Tag Archives: bitcoin

Don’t be Fooled and Underestimate Blockchain

Do you find it comforting to dismiss blockchain as “flash in the pan”? Simona Pop believes you’d be a fool to do so and explains why it will live up to the hype.

There is a pattern emerging where new technologies are treated with a certain degree of skepticism. After the initial wave of excitement and expectation, many of the game changing advances are suddenly approached with a “flash in the pan” dismissal.

Is it meant to reassure comfortable people and businesses that carrying on as they are is the better option? Why risk innovation when you can draw out a tradition type stance?

But this isn’t the technology’s fault. Many of these advances are – when divorced from the Gartner hype cycle and the hashtags and actively placed in their proper context – exactly as exciting and game changing as they seem, if not more so.

Blockchain is a high-profile victim of this phenomenon: as a distributed ledger technology that promises faster, more secure payments, many industries have been exploring its possibilities and many more have been writing and talking about it.

Purchasing is no exception. And while blockchain technology may have limited application in other professions, in this one, it will live up to the hype. As a means of reducing costs, improving efficiency, controlling fraud, and boosting transparency, it has tangible, real-world benefits for procurement functions – whatever the market or business they work within.

In a recent article, Paul Clayton, Head of New Service Development for Basware, states:

”In 2017, blockchain is word of the year, it’s absolutely everywhere. But it’s not earth shattering, it’s not the third generation of the Internet it’s just an interesting concept with some obvious benefits and flaws.”

Let’s go through some of the reasons why Basware feel blockchain is not all it promises to be for finance and purchasing:

  1. “Whilst a blockchain itself is safe, an application using it remains hackable” – This is also true of your bank software, or Apple Pay or pretty much any software we are currently using for payments. It should not stop us using it or leveraging its deep transformational effects in how businesses operate.
  2. “It can be too transparent” – Technically true, but in reality the references to user wallets are encrypted key strings which, whilst easy to relate to the originating source and other related transactions, is not as easy to relate to an actual physical person. In much the same way as a credit card number isn’t easy to relate to a person without extra information.
  3. “It’s not the most elegant solution” –  Here’s where we strongly disagree. The elegance is in the simplicity. Banks have been trying to come up with distributed ledger technology since the 70s but they were hindered because they refused to be outside the transaction. By using TLS style encryption and cutting out the transaction verification at financial institution level, the whole transaction becomes significantly simpler.
  4. “You can still lose things!“ – Of course you can. You can lose your wallet too.

The argument that there isn’t really that much value in blockchain when the benefits of smart contracts and removing the invoice are tangible possibilities is nonsensical. Removing  the need for invoice processing is huge and any platform truly helping businesses handle their invoices and payments should know this. Invoice processing, and invoice fraud by proxy, are the biggest threats to company money out there today. Just look at Facebook and Google who were victims of $100M payment scam this year.

Blockchain automates trust

Trust is the cornerstone of every business relationship. On a fundamental level, you need to believe that the other person is who they say they are – and they need to believe the same of you.

In this age of phishing, malware, and general cyber security attacks, this seemingly simple principle becomes complicated. Login details are stolen and turned to criminal ends; high-level executives are being impersonated by hackers, who then persuade other parties to release vital funds; the sheer scale and variety of cybercrime is growing.

Blockchain provides a means of automating trust. By using permanently retained historical data to authenticate everyone involved in a deal, each side can be assured of the other parties’ trustworthiness: the seller and buyer alike are always who they say they are, and the product is the right product. What’s more, because prices cannot be modified, invoices will effectively be rendered obsolete.

This greatly simplifies the complicated, multi-faceted transactions that make up modern supply chains – maximising security and reducing the risk of fraud.

Blockchain is fast

Procurement functions will also benefit from the speed and efficiency of blockchain technology. For one thing, it’s fully digital: by taking the more time-consuming elements of a conventional transaction out of the equation, you immediately save time and resources that would have been spent on these tasks.

Shared access databases mean that it’s no longer necessary to manually scan invoices – dramatically accelerating the reconciliation process as all parties are allowed to view the same transaction.

Blockchain effectively cuts out the middlemen. By removing all intermediaries, it makes the processing of payments and transactions much faster: purchase order data can be exchanged on the blockchain at a far speedier pace than current levels will allow. This technology can also identify the nearest and most cost-effective vendors: decreasing lead and work time, and improving your operational efficiency.

Blockchain creates strong audit trails

Blockchain technology stores every detail of every transaction at every level of the supply chain. This will – as mentioned above – facilitate greater fraud control, and it will also offer transparency into issues of legality such as money laundering and the use of child labour.

And though it’s a digital technology, blockchain will also assist with the tracking and recording of physical items. As they are transported across local and international borders, they can be identified at each location – creating a strong and fully documented audit trail.

This kind of end-to-end visibility ensures that delays are rare and that missing items are found and allocated to supply routes more easily. This allows you to manage and optimize these supply routes with maximum efficiency – ensuring that no space is wasted and no customer disappointed.

It’s clear blockchain will have a significant influence on procurement and finance. The advantages of being able to streamline business processes, secure payments, and automate workloads shouldn’t be understated. Do the research, ensure you’re positioning your business correctly and you’ll be in the camp that benefits – today, and in the future.

See InstaSupply’s co-founders chat about blockchain and its vital role on our roadmap.

Blockchain: Are You Bothered?

There are so many misconceptions around blockchain and its potential impact. Will the fundamental concept of blockchain really have a significant impact on procurement, finance and supply chain?

Last month’s Procurious London Roundtable was sponsored by Basware

Blockchain is the coolest technology of the moment and the hype surrounding it only appears to be growing year upon year. Whilst the concept was first used for Bitcoin, the digital currency, its potential is far wider, and many industries are actively investigating the possibilities of using blockchain-based solutions.

But despite organisations around the world jumping on the Blockchain bandwagon and advocating for its enormous potential, do the majority of professionals understand precisely what it is, what it can do and the extent to which it will impact our businesses?

At last month’s Procurious roundtable, Paul Clayton, Head of New Service Development, Basware put us through our paces with an overview of blockchain technology and his insights as to why procurement pros need to be cautious not to overestimate it’s bearing on the function.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is simply a digitised, decentralised and cryptographically secured ledger of transactions.

“The biggest misconception” Paul begins, “is that there is only one blockchain. There are actually many blockchains in use today throughout many different industries.”

“Blockchain is actually only a concept, whose origins go back to academic work in the early 90s, rather than a thing. The concept was first publicly used to allow the crypto-currency Bitcoin to be traded virtually, anonymously, and without the need for a centralised bank.”

“Blockchain technology says where something has been transferred to and retains a trace of the transfer. Conceptually a blockchain acts like is a single ledger, a source of the truth if you like. In reality, it is physically distributed where there are actually multiple ledgers, known as nodes, that all work together to come to consensus on where something has been transferred to, which is then shared between them.”

An obvious advantage of this technology, is that it’s very difficult for you to break the integrity of the ledger. “There are multiple copies of the same ledger and so if someone hacks one it becomes immediately obvious that it is different.”

The flaws at the heart of blockchains

Whilst a blockchain itself is safe, an application using it remains hackable – Security researchers and hackers have proved it’s possible to hack someone’s Bitcoin wallet and empty it of crypto-cash. Mt. Gox infamously lost 7 per cent of all Bitcoins in circulation in 2014, which were worth, at the time, approximately $473 million. It also appears to be an uphill battle trying to prosecute someone for taking a Bitcoin

It’s can be too transparent – With public blockchains, once a transaction and its associated data have been placed onto a blockchain, anyone and everyone who has access to it can view everything, whether you like it or not

It’s not the most elegant solution – The very nature of the deliberately distributed ledger with multiple copies (nodes), means that you have multiple nodes undertaking exactly the same piece of work ie working out where something has been transferred to. From a pure computing power point of view, for certain applications, this is a highly inefficient way of doing things.

The blockchain for Bitcoin for example, has already had to be re-designed to increase its scalability as the number of Bitcoins in circulation and the growth in the associated transactions meant that the ledger became too unwieldy and it was taking too long for it to update.

You can still lose things!

Even if you know where something went, you can still then lose it. Who could forget the unfortunate James Howells, who mistakenly threw out a hard drive containing 7,500 Bitcoins, now estimated to be worth $7.5 million

 

Blockchain for business

There are some who would argue that these problems have been addressed and eliminated for blockchain for business. Paul is not one of them!

“The distributed nature of ledgers means blockchain is good at maintaining the integrity of who owns something but what it cannot do is determine whether the person who put something into a system owned it in the first place.”

This means, when making a transaction via a blockchain, the recipient needs to be able to trust the supposed owner of the thing that is being exchanged. “You are, essentially, reliant on the veracity of the source of what goes in to the blockchain.”

For example:

Does the “owner” actually own the rights to the house they are trying to sell you?

If you’re exchanging metals, does the “owner” have documents to prove they have the rights to the gold?

It might be good at preventing a fraudulent transfer of an asset but blockchain is “next to useless at establishing if a person owned something in the first place”

“As a ledger system it is extremely inefficient, almost clumsy in the way it works. In certain circumstances, where there are a high volume of transactions it uses so much computing power it’s almost not worth it.”

“And it’s for these reasons that, whilst it will have applications in many areas from supply chain through to electronic voting, blockchain won’t change the world!”

Where is the value for procurement?

“Is there value in blockchain tech? Yes. Does the value match the hype right now? Not even close!”

“From a procurement point of view the biggest area of impact right now is most likely to be in supply chain applications. There are obvious applications for the transfer of title and bill of lading. Of particular interest in this space right now are supply chains that can be subject to fraud such as pharmaceuticals and food

Going beyond that the application of so called “smart contracts” to a blockchain can help automate certain business processes. Smart contracts, are pieces of computer code attached to a blockchain that automatically execute an action once a set of agreed criteria have been met. For, example, a smart contract could be used to automatically pay a supplier once the buyer has received their goods without the need for invoice processing and payment.

” In 2017, blockchain is word of the year, it’s absolutely everywhere. But it’s not earth shattering, it’s not the third generation of the Internet its just an interesting concept with some obvious benefits and flaws.”

Last month’s Procurious London Roundtable was sponsored by Basware

Everything You Need To Know About Bitcoin In One Super Infographic

 The precise workings of Bitcoin are still a mystery to many but here’s everything you need to know about the rise of the digital currency. 

Bitcoin is a digital currency which uses peer-to-peer technology. It doesn’t require a bank for making online transactions worldwide and is also known as the first cryptocurrency that does not use central repositories. As such, it’s classified as a decentralised currency by the U.S. treasury.

The currency was first introduced in 2008 to a cryptographic mailing list. On 9th January 2009, the first version (1.0) of Bitcoin was released and on 12th January, the first transaction took place.

Presently, Bitcoin prices are climbing and there’s a whole host of significant, and widespread, clients. Pennsylvania was the first state in U.S. to  accept Bitcoins back in 2013.

UK bank, Barclays, have revealed that they will be the first to facilitate  users in making charitable donations using the currency outside their system.

Total Processing has created an infographic to explain The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin since 2008.

Toby Dean works on behalf of Total Processing in content creation and marketing. He creates engaging graphics and content that help businesses stand out from the crowd. Over the past seven years has worked with dozens of SME’s in both an agency and freelance capacity.

Tackling Technology and Risk: The Blockchain

The rise of digital payment systems has brought the blockchain into the public consciousness. But can blockchain be used to aid supply chain transparency?

Blockchain Technology

Just shy of ten years ago, technological innovation and the supply chain might have been considered strange bedfellows. Now they go hand in hand. But as technology advances at an ever-increasing rate, it makes sense that supply chains the world-over are also becoming increasingly complex as a consequence.

However despite the numerous advantages brought about by this envelope-pushing, we must remain vigilant and alert to the increased risks such new avenues afford us.

Recent years have seen a rise in both the adoption and implementation of digital payment systems and so-called “crypto currencies”. Such innovations in payments have removed the need for traditional, physical currency, as well as the bricks and mortar institutions that process them.

Bitcoin – A New Way to Pay

Bitcoin is but one example that’s fast revolutionising the payment industry. Bitcoin is a digital currency that’s been heralded as both an innovator and disruptor in yearly tech trend reports.

Bitcoin is effectively a peer-to-peer system. Its users can carry out transactions without the need for a middleman, but all activity is recorded and verified by the blockchain. Think of blockchain as a ledger and you’re halfway there.

Bitcoin has given the blockchain an early success with its 15+ million bitcoins already in circulation. But with a limit of 300,000 transactions per day (a ceiling that’s fast-approaching), we have to wonder – is there a future for a digital distributed database format?

It’s worth noting that the blockchain isn’t owned or operated by a singular body – hereby distinguishing it from a conventional ledger system. Instead, each network node stores its own copy of the blockchain, so whenever a transaction is made it is first recorded in one place, before being transmitted to other nodes that make up the database.

The “block” comes from the name given to accepted transactions. The system checks approximately six times per hour for new ledger activity, and to determine if a bitcoin amount has been spent.

Bitcoin & Blockchain

Blockchain – Bigger than Bitcoin?

Putting bitcoin’s reliance on the blockchain aside for a moment, various figures have spoken out about its potential to transform not just payment systems, but improve the delivery of services and assure the supply chain of goods.

Nothing if not an encouraging sign, a report from Mark Walport, the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, made proposals that the Government itself should explore applications for the burgeoning technology.

Walport said: “Distributed ledger technologies have the potential to help governments to collect taxes, deliver benefits, issue passports, record land registries, assure the supply chain of goods and generally ensure the integrity of government records and services.”

Records ultimately lie at the crux of the blockchain. So a technology that serves as an incorruptible ledger, and one that can trace each and every interaction, could prove extremely valuable in areas where accountability is key.

Gordon Donovan, Procurement & Supply Chain Manager for Metro Trains, has previously been quoted on Procurious suggesting the development of a ‘supplier wiki’ in order to build knowledge of the entire supply chain.

Blockchain technology could indeed be used to increase transparency, but there would be considerable work required in advance of opening this up, thanks in no small part to the highly complex nature of organisational supply chains and the numerous suppliers involved.

Blockchain network

A Chain is Only as Strong as the Weakest Link

If this reliance on blockchain is going to come to pass, more work needs to be done around trust and security – a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by bitcoin’s most vocal critics.

With high visibility services like Twitter, the BBC, and both the global networks for Xbox and PlayStation, all being taken offline by distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, what crippling effect would such activities have on the blockchain?

Moreover it wouldn’t be too much of leap to suggest vulnerabilities could lead to ‘botnets’ taking control of nodes to reveal the identities of the parties involved in transactions.

But is all of this worry warranted? It would certainly seem so if the letter penned by bitcoin’s high priests is anything to by. The open letter informed the community at large of an action plan to reach a consensus on improving bitcoin security.

“We have worked on bitcoin scaling for years while safeguarding the network’s core features of decentralisation, security, and permissionless innovation” – it began.

“We’re committed to ensuring the largest possible number of users benefit from bitcoin, without eroding these fundamental values.”

In order to achieve these aims, 30-plus bitcoin developers organised two workshops (in Montreal and Hong Kong respectively) to try and carve out a scalable path for the cryptocurrency’s future.

If we’re not looking for a repeat of the Silk Road scandal, let’s just hope they came up with a solution…

Is it possible for blockchain and bitcoin technology to transform the future of digital payments and aid supply chain transparency? Let me know your thoughts.