pilots in partnerships with other blockchain enthusiasts. Let’s look at some of the latest experimentations with blockchain technology:
Start Network and ConsenSys have launched an innovative pilot project to test blockchain technology to enable Start Network member NGOs to make more efficient and transparent decisions about funding for crisis response. The pilot for decision-making within the Start Fund, the Start Network’s unique rapid response mechanism, is the first project of its kind to be actively tested.
The pilot uses the Ethereum platform to provide the necessary infrastructure to support decision-making processes for effective fund management by a distributed group of actors at a global scale. ConsenSys is supporting the project by building the pilot on Boardroom, a decentralized digital governance platform that runs smart contracts on blockchain: applications that run exactly as programmed without any possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud or third-party interference.
Georgian Ministry of Justice, bitcoin mining company BitFury, the Republic of Georgia’s National Agency of Public Registry and Peruvian economist Hernando De Soto recently announced a partnership to design and pilot a blockchain land titling project.
The experiment aims to successfully apply blockchain technology for managing land titles. While it is common in some parts of the world to have legal title to property, in other parts, people do not have legal titles to their assets. De Soto, president of Lima-based think tank, the Institute for Liberty and Democracy, estimates that the value of this “dead capital” totals $20 trillion.
“Why the blockchain? It will help do three major things,” explains Valery Vavilov, Chief Executive of BitFury, “First, it will add security to the data so the data cannot be corrupted. Second, by powering the registry with the blockchain, the public auditor will also make a real-time audit. So the auditor will audit the registry not once per year, but every 10 minutes [for example]. Third, it will reduce the friction in registration and the cost of property rights registration, because people could do this in the future using their smartphones. Blockchain will be used as a notary service.”
Currently, buying or selling land in Georgia is a one-day process that costs the buyer or seller between $50 and $200, depending on how quickly they want the transaction to be notarized. The pilot project will move elements of this process onto the blockchain and cost buyers and sellers in the range of $.05–$.10.
“The outcome would be citizens of a specific region have a smartphone application and they’ll be able to move their assets, and that movement will be corresponded to tokens moving on the blockchain and doing it with even less friction than what the country has now,” said George Kikvadze, Vice Chairman of BitFury’s board.
While the system is yet to be fully designed, BitFury intends to create a private blockchain tailored for property rights registration that is anchored to the public bitcoin blockchain. It will allow land titles to be managed on a closed system so no one individual transaction will be identifiable and public, but that the public can have confidence that the record will not be tampered with. The project is expected to be launched by the end of 2016.
BNP Paribas Securities Services, a leading global custodian, and SmartAngels, a direct investment platform, have taken a major step forward in crowdfunding by signing a strategic partnership for the use of blockchain technology.
BNP Paribas Securities Services and SmartAngels will allow private companies to issue securities on the primary market and give investors access to the secondary market using blockchain technology. The pilot scheme is due to be launched in the second half of 2016, subject to regulatory approvals.
Under the partnership, BNP Paribas Securities Services is developing a share register that uses the blockchain protocol, which will automatically register financial securities issued by SmartAngels’ client companies.
Investor payments will be processed immediately and e-certificates will be issued to them straight away. Financial transactions made via the platform will therefore be performed simply, quickly, securely and for a lower cost.
Philippe Ruault, Head of Product for Clearing, Custody and Settlement at BNP Paribas Securities Services, said, “By applying blockchain technology in the crowdfunding sector, we will accelerate cash and securities flows by using e-certificates, and make them more secure. This is a major innovation for the custody and account-keeping of unlisted securities. It also provides BNP Paribas Securities Services with the opportunity to test a solution that could be applied to listed securities markets. The use of blockchain is part of BNP Paribas’ digital strategy.”
JPMorgan Chase has partnered with Digital Asset Holdings on a trial blockchain initiative that aims to make the trading process more efficient and cost-effective.
As reported in the FT, several uses of the technology are to be examined, including addressing liquidity mismatches in loan funds. These funds give investors quick access to money, although the underlying assets often take far longer to sell due to a complex manual process that must deal with multiple parties.
As Daniel Pinto, CEO at JPMorgan's corporate and investment bank, commented, "To sell a loan is a very cumbersome, time-consuming process; settlement can take weeks. Using the blockchain makes sense, since it’s easier and faster, and produces fewer errors.”
New York-based Digital Asset plans to use private or permissioned blockchain technology to streamline syndicated loans, US Treasury repo, foreign exchange, securities settlement and derivatives.
Digital Asset Holdings recently announced that it has been selected by ASX Limited (ASX) to develop solutions for the Australian market utilizing distributed ledger technology. The initial focus will be on post-trade (clearing and settlement) services in the cash equities market.
The initial 6 to 12 months will be used to develop a solution that demonstrates the benefits that distributed ledger technology brings to a broad range of users – including investors, listed companies and intermediaries.
Digital Asset's post-trade solutions will meet the high regulatory, operational and security standards that apply to Australia's financial markets. Digital Asset software is designed to materially improve post-trade processing efficiency, reducing costs, latency, errors, risk and capital requirements. Any future solution for ASX will be based on a cryptographically secure private network, whereby all parties that participate will be permissioned to do so – as they are today when they connect to CHESS for clearing and settlement of cash equities.
Distributed ledger technology provides the opportunity to radically simplify and speed-up post-trade processing. For ASX clients, it could remove risk and reduce back-office administration and compliance costs while investors could experience significantly faster settlement of equity transactions – potentially in near real-time.
Elmer Funke Kupper, Managing Director and CEO of ASX, commented, "Distributed ledger technology could provide a once in a generation opportunity to reduce cost, time and complexity in the post-trade environment of Australia's equity market. Moreover, it could stimulate greater innovation by ASX and other providers of services to issuers, investors and intermediaries. ASX and Digital Asset will work together to design a solution and share the potential benefits with clients and regulators."