CES 2017: The Blockchain Recap
Online videos from the Digital Money Forum at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2017 in Las Vegas have been posted on the “Living In Digital Times” YouTube channel. The event which ran from January 5-8, 2017, included discussions surrounding blockchain technologies in relation to the banking and finance industries, as well as innovations in digital payments and cryptocurrencies. Guests on the panels included venture capitalists and experts from the blockchain ecosystem. To name a few, guests included Joseph Lubin, founder of Ethereum-based ConsenSys and co-founder of the Ethereum Network; Michael Terpin, founder and CEO of Transform Group/BitAngels; Mark Mueller-Eberstein, CEO of Adgetec; Matthew Roszak, co-founder & chairman of Bloq; and David Birch, the Director of Innovation at Consult Hyperion.
Over a dozen discussions took place on Thursday, January 5, under the Digital Money Forum held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, North Hall. Subjects discussed at the conference ranged from financial regulation and predictions for 2017 to the world’s underbanked, then IoT devices needed to solve the issues in emerging and connected countries. Of the 18 distinct talks throughout the course of the day, about a third had a direct correlation with blockchain technology or cryptocurrency. Closing out the event were two of the most blockchain-heavy discussions, “Financial Trends You Can’t Ignore” and “Blockchain Unbound,” described as:
“Where is the blockchain taking us and how will cryptocurrencies play into the future of world economies?”
The talk served as an introduction for those involved in finance who may have only heard of the blockchain in passing and wanted to gain more insight without becoming inundated with technological details and jargon. The last panel, in particular, presented the most information about Ethereum, mainly due to the presence of Joseph Lubin, while other panelists focused their discussions on Bitcoin.
The “Financial Trends You Can’t Ignore” panel examined the biggest blockchain trends to follow in 2017 and beyond. Perhaps the most fascinating of the trends was Dr. Jason Mars and his presentation of an artificial intelligent (A.I.) voice-activated personal financial assistant named “Finie.” Mars who is co-founder and CEO of Clinc, spoke to his laptop conversationally, asking the A.I. various questions regarding his personal finances such as, “I remember I was in California and spent a bunch of money on food, how much was that?” Finie replied with, “You spent about $194 from your accounts on food and drink in California.”
Mars also stated that Clinc has already partnered with four of the world’s largest banks and made the point: “this demonstrates the next step - working with technologists and scientists is going to be critical to deliver A.I. experiences that improve people’s lives.”
In addition to the fusing of A.I. technology and banking systems, other trends to follow included Disney’s deployment of “Dragonchain”- the company’s open source public/private hybrid blockchain to support their global supply-chain challenges. Mueller-Eberstein spoke adamantly about China and their leading role in adopting blockchain technology into everyday society, citing Shenzhen as the capital of cryptocurrency, and predicting China’s continued role as the blockchain frontrunner, leaving other nations late to the race, in the proverbial dust. David Birch’s presentation encompassed the shift from FinTech to RegTech, describing big bank’s massive expenditure on Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering regulation as wasteful and impeding progress within the blockchain space. Birch further stated:
“Almost everything I heard today about blockchain is wrong. KYC is completely insane at the moment. We erect the maximum possible barriers to stop it. In a rational world, what we would do is get everybody into the financial system - I don’t care who you are; unless you’re in the system I can’t trace the money. Once you’re in the system, I have all the A.I. in the world - all the big data analysis in the world - all the computing, but unless you’re in the system, I don’t know what the hell is going on. By erecting these massive KYC barriers to stop people from getting in the system - all you’re doing is making sure you can’t track, trace or monitor any of the transactions. I think we should open the doors and let people in, then see what they do with the money.”
While nearby tech enthusiasts were engaged with the latest innovations on virtual reality, flatscreen TVs, and self-driving cars, attendants of the Digital Money Forum absorbed the concepts of smart contracts, trustworthy computing, digital autonomous organizations (DAOs), and learned what exactly could be placed on a blockchain. Although less glamorous than the main showrooms displaying the latest in cutting edge technology, the blockchain’s expanded presence at the Digital Money Forum is a milestone worth noting, if not celebrated as a small mainstream victory. It is fair to predict that future CES events will include blockchain with growing emphasis and interest as the technology becomes more interwoven into the everyday lives of consumers and tech enthusiasts alike. A full listing of the conference videos is available via the “Living In Digital Times” channel on YouTube where you can view all the talks in their entirety.