Whether you are an employed professional, student, entrepreneur, or investor – technology touches us all. It is mandatory to keep pace with technological revolutions that will shape the future, in order to ensure that none of us are left behind.

Image Source – BlockChain

Free Global Blockchain Workshop!

Blockchain is a technology that is hugely disruptive, just the way the internet created a significant disruption in the late 1990’s and the early 2000s. There are many use cases of Blockchain that hold immense potential to disrupt many businesses across the world. Some examples of such use cases include Finance, eCommerce, Distributed Storage, Crypto Currencies, Smart Contracts and Decentralization.

Dr. Arthur Langer, Director, Center for Technology Management – Columbia University & Dr. Artit Wangperawong, PhD, Stanford University and Chief Technology Officer, runs.com will discuss the disruptive role of Blockchain and what it means for the future of technology.

You can expect to learn more about

  • Basics of Blockchain and how it works
  • What are the potential uses of Blockchain
  • What it all means for the future of technology

This webinar is hosted by runs.com in partnership with Columbia University CTM.

The most popular questions in the technology world today is most definitely the one on whether Hashgraph is better than Blockchain. The life and credibility of the Blockchain is being questioned and Hashgraph is being predicted as the technology of the future.

Image Source – DLT

While it is difficult to predict whether Blockchain is a thing of the past and whether Hashgraph is the final answer, one thing is sure, Hashgraph definitely addresses a lot of the critical challenges that Blockchain has been grappling with, the challenge of speed of processing, the challenge of fairness, and the huge challenge of requiring multiple industry regulators to come together

Hashgraph can process 250000+ transactions per second as opposed to Blockchain’s 7 transactions per second.  Hashgraph is fast because it uses Gossip protocol to spread messages to the network and also performs some optimization of the gossiped messages to reduce the communication overhead.  One other reason behind this speed of Hashgraph is because Hashgraph today uses private, permissioned networks.

Coming to fairness, the main challenge of Blockchain is its dependence on miners.  There could be forking and delay because of the actions of the miners, who can manipulate the process.  Since Hashgraph is based on consensus and time stamping, it’s faster and more accurate.  The Virtual Voting Consensus Algorithm of Hashgraph, which was invented by Dr. Leemon Baird, makes it straightforward to know how a node would vote and this data can be used as an input to the voting algorithm and to find whichever transactions have reached consensus quickly, thus making it more fair.

According to me, one of the biggest challenge for Blockchain to be a commonly used technology, is the need for multiple industry regulators to come together and set regulations which will cut across industries. As I have said before also, a Blockchain, or for that matter any DLT is beneficial only when the chains are big or integrated to each other. While it’s not really a technical challenge, given the water tight compartments of today, it’s an enormous roadblock to overcome for a DLT. Hashgraph is planning to overcome or partially address that challenge by way of their 39-member council.  If run properly it will take care of enabling cross-industry discussions and regulations.

Added to this, Hashgraph’s security is also claimed to be better than that of Blockchain.  Hashgraph has been proven to be fully asynchronous Byzantine. This means that it doesn’t make any assumption about how fast messages are passed over the internet and this makes it resilient against DDoS attacks, botnets, and firewalls. While the security in Blockchain was never a challenge, the Byzantine Consensus of Hashgraph makes it stronger.

While Hashgraph does seem to have quite a few advantages over Blockchain, we cannot say that Blockchain is a thing of the past and Hashgraph is the new technology of the future.  I can only predict that Distributed Ledger Technology [DLT] is the way to go, but whether it will be Blockchain or Hashgraph or Tangle or any other DLT, only time can tell.  They are all evolving and evolving very fast.  As Distributed Ledger Technologies move beyond the POC stage to actual implementation stage, we will see even faster evolution.  So it’s very hard to predict which DLT is here to stay because tomorrow is truly another day!

About the author

Mohua Sengupta is the EVP & Global Head at Services at 3i Infotech Ltd. More details about her can be found here

Ever since the Punjab National Bank Fraud case has come to light, many believers of Blockchain have been saying that Blockchain could have stopped it.  Present company included.  I for one, very truly believe that Blockchain will become pervasive and not too far away.  But could it have avoided this huge fraud that has shaken the Indian Banking system? Well it’s hard to respond in the affirmative knowing that no technology is smarter than the human brain at its best. If the intent is wrong, loopholes are found or made. Just as in this case.

Image Source – BlockChain

What was the main reason behind this fraud? While there were multiple, like mal-intent of account holders, corrupt employees, audit failure, manual contracts etc., the key reason was un-integrated applications, i.e, the SWIFT gateway was not integrated with PNB’s Core Banking System. So transferring data from one to the other was a manual process! When money was lent by foreign branches of other Indian banks, based on the false LOU issued by PNB, no record was being made in the banks CBS.  Thus year after year, the fraud remained under cover. 

Could Blockchain have solved it?  Well the answer is yes and no. Blockchain definitely has much higher security capability built-in. The basic concept underlying Blockchain, is Distributed Ledger Technology or DLT. So the master data is maintained in every node of the distributed ledger and hence there is no dependence on a single source of truth. While today the banks CBS is the single source of truth for the bank, in a Distributed Ledger framework, each node would contain the same truth. So tampering one node would not be possible and would immediately bring to light any kind of malpractice. So technically speaking Blockchain technology does have security mechanisms to deal with these frauds. However the success of this would depend on how distributed the ledgers are and how big the chains are.

Anytime there is a gap or a break between the chains, or two or more chains are not integrated, demanding a human intervention, mistakes or fraud are likely to happen. So whether or not Blockchain technology could have stopped the PNB fraud, would depend on how integrated the Blockchain was. So even in a Blockchain scenario if the Bank and the SWIFT payment gateway were not connected by a single chain or two integrated chains and had it required a manual intervention, the problem couldn’t have been avoided inspite of Blockchain technology. So Blockchain technology alone, is not an answer to avoiding such problem, intentional or not.  The most critical requirement is for all stakeholders to be part of the Blockchain, with no breakage in the chain.

There are a few other necessary conditions to the success of Blockchain as well

  1. All Manual contracts of today will have to be converted into smart contracts to run some automated checks on them, whenever there is any transaction involving a contract.
  2. Since the security will be so much dependent on the technology itself, technology audits will have to become much more stringent and pervasive
  3. Finally in order for all stakeholders, no matter which industry they belong to, need to come together as part of the same or connected Blockchain, there needs to be common processes and protocols accepted and agreed on by regulators of all industries. Hence the Regulators need to come together to ensure the same.

So bottom line is no technology can eradicate fraud. People are much smarter than computers, being the inventors of all technology.  And people with mal-intent will be there. So while Blockchain has the technology built-in to improve security, it is definitely not the answer to all fraud.

About the author

Mohua Sengupta is the EVP & Global Head at Services at 3i Infotech Ltd. More details about her can be found here

While the influence of technology has permeated every industry and sector conceivable, whether it’s Banking, Manufacturing or Healthcare, the role technology is playing in shaping the real estate & construction industry is of transformational nature.  Of particular interest is the role new-gen technologies like Blockchain, Internet of Things [IoT], Machine learning, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are playing in shaping the industry. And among them Blockchain related technologies seems to be most talked about and most misconstrued as well. Industry pundits, across the globe, seem to reckon that Blockchain could have a large and lasting impact on the way real estate gets done, but it requires big changes, not just minor tweaks.

Image Source – BlockChain

Estimates peg the global market for Blockchain at $708 million in 2017, anticipating it to reach anywhere close to $60.7 billion in 2024. Hence the impact this technology is poised to play in the near future cannot be undermined. However, before we delve any further on how Blockchain is set to impact the industry, we need to understand the underlying technology.

At the core of it, Blockchain is a digital ledger containing digital record of transactions, maintained by a network of computers. This means information of a financial or non-financial transaction is shared with a decentralized network and validated by the entire network. With Blockchain technology, one can transfer assets digitally without the need for a central verifying authority.  This is in itself is a revolutionary way of doing things. A Blockchain framework effectively reduces the chances of data manipulation and leaves lesser scope for a hacker to corrupt the computer system.

While the legality of crypto-currencies is still being debated in India, companies have begun shifting focus to the utility of Blockchain technology. According to an industry report, 56% of Indian businesses are inclined to make Blockchain a part of their core business. You may ask, how does it all Pan-out for the real estate & construction industry? The answer is that, Blockchain could open up newer models of ownerships like shared ownership helping first time buyers to purchase only part of property and proportionately earn rental incomes on the same.

In the construction industry, which requires bringing together large teams to design and shape the built environment the potential uses of this technology can be a real differentiator. With technology and in particular Building Information Modeling [BIM] becoming more widespread, openness to collaboration and new ideas is increasing across the industry. This momentum could be leveraged to bring the use of Blockchain technology to the fore. The potential uses of Blockchain, among many could be: Recording Value Exchange; Administering Smart ContractsCombining Smart Contracts to form a Decentralized Autonomous Organization [DAO]; and finally certifying proof of existence for certain data.

Hence, through this technology there is an opportunity to create a leaner procurement method which better engages the individuals who make up a project team. This will result in reducing costs by removing intermediaries, where a client has more control and transparency of cost, time and scope on their project.

A Blockchain-powered online ledger could overcome complications on multiple owners by securely and reliably tracking the size and value of individual stakes in the property in the same way as stock in companies is recorded on exchanges. Incorporated into land dealings and real estate, Blockchain could provide immense business opportunity in the future making way to a reliable property search, efficient management of property and cash flows. Blockchain integration constantly records and shares information to address traditional process inefficiencies in the commercial real estate industry.

While there are more advantages to it, there are few hurdles that the industry collectively needs to address before capitalising on the benefits of Blockchain. The adoption of Blockchain in real estate would require legislative changes, standardisation and education around Blockchain concepts so that every stakeholder understands the various stages of the transaction. The success or failure of this attempt will surely determine how government organizations feel about implementing these solutions in the future.

As per analysts, putting India’s land records on Blockchain would greatly increase efficiency and reduce fraud. While the Indian government has renewed its interest in digitizing land records through the Digital India Land Records Modernization Programme [DILRMP], the implementation of a distributed ledger first to digitize existing land records and set the precedent for future transactions ensures a legitimate, government-approved record of transactions.

It’s heartening to see that some of the Indian states have taken the lead in adopting this technology to solve real-world problems, which include – Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. While the adoption of Blockchain is still in a nascent stage and the world is still experimenting, it will undoubtedly create a new platform with a scope of positive outlook in the real estate market. With digital transformation taking place everywhere, Blockchain is all set to revolutionize the real estate sector, thereby bringing in reforms in the country.

About the author

Antao AV is the Chief Operating Officer of Synergy Property Development Services. More details about him can be found here

When is the right time for your business to implement blockchain technology? Is it the right time to invest your capital in the technology and if yes, then will your current capacity or core capabilities be able to bear the overwhelming potential that blockchain has to offer? The Government of India, in its 2018 budget, has undertaken to explore the use of blockchain proactively for ushering in a digital economy. To aid the efforts of the Government, Microsoft* has been working over the last many years with global giants to uncover the potential of blockchain across banking and finance, retail, cyber security, supply chain management, IoT, Insurance, cloud storage and many more.

Image Source – BlockChain

But what is blockchain exactly? And what capabilities make it so attractive for enterprises?

Blockchain is a disruptive technology trend that enables a shared, authentic, decentralized ledger that is-

Secure: Blockchain uses strong cryptography to create transactions that are impervious to fraud and establishes a shared truth. Also, all the transactions are signed with the digital certificate.

Shared : The real benefits of blockchain, over conventional technology, are achieved when we use it to link organizations to share information on a distributed ledger.

Distributed : A blockchain can be distributed across multiple organizations and becomes more secure as replicas are added.

Ledger : Every transaction is written into the ledger once and cannot be changed after the fact.

What kind of businesses is blockchain best for?

First and foremost, blockchain technology is adept for businesses where large amounts of data is transferred, updated and filtered by multiple users. The potential scenario to apply blockchain depends largely on that. Once we realize that there is a situation that requires the capabilities of blockchain, there arises the need to understand whether a public blockchain is required or an enterprise blockchain is essential.

But what is an enterprise blockchain? An enterprise blockchain [i.e. Hyperlegder, Ethereum Enterprise, Ripple, Quorum, etc.] is a distributed ledger with the following characteristics-

  • All the participants, and their digital identities, are known from one or many trusted organizations
  • Writes and read permissions are roles-based and usually requires consensus of several participants
  • Multiple algorithms are used for consensus

There are two types of enterprise blockchain:

  • Private: Usually managed by a single organization. Typically, the network participants are internal business units or divisions.
  • Consortium: In this case, the blockchain network is managed by multiple trusted organizations. New participants require a consensus of several participants.

Which industries can use blockchain?

The potential impact of blockchain is significant across all sectors and industries—from banking to government to healthcare and beyond, as it-

  • Eliminates intermediaries increasing efficiency and speed.
  • Simplifies operations by reducing cost and time related to reconciliations and disputes.
  • Potentially enables new business models increasing revenue and savings.

According to top market analysts and leading consulting firms, the top five industries that blockchain will likely disrupt by 2020 are financial services, government, real estate, supply chain management, and media distribution. Currently, most Microsoft customers using blockchain on Azure are financial services institutions, including insurance companies. However, the trend is rapidly shifting to other industries.

More interestingly, a sizeable percentage of blockchain implementations involve at least one participant from a second industry such as manufacturing, government or retail. A few customer examples are –

  • Bank of America and Microsoft Treasury using Blockchain in a Trade Finance scenario to improve the process of issuing a Standby Letter of Credit to a customer [SBLC] to a customer.
    Impact – The process has been reduced from 3-5 weeks to just 3-5 days
  • Renault Group is working together with Microsoft and VISEO to create the first digital car maintenance book based on Blockchain and using Microsoft Azure capabilities.
  • Large food manufacturers and distributors are using blockchain to track their premium products journey from source to consumption efficiently, and to have a shared ledger as the single source of truth.

In India, amongst other strategic partnerships and implementations, Microsoft has partnered with Primechain whereby Azure Blockchain is the exclusive cloud platform for BankChain, a blockchain consortium of 30 top banks. Primechain is creating innovative applications on top of Azure for near real-time cross-border remittance at near zero cost, real-time peer-to-peer transfer systems with automated reconciliation, end-to-end loan syndication process management, vendor on-boarding, NDA processing, and vendor rating and many more. The State Bank of India, India’s largest bank is using Primechain’s blockchain-enabled smart contracts and KYC [Source]

Both, in India and globally, Microsoft is the partner of choice for the financial services industry, be it for transforming into a modern workplace, collaborating securely in real-time with first line workers and field teams, reducing IT costs, improving CRM performance, or technologies like blockchain.

Looking ahead, Microsoft is working with customers, partners, and the developer community to accelerate blockchain’s enterprise readiness. Microsoft’s mission is to help companies thrive in this new era of secure multi-party collaboration by delivering open, scalable platforms and services that any company can use to improve shared business processes. Its roadmap is based on the following principles –

  • Blockchain on your terms – No one-size-fits-all approach — Microsoft’s platform and ecosystem partners make it easy to get started and iterate quickly with the blockchain of your choice, both on-premises and in the cloud.
  • Integrated with your business – Merge blockchain with the IT assets you already have. Azure lets you integrate blockchain with the cloud services your organization uses to power shared processes.
  • Ready for the enterprise – With the Coco Framework, Cryptlets, and Azure services integration, Microsoft is addressing existing technology gaps with blockchain and helps organizations build durable enterprise-grade applications.

Microsoft also actively participates in industry consortiums such as R3, Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, and IC3, to understand core industry scenarios, and to continue learning to meet the needs of customers. Currently, Microsoft supports the most widely used blockchain and distributed ledger protocols on Azure, including HyperLedger Fabric, R3 Corda, Quorum, Chain Core, and BlockApps.

For more information, please visit here and here

[Note* – This article is contributed by Microsoft]

India currently has around 3 million developers and has the second largest Android developer community in the world after the US. As per a study from Deloitte, India will have the largest base of developers by 2019. Developers will be drivers of customers’ adoption of cloud and cognitive solutions. About 60% of the developers in India have been experimenting with AI [Artificial Intelligence] and machine learning, compared to 39% in the rest of the world. This shows developers in India are receptive towards AI, Cognitive and data science technologies.

Image Source – Cognitive Computing

AI, Machine Learning, Cognitive computing, Data analytics, etc. are some of the emerging technology trends and they are now  observing widespread adoption. Today, IBM stands at the forefront of a worldwide industry to lead the next phase of change revolutionizing the way in which businesses work and grow. With rapid changes in the technology landscape and open source movement, top-down approach is no longer being followed in organizations and developers are now playing role in the entire technology eco-system. Cloud related technologies are a boon for the developers and the barrier to entry has become limited.

IBM, as a part of the ‘Developer Relations Group‘ works with clients, students, developers, startups amd support them in understanding technology, helping them and get their job done effectively. Seema Kumar leads the IBM Developer Relations group which is a part of the IBM Digital Business group. We had a chat with Seems Kumar about IBM’s eco-system efforts, its involvement with startups, role of Watson in shaping up AI industry, etc. So, let’s get started with the Q&A…

Every organization is involved with top tier institutes, what are some of the steps that IBM Evangelism team is taking in order to connect with the student community in lesser known institutes ?

Every student is important to us, irrespective of whether the student is from IIT/IIM or from colleges that are located in tier-2/tier-3 cities. This is mainly because lot of innovation is happening from universities that do not carry the IIT/IIM tag. Students from these colleges are continually learning and the credit goes to the low barrier to entry. IBM has a developer platform called OnTheHub where any university can enroll, students get IBM Credits and they can also use IBM tools for software development.

In some colleges, we also have some development courses as a part of the curriculum where we train faculty members on Watson, Chatbots, AI, etc. and most of the association is with tier-2 institutes.

What are some of the initiatives that IBM is taking to connect with the startup and the entreprenurial community in India [be it TiE, NASSCOM, etc.] ?

Startup eco-system in India is very vibrant. IBM works directly with startups as well as with other partners. IBM has partnered with TiE, NASSCOM 10000, etc. where in some cases, IBM participates in community events.

In case of NASSCOM 10K, IBM works with startups where we monitor and mentor them. Our programme is called as Global Entrepreneur Programme [GEG], there are different plans namely Standard, Basic and Premium Plan. IBM has been actively involved in mentoring startups across different sectors like EdTech, HealthCare, etc. from technology, business expansion, market readiness, etc. point of view.

More than 200 startups are working with IBM  in the technology space. In fact, lot of startups are using Watson API’s for building meaningful apps around Chatbots. For example, a startup that we are mentoring built a chatbot named ValleyBot to identify fake news and they are getting good amount of traction.

There are lot of cloud solutions available in the market, what are some of the major advantages for moving to the IBM cloud [both from the developer as well as enterprise perspective] ?

IBM has various solutions for different audiences. IBM’s cloud offering is a combination of Public, Private and Hybrid cloud. As a matter of fact, lot of apps available in the existing data centers are not cloud ready i.e. Even if they are migrated to the cloud, they cannot capitalize on the benefits of virtualization, effective resource utilization, etc. Cloud solutions from IBM helps you build cloud native applications. Developers are always on the look-out for their own choice of technologies.

IBM Cloud is a Platform As a Service [PAAS] offering that has various API’s for different programming languages. Choice, flexibility to use what developers want and the way they want are some of the key differentiators. Most of the apps of the future would have some sort of cognitive capabilities built into it and Natural Language Processing [NLP], visual recognition features to build conversation interfaces would be some of the basic building blocks to build a cognitive application. These features are available in the Watson APIs and using these APIs, apps are enterprise ready from day one of development!

To summarize, choice of catalogue, breadth of services, flexibility to choose between Public/Private/Hybrid cloud and ability to build secure, cognitive, enterprise ready software on the cloud are some of the inherent advantages.

Image Source – Seema Kumar

Can you comment on Chatbots and what are some of the core ingredients of a Chatbot kind of application ?

Context of conversation and Intent are very important ingredients in building a Chatbot and hence, training & design of the oervall interface are very important factors when building a Chatbot. Watson APIs are very powerful and are specifically designed by keeping these important factors in mind. With every interaction, learning happens and it gets better with more data.

There is buzz about Blockchain, what according to you are some of the ideal use-cases where Blockchain might be useful for a ‘Digitally Growing’ like India ?

Blockchain as a technology is constantly evolving and it is definitely here to stay. Blockchain offers powerful Usecases for any usecase that involves multiple parties and multiple transactions. In a nutshell, it is nothing but a distributed ledger. Initial usecases have obvisouly evolved in the Finance sector but Blockchain would be relevant in other sectors as well.

Blockchain when used in conjunction with IoT, lot of powerful usecases would eveolve. For example, IBM recently worked with the Mahindra Group to build a Blockchain solution for supply chain finance across India. This solution improved the transparency of overall operations. IBM also announced a Trade Finance platform using the IBM Blockchain platform that can be used by banks. Blockchain can also be extended across other sectors like Healthcare, Insurance, etc.

Your comments on Digital India and how IBM’s involvement in the overall journey ?

There is definitely a robust infrastructure in place with Aadhar API’s, eKYC, India Stack, UPI, etc. have led to a huge thrust in digital payments in India. As far as IBM is concerned, we work closely with iSpirt where we also participate as an eco-system partner.

India is a country with rich amount of data and this is where the aspect of Data Science becomes very critical as we need to draw valuable insights from the data. IBM has also tied-up with NASSCOM and Government Of Karnataka to build Center Of Excellence [COE] in Data Science where IBM will be the core technology partner. IBM will not only groom talent in data science but will also work on Proof Of Concept [POC] and support startups in that category.

What are some of the certifications that a student/professional can opt for, in order to gain expertise/know-how in Cognitive Computing, Machine Learning, Cloud Computing, IBM BlueMix, etc. ?

IBM has partnered with an EdTech partner where we launched Cognitive Class previously called as Big Data University. IBM has also tied-up with JigSaw Academy where they use IBM’s Big data expertise for all their courses. In the area of certification, IBM has partnered with Global Knowledge that offers on Cloud computing, DevOps, AI, etc.

There has been lot of scepticism that AI, Robotics & other ‘Automation/Machine related technologies’ would wipe off many jobs in future, what are your thoughts on the same and how can AI [and other technologies] go hand-in-hand with human jobs ?

Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO believes in three principles that are applicable in the cognitive era – Purpose, Transparency and Skills. The purpose of a cognitive app is to augment human intelligence and not to replace humans. Products and Services from IBM are built with this principle in mind and human intelligence is a key aspect.

IBM is helping human beings being more productive, realize their potential and focus on more important jobs rather than working on mundane & repetitive jobs. You must be clear as you build AI platforms how they are trained, and what data was used in training. When we talk about transparency, IBM has always been cognizant of data. AI platforms must be built with people in the industry and companies must prepare to train human workers on how to use these tools to their advantage.

We thank Seema Kumar for sharing her insights with our readers and walking us through the awesome work done by IBM for shaping up the developer ecosystem. If you have any questions for Seema about Watson, Chatbots, how solutions from IBM can accelerate your development, etc. please share them via a comment to this article.