If you have been associated with the blockchain world in any way, you, for sure, would have come across Hyperledger, a project started by the Linux Foundation to enable collaborative development of blockchain-based distributed ledgers. Across the globe, enterprises are actively using Hyperledger to build blockchain solutions for a wide range of industry use cases.
In an exclusive interview, Marta Pierkarska, the Director of Ecosystem at Hyperledger, shares the Hyperledger story, the enablers to expedite blockchain adoption and real world examples of how blockchain is driving transformation in the digital era.
Let’s start with an overview of Hyperledger. What has been the journey so far?
Marta: Hyperledger was created as one of over 50 projects hosted by Linux Foundation. We were established in 2016 as a collaboration of enterprises and open source community. Since its inception, we grew from 30 to over 250 enterprise members and a countless number of individual developers. The idea behind Hyperledger, as with any Linux Foundation project, is to provide the governance, marketing, PR and legal support, and help facilitate work on open source frameworks and tools. In our case, we focus on enterprise-grade blockchain technology.
We have seen an amazing uptake of what we do and today all major industries are building on top of Hyperledger code – from financial through supply chain, sustainable development all the way to healthcare, music and or even fashion industry.
Many enterprises still ask “Why blockchain?”. What would be your answer to a CEO on “‘Why blockchain”’?
Marta: Blockchain changes the way we interact in business context. It allows for an improved auditability, traceability and reliability of data. I don’t see introduction of blockchain technology as a revolution, but (when implemented properly) a massive opportunity for enterprises to reduce both the cost and trust they need to put in data coming from unreliable sources. This could be for information from competitors or simply something one that could normally be easily changed or damaged. We still don’t know what is the return on investment in the bBlockchain space, but we are sure that we are past the hype and into the reliable development phase. There will be more and more interesting use cases and lessons learned in the upcoming months.
What are the challenges for enterprises who are keen to embark on the blockchain journey?
Marta: Understanding the technology, the reality of what it promises and what can it not solve.
Moreover, developing a common language so that we all have the same understanding of what we are talking about and we can get comfortable with the concepts. I think that one of the massive problems of adoption of this technology is the signal-to-noise ratio. If you haven’t studied the space thoroughly, it feels like people are just throwing concepts at you and it is hard to understand which areat is real and what dothey mean. Even simple things like: what is the difference between a blockchain, the blockchain, blockchain technology and blockchain?
Given how early it is, we don’t have common standards, common definitions and reliable sources of knowledge. Experts are being hired but they usually have a narrow, very strictly defined view of blockchain and will only teach you that part.
What are the key enablers to expedite blockchain adoption within enterprises?
Marta: Collaboration and stepping out of your comfort zone.
There is a big step between running your internal, two node Proof of Concept and going out there to find competitors to join your networks and become peers. It is a requirement and we need to get better at working together. Blockchain promises a safe environment for that collaboration, one where you can trust the technology to protect your data, and give you assurance of its reliability, availability and integrity. What we are missing is a new generation of students that will graduate from computer science programs faciulties with a broad education ofin various aspects of bBlockchain. This pool of people will dramatically increase the uptake of the technology.
Blockchain adoption across industries is based on use cases. What are the key use case characteristics for blockchain to be successful?
Marta: If I were to give a one-liner on this, it would be “blockchain makes sense where the parties interacting do not trust one another.”. And that distrust can be understood very broadly. If you think of signing a contract, trust means hoping that something gets executed and you will receive something in return. Either party may not deliver the promise in many ways. If we talk about tracking ownership of assets, trust means relaying on data that may be altered. Another parameter that makes a good use case for blockchain is requirement for flexibility, scalability and availability of data. If you have a place, where information needs to be updated across multiple independent and not necessarily willing-to-collaborate participants, then blockchain makes sense.
What is the most fascinating application that you have heard, read or seen on blockchain?
Marta: I, as probably many of us, love the stories of technology solving issues we did not expect it to solve – for instance, microfinancing and helping to build credit scores based on sustainable energy usage done on Hyperledger Fabric. Revolutionizing the music industry and , enabling rights management with Hyperledger Sawtooth. Donor milk tracking, a project underway in our with Healthcare working groupWG. Or “simple” things like building massive identity program on Hyperledger Indy.
The other side of me – the one that got a PhD in computer security and privacy - appreciates when blockchain can contribute to improved security, like reliable updates in IoT and connected cars.
What are the benefits of blockchain to an enterprise/industry?
Marta: It improves what we do today and convinces people to think outside the box. There are two aspects to blockchain. When it is seen as this disrupting technology, some of the more creative people in an enterprise will be encouraged to think in terms of horizon three3 projects. This is great because it brings an opportunity for real disruptive innovation. On the other hand, blockchain is “just” a technology. So mostly, it can improve current systems and allow for incremental, sustainable innovation. As we are past the hype curve, this becomes more and more obvious. We can apply the tech to many fields to and reduce costly and inefficient audits and , eliminate the need for centralization, which lead to higher reliability and removal of single points of failure.
What are the critical factors for success of a blockchain solution?
Marta: Thinking it all the way through. It may seem obvious and not very revolutionary, but having a plan that thinks beyond an experiment is important. It is hard to move from a POC (proof of concept) to MVP (minimum viable product) or deployment. The requirements are different and the obstacles will not be the same. It is ok for an enterprise to run several POCs, see what sticks and move with one of them to deployment. But each of the POCs should have a plan in place for deployment before it even runs. It may turn out that solution A was easy to do as a POC, but is almost impossible to run in real life, while solution B will be much more cumbersome to start with but a straight -forward to implement.
Blockchain will be mainstream by
Marta: It already is! Honestly, I think we are almost there. I don’t think I want it much more mainstream.
Blockchain and AI
Marta: is a big opportunity, but can have many dangerous consequences. I would like ethics to be involved in this conversation.
Blockchain and IoT
Marta: is an opportunity that can turn into next big rabbit hole. Does my fridge need a blockchain to order my food? Do I need my fridge to order my food?
Blockchain and connected cars
Marta: are two buzzwords of 2018! But these actually get me excited.
Hyperledger in 2020
Marta: will still exist among several other consortia. Hyperledger frameworks will be popular and interoperable.
Blockchain will change the world or not
Marta: It will challenge the world to think different, work together and embrace open source.
About Marta Pierkarska
Marta serves as the Director of Ecosystem at Hyperledger. Marta obtained her BSc in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Warsaw University of Technology and a double Master in Computer Science and Informatics at Technical University of Berlin and Warsaw University of Technology. Marta received PhD in User-Informed Design of Privacy Tools while working at one of the hottest startups in Silicon Valley - Blockstream. Marta also taught at Technical University of Berlin as a Post-doc. As part of her role in Hyperledger, Marta evangelizes the technology and Open Source at conferences around the world and helps enterprises with applying permissioned blockchains to their use-cases. Marta is passionate about how blockchain can help in non-traditional spaces, such as identity, last mile aid, education delivery, and sustainability.
About the “Get Blockchain’d with..” publication Series
“Get blockchain’d with..” is a unique thought leadership publication series designed to put the spotlight on blockchain voices and views from across the globe.
Past Publications in this series
Get Blockchain’d with David E Rutter, CEO of R3
Get Blockchain’d with Claude Eguienta, CEO at Telcoin
Get Blockchain’d with Jack Shaw, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the American Blockchain Council
Get Blockchain’d with Dr Gideon Greenspan, CEO of Coin Sciences Ltd
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