Let’s define blockchain, shall we? While simple to some, others are seeking a better definition.
The government is still hashing out a definition. At the time time, a recent group of experts in academia, private practice, government and other industries banded together to define the term at an event — the Blockchain Definitions on Capitol Hill — which was hosted by MIT Media Lab, Congressman David Schweikert, the Chamber of Digital Commerce and the new DC Blockchain Center.
In a blog post, Lexology discussed the definition, giving it two parts. One being — “an electronic distributed store of data utilized by multiple unaffiliated parties.” The other being — “whether a ‘store of data’ is a blockchain is a matter of facts and circumstances. Generally, if a store of data maintains a decentralized continuously growing list of records stored cryptographically, such as by a hashing process, it is a blockchain.”
Experts, however, have their opinion about that definition and their own definitions.
“The most interesting part of this definition is it says that private blockchains are not blockchains at all,” said Peter Horadan, CTO and EVP of engineering at Avalara.
Horadan admitted that there is a vast debate over the role of private versus public blockchains. And that indeed may be part of the issue.
Erik Voorhees, in his Money and State blog, talks about this quite extensively.
“A marginal gain in efficiency isn’t what we’re excited about, and indeed, a centralized system, like PayPal, can always be faster than a blockchain, from a technical perspective … The real purpose [of a public blockchain], the purpose which, in hindsight, will be hailed as the real innovation, is to remove censorship and central control from money itself.”
Horadan said that, regardless of the exact definition, many private entities, of course, are coming out with their own blockchains. The reasons, he said, are twofold. One is “fear of keeping transactions private to only those entities involved in the transaction,” while the second is likely “to head off the possibility of a public blockchain that could come out and disintermediate them.”
He gave the example of learning that financial services firms are engaging in creating private blockchains that they control. And then, he posed ever-prevailing questions like: Should private blockchains be regulated? Should public blockchains be regulated? If so, by whom?
At PYMNTS, we’ve followed some of the regulations that have evolved — or rather, are evolving but haven’t yet been fully established.
But the blockchain concept is moving so quickly that regulation may need to step up its game.
Speaking of moving, drones are moving quickly and moving more things. This time, in the blockchain space.
Back in early September, Chipotle was working with Virginia Tech and Google on a burrito delivery project.
Now, a drone has been equipped with a secure blockchain-registered BLE identity chip. The drone is able to self-authenticate and access a private residence. Burrito or something else of interest, this drone will deliver it to you by way of blockchain technology.
The company behind this drone is Chronicled, based out of San Francisco. Chronicled is also developing a blockchain-hosted registry and protocol for the Internet of Things (IoT). Through this, it has developed the delivery system using Ethereum.
Chronicled engineer Maksym Petkus told International Business Times: “As far as we know, this is the first use of blockchain technology in interaction with a dynamic physical object and access control in real time. In a future version, we can assign the drone a digital wallet, so that it can send and receive micropayments. For example, the drone could make a payment for accessing a landing pad equipped with a battery recharging station.”
Horadan said that there needs to be some defining around who the authenticated blockchain users are who are registered as drone users.
“In a public blockchain, anyone can add themselves as a user. So, we are still looking to some central control here who defines who the authorized drone users are,” said Horadan. “But as long as there is central control of a blockchain, why is a blockchain needed at all for this application? One might as well use a simple certificate signing system, similar to SSL certificates. The cryptography community solved this problem 30 years ago (with no need for a blockchain!).”
So, this sets us back to the question many of us have toward new technology: Why fix it if it ain’t broken?
However, in the future, looking back, we usually are thankful that someone “fixed it.” And usually, at some point, there is regulation that catches up and adds its two cents.