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Businesses discuss blockchain solutions

Waves Enterprise Conference: Blockchain for Business, held on December 17, focused on the major trends in developing corporate solutions based on distributed ledger technologies.

For Waves Enterprise, 2019 was a year full of achievements — such as updated branding and positioning, several key releases for the platform, talks by our team members at numerous conferences, participation in major Russian and international events and attracting top companies as customers. It was therefore fitting to end the year with a large conference for representatives from the business and IT sectors, to share our experiences and exchange ideas with other players in the industry.

During the one-day event, Waves Enterprise team members — along with representatives from major companies that have already deployed blockchain-based solutions and leading experts in blockchain and digital transformation — gave talks, shared use cases and discussed the prospects for the technology in various industries.

The conference attracted over 400 participants, from a broad range of companies including S7, Qiwi Blockchain Technologies, Sberbank, VTB Bank, Rosseti, Alfa Bank, Gazprom Neft and LANIT.

“Blockchain technology has been around since 2009 but working solutions that will be implemented in the real world are only just beginning to emerge,” Waves founder Alexander Ivanov commented in his address. “The market has finally formulated a vision for adopting the technology and realized the advantages of its integration into businesses.” He added that enterprise solutions based on private blockchain platforms are most promising at this point.

Profitable technologies

The conference’s main focus was on real-world adoption of blockchain. Speakers discussed use cases that have already been implemented in their companies.

Alexander Kalmykov, head of the blockchain technology center at Gazprom Neft, spoke about a module for vehicle tracking, executed in collaboration with Waves Enterprise and a GPS tracker manufacturer. GPS trackers installed on cargo, cargo containers and vehicles, send signed transactions directly to the blockchain, skipping any third-party servers. As a result, reliable and immutable information on the cargo’s location is available in real-time.

Among other working use cases raised at the conference was a ticket sale optimization scheme by airline S7. Irina Mayorova, product owner for S7 Techlab blockchain platform, explained that to become an agent for S7, a company previously had to produce financial guarantees, under which a limited number of blank ticket forms was allocated. Raising this limit took time, which hindered ticket sales by agents. Thanks to a blockchain-based mutual payment system, the airline can now quickly make sure that an agent’s account has a sum equivalent to the price of a specific ticket, and a ticket can be issued.

Now, even small agencies can work with S7, boosting ticket sales and the airlines’ profits. A significant share of S7’s ticket sales is accounted for by offline agents, and in 2019, profits from the adoption of their blockchain solution is expected to exceed 200 million rubles ($3.2 million).

Denis Reymer, vice president for digital transformation at the LANIT group of companies, spoke about the launch of a collaboration between Waves Enterprise and DTG, LANIT’s digital systems integrator. The main field of collaboration will be development and deployment of solutions for automating distributed business processes on the basis of the GRANUM tech platform. In this project, blockchain will offer a trustless infrastructure supporting interaction between the platform’s participants.

A thorny path

The conference’s participants admitted that the introduction of blockchain solutions often doesn’t go smoothly. According to Reymer, one of the main issues related to blockchain solutions is scaling.

Igor Kuzmichev, Waves Enterprise’s development director, explained how blockchain can improve the security of companies’ personal data, as well as the technological solutions that are already being implemented on Waves Enterprise. “We’ve seen some appalling statistics,” he said. “In the first half of 2019, 1,276 instances of leaked confidential data were registered, 22% up on last year. The number of compromised records and personal payment data instances was up 360% year-on-year and reached 8.74 billion. And the number of such attacks will only grow.”

“Waves Enterprise offers blockchain solutions for personal data protection in various areas — from document flow at medical institutions and banks to electronic voting,” he continued. “An IT architecture that uses blockchain stipulates encryption of databases, partitioning them into segments, journaling access and providing data strictly by request, and only those data attributes which have been requested. Data itself isn’t uploaded to the network, and the blockchain contains only data hashes. This approach enables the prevention of leaks and reduces damage by fragmenting databases. Research into homomorphic encryption, which will take confidential data processing to a new level, is actively being undertaken.”

Among other issues pointed out by the conference’s participants were data security in a digital environment and the lack of a proper regulatory base.

Looking to the future

One of the main trends in the enterprise blockchain sector, also mentioned by the conference’s participants, was that industry players’ understanding of the need for blockchain applications is on the rise.

63% of the conference’s participants said that the use of blockchain is only justified for a specific set of business processes and cases. Meanwhile, nearly one half believe that blockchain is applicable in any sector of the economy where business processes involving a large number of participants are used.

“Despite the innovation and advantages of blockchain platforms, it’s important to understand that it’s an expensive undertaking that can’t be a universal solution to any task,” stressed Artyom Kalikhov, Waves Enterprise’s product director. “A switch to blockchain is only justified when there is no alternative workable technology or your competitors are actively using blockchain.”

Another issue discussed at the conference was the arrival of blockchain solutions for an entire industry. “The blockchain technology center supposes that an all-Russian or global enterprise blockchain is unlikely to arrive in the nearest future, but solutions that are useful for an entire industry have to be implemented collaboratively,” Gazprom Neft’s Alexander Kalmykov explained in his talk. “We are on the lookout for use cases that someone is already working on, so we can collaborate rather than start from scratch.”

“We are developing our platform in the direction of interoperability and one of the main tasks is enabling the platform to seamlessly exchange data with other platforms,” added Kirill Stepanov, head of Waves Enterprise’s project office. “This will enable us to unite various platforms in a single system.”