Slasscom Tech Talk: An Evening With Blockchain

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On the 31st of January, we witnessed Slasscom’s latest Tech Talk event take place at the Dialog Axiata auditorium. This time, the evening took on the topic of blockchain. You probably would have seen or heard of that term if you’re following the tech industry as of late.

For those of you not familiar, blockchain is a distributed database that maintains a continuously-growing list of records. These records are called blocks. Each block contains a timestamp and a link to a previous block. In a nutshell, blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. Why blockchain is considered to be one of the newest trends in computing, is due to its ability to prevent data from being modified. As such, blockchain has the power to revolutionize the way we store and do data transactions.

An Introduction To Blockchain

Kicking off the evening was Conrad Dias, Group CIO of LOLC who took stage. He started his session by asking the audience, how many have used bitcoin before. A few hands went up. He went on to explain what cryptocurrency is all about, what it is and its history.

Conrad Dias, Group CIO of LOLC giving an introduction to blockchain (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)
Conrad Dias gives an introduction to blockchain (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)

Conrad then touched on blockchain in general and why this has become a hot topic in the industry. There are 2 types of blockchains available, one private and the other public. What does this mean? Simply put, with public blockchains anyone would have the right to operate. But nobody would really own it. This is also termed as permission less. The opposite is true for private blockchains. Not everyone would have the right to operate a private one because only one person or group would own it.

So what exactly makes blockchain to be a hot topic? According to Conrad Dias, the following features are what drives this technology.

  • You can’t change your data
  • You don’t need to have a 3rd party. The platform can work on its own.
  • Asset transferability
  • Transaction traceability
  • Higher security
  • Trust elimination
  • Faster settlement

An Industry Perspective

Carrying on where Conrad left, Jayamin Pelpola – Managing Partner at Alfiniti Ventures spoke about blockchain and its implications in different industries. For example, Jayamin explained how this could be utilized in the financial sector where even companies like VISA and Mastercard could potentially be replaced. He commented that rather than getting killed, a better option would be to invest in the technology. This would explain why VISA has already invested in the technology.

Jayamin Pelpola - Managing Partner at Alfiniti Ventures shares an industry perspective on blockchain (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)
Jayamin Pelpola shares an industry perspective (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)

But can it be implemented in other industries as well? As Jayamin puts it, wherever efficiency and resolving of trust issues is required, blockchain can be implemented. Therefore, applications would expand to other sectors such as economics and markets, government & legal, IoT, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Blockchain Under The Hood

Omega Silva - software architect at VirtusaPolaris speaking on the technical outlook of blockchain (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)
Omega Silva shares the technical outlook (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)

Next up was Omega Silva – Software Architect at VirtusaPolaris. Here, Omega focused on the technical outlook, emphasizing on how transactions work in the environment. Following up on Omega’s session, Tharindu Dissanayake – Vice President of Software Development at MillenniumIT spoke about the practical aspects. This is where certain daily tasks such as paying for your meals could utilize the technology.

Tharindu also touched on the different platforms available such as bitcoin, ethereum and Hyperledger. In the case of Hyperledger for example, companies like Intel, Accenture and IBM have already gotten on board. Even the London Stock Exchange is a contributor to the platform.

Tharindu Dissanayake - Vice President of Software Development at MillenniumIT speaking on the practical aspects of blockchain (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)
Tharindu Dissanayake speaking on the practical aspects of blockchain (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)

Discussion Time

Once Tharindu concluded his session, the event moved on to the final segment of the evening, the panel discussions. Here, we saw quite a few curious hands go up. Among the questions was where one could start off with blockchain itself. Jayamin and Tharindu stated that anybody who wanted to start off with blockchain, should probably begin with the Ethereum Project. Why? Its simply because the availability of a variety of documentations and applications. Plus, as Jayamin states, ethereum is almost like an Operating System. So chances are ethereum is an easier option to start for a novice.

The speakers during the panel discussion on blockchain (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)
The speakers during the panel discussion on blockchain (Image credits: Avishka Senaratne)

So what about Sri Lanka? Is the local community prepared to take up Blockchain mechanisms like bitcoin? Are there regulations in place? Well, according to the panel, there are hardly any regulations in place for matters like these. But nevertheless, that doesn’t mean implementations are not a possibility.

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