On February 14, 2017, the winners of the Blockchain Virtual GovHack were announced during a presentation ceremony at the World Government Summit, a government-sponsored event that took place in Dubai that focused on smart city initiatives and blockchain powered governance.
Project Oaken took home first prize with their Tesla on the blockchain submission, which combines IoT hardware and software for smart cars to operate toll systems autonomously (machine-to-machine) through the use of smart contracts. Second place went to HealthBlocks, a platform to gather, store, use, and exchange health information of patients, and third place was awarded to Dubai Land Registry, with the mission of digitizing title deeds on the blockchain. Finalist and recipient of the “2017 Year of Giving Award,” was Hypergive, a digital food wallet that helps feed homeless and hungry people in the community in a secure and transparent manner.
Announced in November of 2016, the hackathon invited teams of developers to submit unique blockchain-based solutions to solve real world challenges surrounding global identity, the paper footprint, fraud, health, and the building of smart cities. Judges on the panel included Jeremy Gardner, founder at Augur, Joseph Lubin, CEO of ConsenSys, and Anthony Butler, CTO of IBM Cloud MEA, to name a few.
Project Oaken sat down with ETHNews to discuss their recent success and what it means for the blockchain space.
ETHNews: How does it feel to win 1st Prize in the Blockchain Virtual GovHack?
Project Oaken: “Overall, this week has been amazing. We need to first say thank you to the UAE GOVtechioneers Race for being forward thinking enough to sponsor such an epic hackathon – and Blockchain themed no less. Next, we would like to comment on how impressed we were by the other competitors that we were able to meet. We were extremely impressed with everyone's professionalism as well as their shared passion for Blockchain.
Being invited to attend the World Government Summit was almost as valuable from a networking point of view as our monetary prize was. There was a great Blockchain contingent in attendance so there was this amazing community to cheer both us and our competitors on.
The GOVtechioneers team did an amazing job throughout this entire event and their portion of the awards ceremony had such an amazing intro, including a laser show, video, and audio that set the tone.
As for the first place finish, getting to meet a true future thinking world leader in HH Sheik Mohammed is an experience and memory that will last a lifetime.”
E: What are some of your favorite highlights from the World Government Summit?
PO: “The presentation that the UAE government and HH Sheik Mohammed put on was simply breathtaking and it attracted some of the best minds in the world to convene in one location for a few days.
We think the biggest favorite here was being surrounded by and getting to interact with bio-engineers, geneticists, behavioral scientists, world leaders, authors and specialists of all walks, and, of course, blockchain engineers like ourselves.
Also, walking across the stage to accept our award was pretty sweet!”
E: What’s next for Project Oaken?
PO: “Since our video launched for our Tesla & Tollbooth ACORN a month ago, we have been in communication with 3 major automotive manufacturers, in addition to some preliminary talks with a few other entities.
During the World Government Summit, we were able to network in a fashion that would have never presented itself in a million years had we not competed in this event. We are already following up with those connections to discuss the future of Blockchain and IoT in areas such as government, disaster relief, and privatized industrial applications.”
E: How would you describe the blockchain community in Dubai?
PO: “I would describe the community as very close knit. The UAE government is very serious about investing in their future and are willing to take big ideas in new technology to better their country and move quickly to implement them.
For example, there is a recent law that every government transaction will occur on the blockchain by 2020. What ‘transaction’ means here is up for debate, but for those familiar with the UAE government, this is a massive undertaking.
There are also a number of startups here [Dubai] and blockchain professionals that are residing here either full time or part time. Each night we would randomly meet new people that are actively involved in Fintech and other blockchain applications for UAE and other governments, as well as for private applications. There seems to be quite a bit of work for blockchain professionals – so much so, there does not exist any rivalry, but rather a collegial community that is there to help each other out and lean on and learn from each other.
The Dubai Frontier Foundation is one of the organizations identifying, consulting, and accelerating some of these initiatives. There is also a blockchain counsel for the UAE.”
E: Anything else you’d like the Ethereum community to know about?
PO: “We now think the future of blockchain is coming much faster than anyone realizes. Governments, not just in the Middle East, are paying very close attention and are starting initiatives of their own to pilot, with the goal of producing applications in 12 to 18 months.
Larger companies are now starting to realize the technology and are already piloting applications. There is a lot of stuff that isn’t publicized that we only got to learn about by being at the summit and by being surrounded by other blockchain professionals. Make no mistake, we will be using blockchain technology in our daily lives very soon.
The hackathon was open to use any blockchain technology but it deserves to be mentioned that all four winning teams used the Ethereum blockchain.
The Hypergive team is very cool, capable, and very Canadian. We are looking forward to seeing what they produce and we are big fans of theirs. The Health Bocks and Dubai Land Registry teams are all extremely intelligent and talented. Everyone should subscribe to not just Project Oaken, but all of these teams.”
When ETHNews asked Project Oaken if Tesla is aware of their project, they neither confirmed nor denied. It has been reported, however, that the Dubai government has purchased 200 Tesla vehicles in an attempt to “become a leader in the self-driving space.”
ETHNews reached out to Tesla CEO (also guest speaker of the World Blockchain Summit) Elon Musk, however, at the time of this article’s publishing, we had not received comment.
Although the Blockchain Virtual GovHack has concluded, blockchain’s progress in Dubai is far from over. Recently, the government of Dubai and IBM began collaborating on blockchain solutions to revolutionize trade logistics, transportation, and the Internet of Things. Additionally, ConsenSys founder and one of the judges of the hackathon, Joseph Lubin, released a whitepaper that offers governments like Dubai a clear roadmap to harness the power of blockchain technology and ways to implement robust blockchain strategies.
With so many Ethereum-based platforms succeeding at the Blockchain Virtual GovHack, we can foresee continued growth of the blockchain ecosystem powered by smart contracts, not only in Dubai, but across the globe. The UAE has become one of most forward-thinking innovators to help support and explore blockchain-based solutions to improve commerce, as well as the lives of everyday citizens.
As the success of Dubai’s hackathon spreads throughout the community, other nations, like the US, are already following suit to bring government entities and blockchain engineers together, with the shared mission of solving real world problems in fascinating and technologically new ways.