Dubai Blockchain Challenge: the technology’s most creative uses

From tracking the life cycle of a luxury asset to digitising student records, the solutions presented by companies at Dubai’s Blockchain Challenge proved that blockchain technology doesn't always have to be obtrusive; rather, it has the potential to transform every facet of our lives 

“We are not the most glamorous out of these companies,” admitted RTWire’s CEO Jon Gillham, one of the lineup presenting at Dubai’s Blockchain Challenge. In fact, though structural in nature the UK-based startup’s approach to blockchain was a good example of the kind of innovative thinking present in the companies that pitched during one very fast-paced morning in Dubai Design District, D3.

Each company had just two minutes to convince the audience that they deserved to win the grand prize of $US20,000, with US$50,000 total up for grabs. The winner of the challenge, which was in partnership with both Smart Dubai and 1776, was decided by a panel of judges that included Ammar al Malik, Executive Director of Dubai Internet City, Mohmmed Shael Alsaadi, CEO of corporate strategic affairs for Department of Economic Development; HE Dr Aisha bin Bishr, Director General of Smart Dubai; Peter Cherukuri, President and Global Chief Innovation Officer of 1776; and Dr Marwan AlZarouni, Director of Information Services at Dubai Electronic Security Centre.

Many startups alluded to the city’s positive embrace of the technology as reason for their participation in the challenge. As global governments explore blockchain in pursuit of a US$290bn expected market value by 2019, Dubai has announced its intention to be the first government powered by blockchain, with efforts like these looking at investing in creative innovations that will help them to do just that.

How can blockchain change your life?

By protecting your online purchases

“Public blockchain technology has a fundamental deficit: transactions can be fast or secure – not both,” said Jon Gillham, RTWire’s CEO, citing Visa and Mastercard’s average process time of just three seconds as an example. The company seeks to insure customers against reversal, charging a small fee. It has the ability to touch most industries and most businesses, with Gillham stating the company was seeing a lot of interest from in-app payments for social games cited as a US$36bn market.

By digitising your degree

Universities can charge students anything up to US$100 to access their certifications – it is these kinds of prices that Vancouver-based firm Educhain wants to get rid of. “It seems crazy that it’s 2017 and the way we manage students credentials is still on paper,” said Mark Balovnev, CEO.

“Even though institutions store this data digitally, they cannot share it in fear of it being tampered with.” With blockchain, students can access digital records to their credentials and share them securely: the data could also help allocate grants and scholarships, he added.

By tracking your diamonds

In the world of luxury, provenance is everything. Last year, diamond trading alone in UAE was valued at over $US41bn, but underlying these kinds of volumes are the massive costs of risk – fraudulent claims cost US$51bn and counterfeiting industries make US$1.3trn annually. Enter Everledger, a company from London that seeks to use blockchain to track assets such as diamonds for their entire lifecycle. The firm has built relationships with certification houses, using data collected with API to track the asset and reduce problems such as the infiltration of synthetic diamonds. The company, which won third place and $US10,000 on the day, have smart contract structures that enable warranties and provenance around custody.

By buying your house

Buying a house can be a painful process that can take months and is often completed by relatively unsecure mediums. Henrik Hjelte, CEO of ChromaWay illustrated this by pretending to take a phone call as his presentation started. “You see, this is what the banks do on the last day of settlement!” he stated.  

The aim of the company was to make this laborious process pain free, looking at using smart contracts to bring down the time of purchase of a house from three months to just a few hours, as well as prevent fraud.