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Consensus 2018: Event review and major takeaways

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Consensus Conference 2018
Consensus Conference 2018

CoinDesk’s recently concluded Consensus 2018 New York Conference is one of the largest blockchain and cryptocurrency events to be held this year. It brought together some of the major players in cryptocurrency and FinTech as they deliberated on some of the current trends in the industry. This year’s conference seemed to concentrate more on blockchain technology rather than the cryptocurrencies powered by the technology. If you missed the event, this article gives you a breakdown of the major talking points from the event

Major Takeaways

Earlier in the event, FedEx joined BiTA (Blockchain in Transport Appliance) and during the conference the chief executive Fred Smith highlighted the expected disruption that blockchain technology is expected to have in the logistics and transport industry. He touted the transparency and security of payments as one of the main reasons why his company was thinking of leveraging the technology.

Jimmy Song and Joe Lubin had a fiery debate on stage about the future of blockchain technology. Lubin was optimistic about the role that blockchain had while Song presented a skeptical look at the existing blockchain applications and platforms. The debate was one of the highlights of the event, ending in an undisclosed bet between the two.

Another highlight was the announcement of a new blockchain venture Clovyr by Amber Baldet and Mylund Nielsen, two former JP Morgan FinTech developers. It was touted as an online DAPP store. One of the problems the startup aimed to solve was the problem of institutions and individuals providing an asset to multiple lenders as collateral for loans. If all goes well, this may be one of the first adoptions of blockchain by the mainstream banking industry.

Ethereum announced the launch of Enterprise Ethereum Client Specification 1.0 during the New York Consensus. This is a common technical specification that would help push for mass adoption in ways that most individual corporate silos have been unable to do. This signifies the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance’s push to compete with proprietary solutions in the corporate world.

A notable highlight was from Circle, a Goldman Sachs backed Fintech company. They announced that they would be launching a stable coin that would be pegged on the dollar. This would be done in partnership with Bitman, one of the most profitable cryptocurrency mining firms. The USD coin is expected to solve some of the problems with cryptocurrencies like volatility.

Streamr announced a partnership with Nokia and OSIsoft to enable mobile users to make purchases and monetize their user data using blockchain technology. This would empower mobile users to control their data and share it in real time using Ethereum smart contracts. The DATAcoin would be the native token for the platform. This comes just months after Streamr announced another partnership with Hewlett Packard Enterprise for the use of the Streamr engine in collecting data feeds from Audi vehicles. If successful, this could mark one of the first amalgamations of the IoT and blockchain technology.

Another partnership expected to influence the industry was announced during the Consensus conference. AWS (Amazon Web Services) announced its partnership with Consensys to aid in developing enterprise blockchains that were easier and faster to deploy. The two firms seek to smoothen the Kaleido onboarding process, particularly for Ethereum Consortium members. They also hope the partnership will simplify private blockchain network operations. AWS also affirmed its support for R3’s Corda and the Sawtooth Hyperledger.

Enigma also headlined the event by offering the first public demo of the privacy-oriented blockchain-based protocol. The protocol allows nodes to computer smart contract transactions without having to decrypt them. This is expected to rebuild Ethereum’s foundational layer to offer a more long-term solution to the privacy-related shortcomings of the platform.

The contentious issue of regulation

In the past few months, there has been a call by many governments and regulatory agencies to implement stringent regulations that many stakeholders fear will stifle the industry. During the conference, CFTC director James McDonald and SEC Enforcement Division leader Robert Cohen participated in a panel discussion alongside Kiran Raj and Sujit Raman. The government representatives stated that most of the regulations were aimed at seeking out those who were trying to commit fraud or steal money from investors in the industry. They stated that they were trying to ensure that they did not hinder blockchain innovation while protecting investors.

However, panelists like Jalak Jobanputra, Catherine Wood, and Kavita Gupta all agreed that the regulatory approach used would not solve the problems in the industry. Instead, they suggested that self-regulation would be the best approach to ensure that blockchain technology was not stifled. Gary DeWaal outrightly stated that the existing rules implemented by the SEC and CFTC in America were a mess and self-regulation was the best way to deal with the industry’s regulatory woes.

Disappointments of the event

Despite the success of the Consensus 2018, there are some aspects that disappointed many. First is the outrageous $2,000-dollar ticket price that shot up to $3,000 at the gate. Additionally, the management of the event was not good. Some people were in line for hours despite paying such a hefty entry price.

Another problem was reports that the two of the Lamborghinis that grabbed the attention earlier on were rentals. It left a sour taste in some people’s mouth that the organizers would stoop so low. Vitalik Buterin’s absence was also a bummer especially considering how many announcements centered on Ethereum’s scalability, privacy and enterprise prospects. Finally, the conference seemed to have a bearish effect on Bitcoin prices, unlike last year’s bullish run immediately after the conference. Probably part of the reason was the fact that most of the event concentrated on blockchain technology leaving little time to look at the cryptocurrency industry.

Looking forward

Despite the few disappointments, the Consensus Conference was a success. It brought industry stakeholders together and introduced many new developments. The main takeaway is that blockchain technology has been embraced by many institutional investors. Goldman Sachs, IBM, JP Morgan, Nokia, and FedEx are all examples of large corporations that were involved in some large blockchain-related project. The future seems bright for the industry.

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