Empowering Blockchain for Smart Living

September 4, 2018

With any great technological revolution, comes great responsibility. With the emergence of Blockchain in global markets and affairs, it has been astonishing to bear witness to the various ways in which blockchain has shaped economies, industries, and the potential of our entire way of living. On Sept 16th, the IBV team had the opportunity to attend the ‘Blockchain for Smarter Living’ expo in Singapore. The event gathered various industry leaders as key speakers to share their experiences and ideas within Blockchain, AI, and IoT and especially on the impacts of intersections between these topics.

We had the opportunity to interview three different key speakers: Mike Anderson, the CTO of DEX and the Founder of Ocean Protocol, Harry Toh the Head of Business Development for GSENetwork in Singapore, as well as Atsushi Ishii the CEO at Couger inc along with his Chief Blockchain Architect and colleague Kazuaki Ishiguro on, to discuss enterprise blockchain.

Interview with Mike Anderson, CTO of DEX, Founder Ocean Protocol

1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background:

I have quite a varied background. When I was just 8 years old, I started programming and I just fell in love with technology, its potential, and the things it could offer. That’s always been a passion of mine. I got involved in a number of different start-ups over the years and was also consulting for McKinsey & Company where I led their global program on software development on processes of tools. I also worked as an independent consultant sometimes.

I got into the Ocean protocol space because I saw the incredible need to connect data with AI technology, having worked in the data science space, and thought it was a great important thing to do for the world.

2. Where in Asia do you see AI first flourishing and being able to penetrate the market?

Great question! I’d say it’s going to flourish everywhere. There are some particular places where it has great potential, particularly in health-care: AI is going to make incredible changes in our abilities to make medical decisions, better diagnostics, and better population health. I think there’s great potential in the smart city space, as we start to get IoT-centred data, huge opportunities to harness that and get the most out of it. And, of course, the fin-tech space, especially Singapore for example, it being such a big finance hub. But, as always in innovation, you never quite know where great ideas are going to split up.

3. Tell us a little bit about how Ocean Protocol came about and what sets you apart from your competitors out there.

Ocena Protocol came about because we saw that there are many silos in the data science world with lots of people holding onto those huge amounts of data, but not making the most of it. At the same time, there were all these AI researchers with amazing algorithms and techniques for extracting intelligence from this data and these weren’t being joined up. We saw a need for a protocol to enable a decentralized data exchange in order to unlock the value of this data. And that was something that just didn’t exist. We saw that this was something that was becoming possible, because of blockchain tech. So it was really a meeting of the AI and data needs, within the innovation of the blockchain space.

What makes us different is that we are fundamentally focussed on the protocol. We are not trying to sell a product; we are trying to create a standard which enables effective data exchange, across the whole data ecosystem and we want it to be a universal, global standard that serves everybody – which is why we’re set up as a non-profit foundation.

4. So let’s say there’s a client who is interested in developing a product or project on your protocol, what would be the first thing you would be able to support or discuss with your client?

I think it would depend what the client or partner was trying to achieve. Some people will have data assets and they’ll be trying to, perhaps, monetize those in which case they want to be a service provider who provides hosting or hosts assets and wants to make these assets available to the public, or select consortiums. So that’s one case.

Another case might be someone who wants to run a data marketplace – perhaps because they’re natural centre of a community or have an effective network with people with whom they want to share this data, within this community. A sort of broker of information, within this centre/community.

Another example might be someone who is a start-up or an innovative company that wants to provide AI services in which case – they want to provide their service to anyone on their network as something that anyone can use and buy on demand. The Ocean Protocol supports all of these kinds of cases. It really just depends on what kind of role in the ecosystem a particular individual, organization, or government is trying to achieve.

5. Aside from the advantages and upside – what is the downside of a management at this convergence of emerging technology of AI, blockchain, etc. What are your thoughts?

I guess there’s always the potential of misuse of new technology. We’re building as many safeguards as we can, to things like privacy, security, and keeping people’s data secure. As with all of these things, there’s the risk of data and security leaks. I think in the blockchain world, there are new risks that people are still unfamiliar with, like the risk of losing your private keys and having their accounts stolen. I think there’s still a lot of education and a lot of work to be done to make sure that we manage the risks effectively – that’s a very important part of what we’re doing.

6. What would be the single thing that you would advise those who want to step into this space – what would you be able to tell them?

Get involved! We’re just launching our test net. It’s all open-source, up on GitHub and we love for people to come get involved, contribute, bring new ideas to the table and help us improve our protocol so it’s as strong as possible for the ecosystem to benefit.

Harry Tho – Head of Business Development at GSENetwork

1. Could you tell us briefly about yourself and your background.

Since a young age, I was always interested in technology. Before I joined GSEN network, I was at Monitor Deloitte doing strategy consulting within the technology industry. From there I went to Sea Group, as a Product Manager. After that, I was involved in SMBs, automation, leading strategy and development as well as partnership within companies. In the last few years, blockchain has been picking up. So I’ve really been following blockchain news and then suddenly – an opportunity within the space came by and I just joined the blockchain industry.

2. Coming from a corporate background firm like Accenture to now building your own trust network for decentralised technologies – can you share with us on how that transition was like?

Actually in the last few months and years there’s really been a lot of research and news around blockchain and I can see that it’s really a growing industry. To me it’s the next internet era. So I think because I like anything to do with tech, I thought that it was great to jump in early and that’s what made me choose this industry. I can see that there are a lot of smart, young people in the industry and having gone to a few blockchain events – I’ve understood that everybody is learning and more importantly that everyone is learning together. That’s what made me want to come to this industry.

3. Your incentive model uses green-mining, could you elaborate on that? And why are you deploying this in Korea, Singapore, and Japan? How about other emerging economies in Asia?

The term ‘green mining’ is actually part of our incentive model. Basically, we derived the term from our core proposition as to actually return the positivity and results that have been generated by the users and contributors, of the shared global economy, back to them. This is because, right now, the traditional sharing economy, in which most of these positive results are being generated, are being kept by the centralized organizations. Some examples are the maximizing of unutilized resources, and therefore cost-savings. So this is a way that we are going to return this back to the people who were generating these positive results. The term ‘green mining’ came from us referencing Bitcoin. With Bitcoin, you actually expense computational power in return to mine, and therefore you get Bitcoin in return. So we thought that with our concept, we needed to make it simpler for the general mass to understand it, and in order to bring them onboard from a sharing economy; to a shared-economy blockchain. We incentivize them with a right-to-mine program with our first partnership, Ofo, so if they write they participate in the sharing economy, thereby getting tokens. These tokens, in the future, will help us reward positive behaviours as well as to penalize negative behaviours. It really comes down to this – we are trying to close up the ‘Trust Gap’ which is a key and limiting problem of today’s traditional sharing economy. This is how we are going to bring the traditional sharing economy to the future sharing economy that is based on blockchain.

4. You have a pretty interesting lineup of strategic partners not excluding Fortune 500. What are the future opportunities you see GSENetwork considering?

Right now we are very focussed on building our main architecture and the layer we are focussing on right now is the decentralized service layer. This layer will be building foundational features and modules to onboard developers. We are going to onboard more developers onto our platform and they will consist of traditional sharing companies as well as crypto-sharing economy companies. We are also going to incubate shared-economy developers ourselves in order to understand how it works better and to optimize the main architecture. We are focussing on onboarding traditional shared economies, studying them, and using these results to see how they can merge the existing business model with our business model, to onboard users onto blockchain and imbue this trust factor to help them bring their shared economy business to the next level.

5. Apart from Singapore, Japan, and Korea what are your main target markets that you’re looking to expand into?

One of our strategic partners is Ofo, And we work with them on Japan, Korea, and Singapore because they’re key markets and very relevant to us because there’s a lot of blockchain enthusiasm from these markets. However we are also looking at another big chunk of the shared economy in the U.S. In the U.S, we have a lot of shared economies start-ups in place and after we have our trial runs with our strategy partner Ofo, we are going to work with more partners in emerging Asia as well as the U.S. In emerging Asia, for us it’s definitely growing in terms of enthusiasm, however, our developers will take the lead first before us. We are focussed on building our main architecture so that our team of developers could focus on onboarding the users. We’re utilizing this incubation system as a way to tap into new markets. We really feel that emerging Asia is a big opportunity with the rise of shared-economy services and this is where we’ll be looking.

6. What would be the single thing that you would tell people who are keen on starting their business/project in this space?

I believe for new beginners you have to really be interested in the technology and that you have to ask a lot of questions. Don’t be afraid to ask because everybody is learning together in this industry and you should also meet as many people as you can in this industry and have conversations with them.

Atsushi Ishii, CEO , Couger inc

1. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

My background is a little bit long. I was working for IBM before after that I was developing a big search engine and after that I joined Loctane, a sort of ‘Japanese Amazon’ and a big Asian shopping platform. In there, I was developing large search engines and after that I became very interested in SpaceX. Actually, I almost joined SpaceX but I started my own company instead. First we worked on game developing i.e online games and other games such as Final Fantasy and other big names in the gaming industry. After that I became interested in AI and changed our business and during this time I was developing the AI understanding videos, automatically. In that time I met our team and we started working with AI on Robotics and after that I was thinking about how between AI, IoT and Robotics – everything is created with data. If I talk to the AI, I talk to the data. I was looking for a way to protect the data so in this time I found blockchain to be one of the best solutions for this problem. We started to combine AI and blockchain; and now Google is developing technology using AI and blockchain!

2. Can you please share more info on your connectome project, how did you come up with the concept?

Connectome is a word for brain map. Relating it to our project, as I explained, I think that AI and Blockchain can be combined and it’s right now is the time for making these connections. Autonomous technology is very similar to human beings for example we have 5 senses; it’s like IoT devices. Blockchain is just humans now; AI is of course the brain. Robotics is like the body. So the combination of technology means autonomous technology. So we started this project, connectome, and the main name might be changed in the future. Naturally, we don’t need to run any tests when it comes to human interaction as it is very natural and of course it’s human to human; or human to animal, which are all such natural interactions. So the natural interface – like humans – will be a very important focus for us. So in connectome, the interface is like a human, and at the same time now there is big data i.e in Amazon, Google, Apple, other big players, but basically the data is our data. We have to solve this problem of how to save our private data safely and at the same time we need more interface in order to develop relationships, just like humans.

3. What do you think would be the different use cases of Connectum in real life?

The concept is smart space. Smart space means of course that in your home it’s your space. The input data is your private data; and the IoT devices sense frustrations and come up with ways to solve problems for users. In the same time, in a few years we won’t need to drive cars ourselves. So it just means your space will be your own smart space. Every space can be smart.

Kazuaki Ishiguro, Couger Inc.’s lead blockchain engineer, as the EEA’s Regional Head

1. EEA has recently appointed you as Regional Head of EEA as an endeavor to increase their presence in Japan. Why Japan and what is the potential next steps/agenda?

The reason for why i’ve taken on the role as EEA’s Regional Head is because I contacted the executive director, Ron, last March and we already had the biggest community in Japan, including Hitachi, Fujitsu, Sony, and other players. So I called him and said something along the lines of ‘Hey – we want to do something similar to what EEA is doing in Japan, without any permission from you – is that ok?” And he was like “Alright stop, slow down. We’re gonna have a regional office in Japan pretty soon!” And at that was the time they were focussing on community building about enterprise ethereum, and after a few weeks we had another meeting with Ron. He was looking for the right person to be a Director and then I thought “I know the blockchain, i’m a part of this industry – how about me?” and he was like “ Ok – let’s go for it!” Ron used to work for a Japanese enterprise so he knows a lot about how Japanese enterprise works. He wanted to solve certain issues within the industry which is why he set up an office in Japan.

2. How strategic is Asia to EEA and what would be the next next steps in this EEA/Japan establishment?

So EEA is only focusing on creating the standards, depending on the enterprise. What we encourage Japanese enterprises to do is to join working sessions where they can talk about the next standard using enterprise blockchain. Because once we have created those standards it’s so much easier to collaborate to different fields of enterprise which is why I’m currently recruiting Hitachi for joining EEA because of the massive impact it will have on the industry. Also, Hitachi or Sony can lead the enterprise ethereum, so we’re currently working hard on recruiting Japanese enterprise.

3. We know that EEA has gathered quite a few big corporates as members, how do you think the SMEs and start-ups will be able to participate in this movement?

It doesn’t really matter how big the corporate you belong to is. Right now, we have about 50% developers I’m taking on the role of regional head and even though the big corporates have different divisions, like Hitachi for example, different things are happening. If you are from a big corporate you can join two working groups and create two different standards. Start-ups can definitely join and explore what kind of working groups might fit better into their vision.

4. Ethereum has always been a very active player in providing a blockchain enterprise solution. How do you see the trend of blockchain enterprise solutions in general and also Ether enterprise blockchain solutions, in particular, in Asia?

I think a lot of people mix up enterprise blockchain because there are a couple of solutions in Ethereum communities. One is a private blockchain – Ethereum. The other one is a public Ethereum blockchain. Lots of enterprises think that because they are enterprises they don’t want to open up any data sets or transactions so they go to the private blockchain. But it’s not what EEA is encouraging for enterprises. It’s okay to use a private blockchain but those private blockchains can be used within the network of a public blockchain. There are so many different solutions, depending on what solution you are looking for. I’m explaining many examples of how we have implemented private blockchain into public blockchain. Also in Asia there are several small countries but we are going all over the world and there are so many makers, especially electricity makers from Asia. So we have to collaborate with other enterprises from Western Europe and North America, for business. I think that the enterprise blockchain will help the most.

5. Can you share with us your to-do list in the next 3 months as EEA’S head?

First I’m thinking about face-to-face meet-ups in Japan, not necessarily for an EEA member, but we’ll call EEA members such as MFG Bank or KDDI or Hitachi to share what they have done in the EEA. Because KDDI is the second largest telecommunications company in Japan and now they stick together with SK from Korea, Vice-chair of telecommunications in EEA. They are really actively working so I’m encouraging them to share what they’ve done in the EEA. Also, in my personal project at Couger, I’m going to create the architecture of our internal SDK because we are going to release SDK in the next 3 months or so.

6. What would be the next target market that EEA is eyeing in Asia after Japan?

I would say Singapore is really important and interesting. Japan has always had tons of big enterprises but I look up to Singapore – Singapore is more like a start-up company because they accept all kinds of diversity and there are tons of diverse people gathering from all of the world. Of course all the enterprises have to communicate with other fields of enterprise or other countries so we might be able to create good use cases of enterprise ethereum.

Even just between three people, out of thousands that are joining this massive blockchain revolution, it is clear that when it comes to innovative solutions and possibilities – the spectrum is wide and incredibly diverse. Technological advances are intersecting one another in all types of industries and countries and the people who are joining early on, will guide these major changes and opportunities.

There are major advantages to be discovered but more importantly, as Mike Anderson had pointed out, and rightfully so, there are also many potential risks that have yet to be discovered, as well. Right now, start-ups, companies, and leaders in global markets are weighing the potential advantages vs potential disadvantages, which has yielded in vastly different perceptions of the blockchain revolution.

In any case, at the very least this revolution can open up new doors and teach billions of people about valuable new skills and offer job opportunities; at the most – it can change the world and life as we know it – forever.

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