Unitize Conference Covers Ground, Mulls Blockchain Adoption and DeFi

Retail and enterprise blockchain adoption trends dominated the discussions on days three and four of the ongoing virtual conference Unitize, organized by BlockShow and San Francisco Blockchain Week and sponsored by crypto derivatives exchange ByBit. 

The key topic that dominated discussion was blockchain adoption, which continues to spread across the globe, with governments and corporate establishments developing solutions based on distributed ledger technology. 

Exploring the blockchain development landscape

Speaking during one of Wednesday’s panels at the conference. Yi Ming Ng, a member of the Tribe Accelerator project in Singapore, and Marloes Pomp, a blockchain consultant with the Dutch government, shed light on the emerging landscape of the novel tech in Singapore and the Netherlands.

Ng and Pomp revealed initial reluctance from different quarters toward pursuing blockchain adoption. According to Ng, corporate establishments in Singapore viewed the novel tech through the jaundiced lens of initial coin offering scams. For Pomp, the Dutch government was not keen on considering blockchain adoption back in 2016. However, both panelists revealed that the initial blockchain apathy soon gave way to serious considerations about adoption.

According to Ng, about $30 million has been raised over the last 18 months to fund 29 Singaporean blockchain startups. These projects are developing DLT-based solutions for industries such as healthcare, finance and supply chains among others. For Pomp, the Dutch government could try to emulate Singapore in taking an active stake in the country’s blockchain development. The government consultant declared that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic might spur authorities to take a greater interest in the novel technology.

The penetration of blockchain in Singapore has reportedly put the country in the position of being one of the largest adopters of the technology in Asia. Speaking at Unitize, Benjamin Soh, founder of blockchain development firm Hashstacs — otherwise known as Stacs — declared that the Southeast Asian nation is the closest to utilizing DLT in its financial infrastructure.

According to Soh, apart from Switzerland, Singapore dwarfs European countries in terms of blockchain adoption. The Stacs founder also revealed that other Asia-Pacific nations such as Thailand, China, South Korea and Japan are pushing the boundaries of DLT utilization.

Enterprise blockchain adoption

Since its inception, blockchain has been linked with disrupting global finance, and this trend is reportedly developing in the Asian markets. Appearing at Unitize, Vinay Mohan, an early member of ConsenSys Singapore, remarked that small and medium-scale enterprises struggling with financing from mainstream channels are increasingly turning to blockchain-based capital streams.

Indeed, Sheila Warren, head of blockchain at the World Economic Forum, also echoed similar sentiments during her appearance at Unitize on Wednesday. According to Warren, people and businesses disenfranchised by the legacy financial apparatus will pivot to blockchain systems. Commenting on the potential for greater blockchain adoption among the unbanked and underbanked demographics, Warren remarked:

“We have to look at what is actually the lowest hanging fruit there. Well, oddly enough, it’s people who have been excluded from traditional systems for whatever reason. They’re the hardest to build for in many ways, but they’re the people most willing to accommodate or try something new. […] If you’re not plugging those people in, then you’re not aware of what’s needed.”

While Europe may be lagging behind Asia in blockchain utilization, the Italian Banking Association, otherwise known as ABI, is already using a DLT-based system called Spunta. Speaking at Unitize on Wednesday, ABI’s chief innovation officer, Silvia Attanasio, revealed that Spunta is a permissioned information relay protocol being used by 32 banks in the country. According to Attanasio, Spunta replaces the old interbank data sharing paradigm that required banks to hold information and communicate with a central server. The ABI executive also added that the blockchain-based system will replace the old relay infrastructure by the start of October.

One of Thursday’s panels at the conference involved Sergey Nazarov, CEO of Chainlink, who expressed optimism that enterprise smart contract adoption was on the rise. Nazarov, however, argued that a more broad-based DLT utilization hinged on the creation of interface points between public and private networks.

According to Nazarov, organizations do not always need to run their entire operations on the blockchain. Instead, companies can utilize oracles or other connection vehicles to access the required DLT solutions for their business process.

Amid the rising adoption of blockchain, Ali Loveys, chief privacy officer of ConsenSys Health, said that value creation, not tech innovation, will be the major hurdle for the emerging technology. She added that blockchain innovation needs to focus on working out a tangible business value that appeals to the greatest majority of potential adopters. Loveys also stated:

“The challenges are always less about the technology than about the business value and the people who are interested in using it or resistant to using it. […] I don’t come in to sell blockchain, I come in to talk about business issues and where we find a good fit, and we move forward.” 

Robust security for exchanges and the DeFi ecosystem

Crypto security has also been a topic of discussion over the last two days at Unitize. According to Lucas Nuzzi, a researcher at cryptocurrency analytics platform Coin Metrics, exchanges can fight hackers by renting mining hashing power.

Nuzzi revealed that hacked platforms could roll back affected tokens before the transaction confirmation threshold by renting hashing power online. However, the Coin Metrics researcher said such blockchain reorganizations would only be feasible with smaller cryptocurrencies, stating:

“It’d actually be impossible for exchanges, or any entity really, to reorg BTC via NiceHash. This could, however, be an effective counterattack on smaller chains with more niche hashing algos, like Lyra or Equihash.”

For Richard Ma, co-founder of blockchain security firm Quantstamp, security is the major hurdle for the decentralized finance space. On Thursday, Ma argued that rogue actors are looking to exploit vulnerabilities in DeFi platforms, as was seen several times this year already. He suggested that DeFi protocols should adopt robust auditing and security monitoring processes.

Other highlights from the conference include crypto venture capitalist Brock Pierce explaining the reason for his decision to enter the United States presidential election. Peirce remarked that his presidential ambition was sure to put crypto and blockchain on the political agenda for the country:

“We need people that understand what’s actually happening in the world right now. Those of us in this business on the front lines are actually designing the tools, creating the systems that are going to create the future that we’re all going to live in.”

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