Official Newsletter of the European Union Blockchain Observatory & Forum
We are pleased to present you with the latest update on the activities of the European Union Blockchain Observatory & Forum.
Year in Review / Year ahead
As we begin this third year of the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum, we thought it a good moment to both recap our work of last year and take a look ahead. Therefore in this special edition of our newsletter, after our usual update, we have prepared a retrospective of the themes we worked on in 2019 and a quick look at what's in store for the Observatory going forward.
In December we published our academic research paper Blockchain and cybersecurity: a taxonomic approach, prepared by the University of Southampton. The paper provides a taxonomy of blockchains from a cybersecurity perspective and then delves into such key themes as data security, data privacy, trust, resilience and forensics.
The next series of workshops is also set, and we encourage all who may be interested to sign up using the links below. The events include:
Year in review: What we learned in 2019
We had a busy 2019. Over the course of the year we took deep dives into a number of key blockchain themes. We summarise these below.
Several of our themes covered fundamental, basic questions that transverse blockchain protocols and use cases. These included:
- Digital assets. Blockchain makes it easy to “tokenise” physical and intangible assets offering benefits from reducing costs and adding efficiencies to primary and secondary asset markets to programmable securities and new models, like fractional ownerships. Our examination covered these and other issues as well as early projects, use cases and emerging best practice.
- Legal and regulatory framework. During the year we looked at the intersection of blockchain and the law from a number of different angles. These included, among others, the legal standing of smart contracts and blockchain-based registries, token taxonomies, and thorny liability and jurisdictional issues associated with blockchain-based platforms and fully decentralised, autonomous organisations (DAOs).
- Digital identity. We continued our exploration of blockchain and digital identity with the publication of our thematic report. The focus was decentralised identity (DIDs) in general, as well as the specific case of self-sovereign identity (SSI). Blockchain, we found, can play a role in both, helping to shift the identity paradigm to a more user-centric model.
Big picture landscape
During the year we also focused on a number of themes around the emerging blockchain landscape. These included:
- Scalability, interoperability and sustainability. Our work on this theme took us into both large-scale, organisational questions, and specific technical ones (for the latter, see below). With the multitude of protocols, platforms and consortia arising in Europe and the world today, we foresee a future “multiverse” of blockchains, in which different blockchain protocols, platforms and consortium models will be deployed for specific use cases and markets, but will also be able to communicate with each other. We also looked at questions around how to successfully build and run such platforms and consortia.
- Convergence of blockchain with AI and IoT. Blockchain is one of a number of emerging technologies that are making a big impact on our world. During the year we looked at how blockchain is likely to work in concert with both AI and IoT to bring life to “digital twins” and construct large-scale platforms, like smart cities or smart supply chains, with innovative new capabilities.
- Governance. For many, this is one of the most important topics in blockchain. The technology lends itself to projects that involve multiple actors working to some collective goal. We looked among other things at project and protocol governance, as well as how to use blockchain for off-chain governance use cases, like e-voting or arbitration.
Key use cases
We also focused on the following specific use cases.
- Supply chain. After cryptocurrencies, tracking, tracing and supply chain is perhaps the oldest use case for blockchains, and one of the most discussed. In our work we examined, among other things, how blockchain can help supply chain stakeholders prove provenance, combat fraud, ensure quality, and manage complexity, as well as improve processes through greater transparency.
- Healthcare. There are few types of information more important to our wellbeing, or more private, than the information about our health, yet there are many serious problems with how healthcare data gets handled today. Blockchain, we found, can help not only build a more patient-centric health data system, it could also greatly improve how we use healthcare for research and development.
- Financial services. It’s no secret that banks today face increasing costs and decreasing revenues thanks to a number of factors including more costly regulation, more volatile and risky markets and highly complex products. From radical automation in asset markets to stablecoins and central bank digital currencies, to new kinds of payment options for retail users, blockchain is set to spur innovation. But there are many technical and regulatory questions to solve along the way.
- Education. The technological and social ecosystem around education is extremely broad and diverse, with multiple stakeholders – learners, educators, employers, governments. We took a look at how blockchain can support innovation and solve some major problems in both education certification and recognition of learning, as well as support new, decentralised and collaborative learning models.
Key technical themes
We also took deep dives into some technical themes around blockchain.
- Scalability, interoperability and sustainability. In the technical parts of our scalability work, we looked at how new consensus models as well as innovative approaches and new technologies can help solve blockchain’s scalability issues, the technical considerations when interoperating between blockchains, and ways that we can ensure that blockchain technology in future is sustainable from an environmental standpoint.
- Cyber security. Blockchain raises and faces a number of critical security issues. These range from security of blockchains themselves, to the security of smart contracts and digital assets, to data security and privacy on blockchains.
The evolving blockchain landscape in Europe
Over the course of the year, we were also able to observe how the European blockchain landscape continued to grow and evolve. Major developments on the EU level included the European Blockchain Partnership and its ambitious project to build the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure. Another significant development was the launching of the International Association of Trusted Blockchain Applications (INATBA), a global forum to interact with regulators and policy makers and bring blockchain technology to the next stage.
Much of our work over the summer was taken up with organising and carrying out the Convergence conference in a joint effort with the European Commission, INATBA and Alastria. With close to 1,400 attendees representing over 50 countries, some 230 speakers and over 80 keynotes, panels, fireside chats, roundtables and meetings, we were very gratified with how it turned out!
Upcoming publications from the Observatory
As we start the new year, we have a full program planned for Q1. As mentioned above, we have three thematic workshops still on the agenda. A fourth and final workshop end of March will provide a wrap up of the Observatory's first two years.
On top of this the following publications are planned for release in Q1 (many of which are in advanced stages of production).
- Digital Assets thematic report
- Energy and sustainability research report
- Convergence of Blockchain with AI and IoT thematic report
- Governance thematic report
- Cyber security thematic report
- Healthcare thematic report
Observatory 2.0 – the work continues!
As many may know, the original mandate for the Observatory was to run through April, 2020. And so it was gratifying when in October the European Commission announced that it was committed to continuing the Observatory’s work.
Citing the Observatory's strong community and the credibility of our events and papers, the EC said we have become “a recognised player in Europe and on the international scene.”
With the call for tender now closed, the EC is at work choosing the new team. We hope to be able to announce the decision soon.
As always, we would like to thank everyone who has been active in contributing to the Observatory. None of this would be possible without the participation of all of you in our community.
With best regards,
The EU Blockchain Observatory & Forum