Richard Collin leads the software engineering team in Thomson Reuters' Applied Innovation group. He oversees the development and delivery of potential products that use emerging technologies like blockchain, including the BlockOne ID authentication service.
In this CoinDesk 2016 in Review feature, Collin advocates for collaboration among developers, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders in the blockchain space as the industry heads into 2017.
Close collaboration continues to be the absolute necessity for blockchain success.
The closer the collaboration between developers and commercial organizations, the better the results that emerge. And the closer everybody works with consumers, the more likely it is that the result will be something attractive to them.
This technology is young: the tools to interact with it are designed largely for developers. Creating experiences for consumers is hard, and allowing consumers to interact with it directly can be even harder.
An example: every action on public blockchains requires a transaction fee in a cryptocurrency. It is a small fee, but it is greater than zero. That was acceptable when blockchains were used solely for financial transactions, but today’s use cases have expanded to include complex transactions with smart contracts that may have nothing to do with money transfers.
Solving this problem requires technical expertise from the developer community and a clear understanding of user experience which will attract consumers to use the blockchain.
And there is a potential answer – more importantly, it has been shared. Deep in an ethereum GitHub repository lies a solution which could potentially allow service providers to pay for mining costs without affecting the integrity of the transaction.
Consumers will no longer need cryptocurrency to participate, bringing us closer to a user experience which consumers will recognize.
It is this focus on discussion and on sharing which is the key to the future success of this technology.
Developers, of course, already know this. What is really exciting is that the companies that stand to gain the most from the application of this new technology now know it too. They are rethinking the way they work: rather than developing their services in closed, proprietary silos they too are throwing open their doors to developers and other innovators to build the future.
Organizations are hosting conferences, round-tables, panel discussions and hackathons to make the necessary connections and to pool resources together. Companies are forging partnerships with developer communities.
Why collaboration matters
This is the unique genius of blockchain: it encourages collaboration. Companies as well as developers need to contribute their ideas and enabling technologies in order for them both to succeed.
We saw the benefits of this approach for ourselves at Thomson Reuters earlier this year, when we hosted a hackathon with ethereum to test our enabling technology BlockOne ID, which we then put online in beta for further development. It is a service that helps developers to perform diligence on their users – another recognized challenge when consumers directly interact with blockchains – and the results of this approach have been encouraging.
Developers have been very positive: they told us they appreciated a strong brand clearly working to enable them, to help them address a problem close to both of our hearts. They have risen to the challenge and engaged imaginatively with our shared purpose: to make the blockchain work for organizations and their customers.
Solving these problems creates the opportunity to build familiar consumer experiences and bridge the old world of the Web with newer blockchain-enabled services. Look to see this materialize in 2017.
So I would like to end 2016 and begin 2017 with a call to action.
Developers and commercial organizations are working more closely together than ever before to realize the potential of blockchain technology. I have seen the potential at first hand, as have my colleagues at Thomson Reuters – so please let’s share our ideas face-to-face.
Simply put – let’s keep this conversation going!
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