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Blockchain use cases in the slow lane while technology matures, argues academic

Jai Singh, Sessional Lecturer in Finance with the ICMA Centre

Although blockchain remains a prominent topic of fintech conversation, the technology still has a lot of maturing to do before it can live up to its billing, a leading technology academic has warned.
“It will be slow progress for blockchain this year, because many of the ideas out there are a bit futuristic,” claimed Jai Singh, Sessional Lecturer in Finance with the ICMA Centre, which is part of the Henley Business School. “People are striving to apply blockchain to industry challenges which in some cases have been around for a lot of years. The solutions aren’t quite there yet.”
He said real life blockchain use cases are also being held back by a shortage of formal education concerning the technology and how it works: “A key hurdle is having enough key talent out there who know enough about it,” said Singh. “The small blockchain start-ups don’t really have the money to be funding such education or training on the job. There are bigger companies doing stuff with blockchain too, of course, but there isn’t as yet that much to show for it, not that the public knows about anyway.”
Singh acknowledged advances by tech and consulting giants like IBM and Accenture, who he said were busy in 2018 developing use cases, but he argued that for all their investment they are still stuck at the development stage.
“The applications we have seen are often in the area of supply chain management, for example with Carrefours in France which has been using blockchain supply management for almost a year now,” he added. “It’s a big thing for them. They are using it in over 1,000 locations to help prevent food contamination.”
Singh anticipates enterprises applying blockchain in areas like finance and supply chain as the technology matures, and said he is encouraged by progress there from the likes of Hyperledger, Ethereum Enterprise Alliance and Corda.
He sees blockchain’s most likely long term dividends as offering a reduction in trading costs, 24/7 trading and faster settlement, a reduction in potential fraud or price-rigging scandals, the tokenisation of assets to enable new types of investments and a positive impact on the investment model for private equity and REITs firms.

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