Blockchain potential reaches beyond payments to transforming cities

Visionaries say cities of the future will be designed in such a way that buildings, vehicles and people will be sharing data to optimize energy, coordinate traffic, reduce congestion and improve the quality of life. Such future benefits, they say, will rely on a mix of evolving technologies, including the internet, the internet of things, artificial intelligence and blockchain.

One visionary, futurist Ian Khan, sees blockchain as one of the most important developments in bringing “smart cities,” as they are coming to be known, to fruition. So much so that he has coined the term, “blockchain cities.”

Khan, who operates a global consultancy called Futuracy, explained how blockchain technology is already making cities more efficient during the recent Money20/20 conference in Las Vegas.

“We’re truly living in a revolutionary era,” he said.

Beyond payments and finance

Blockchain, which is largely associated with payments and cryptocurrency, is not an unknown concept to persons in the financial industry. An audience text poll revealed that 44 percent of Khan’s listeners at Money20/20 either already own or plan to own cryptocurrency,

But while most people associate blockchain with payments and finance. Khan, sees it disrupting many sectors, including the way governments deliver services. Hence the term, “blockchain cities.”

To raise awareness about blockchain’s disruptive potential for how cities deliver services, Khan recently produced a documentary, “Blockchain City.” He presented clips from the documentary to give examples of how blockchain technology is transforming the future in ways that are unknown to most.

The documentary features interviews with government officials who have deployed blockchain technology in some way, including Marloes Pomp, head of blockchain for the Netherlands; Ott Vater, deputy director of the e-residency program for the Republic of Estonia; Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, director general of Smart Dubai in the United Arab Emirates; and Dof Muller, mayor of Zug, Switzerland.

Estonia pioneered digital identity

Estonia’s government began its technology journey 20 years ago, Khan said, and it is now a leader in the area of digital identity for not only its own citizens, but for people across the globe.

Estonia’s government-issued digital identity, known as e-Residency, is available to anyone in the world, according to the program’s website. The government issued identity empowers entrepreneurs worldwide to establish a “location independent business” that can operate across borders without having to re-establish its identity, according to the website.

The biggest push of all is in the city of Dubai, Khan said, which is using blockchain technology for all government transactions. The Dubai Future Foundation has established a program that connects emerging technology companies from around the world with Dubai government departments to test new approaches.

The city of Zug, Switzerland, was the first city to test blockchain voting, Khan said. Known as “Crypto Valley” for its many blockchain and cryptocurrency businesses, Zug has also allowed residents to pay for some city services using bitcoin.

Khan also interviewed Imogen Heap, a British recording artist who created a blockchain platform called Mycelia’s Creative Passport, a free digital platform that enables fast payments to musicians and facilitates commercial partnerships, according to its website.

Interviewees also include Joseph Lubin, the founder of the Ethereum Foundation; Professor Roman Beck, chairman of the European Blockchain Center; government; Gagik Yeghiazarian, a blockchain entrepreneur; and Dr. Larry Sangar, co-founder of Wikipedia and founder of the blockchain based Everpedia.

Khan conducted a text poll of his listeners’ use of cryptocurrency. The poll found that 56 percent do not own any cryptocurrency, 27 percent own less than five units of cryptocurrency, 11 percent plan to buy their first units in the next six months and 6 percent plan to buy more than five units.

Asked where they think the most blockchain projects are deployed, 55 percent said Asia, 33 percent said Europe, 23 percent said North America and 1 percent said the Middle East.

There are already thousands of blockchain companies worldwide that are creating value in some way, Khan said, flashing a slide listing more than 50 blockchain use cases from across the globe. In each of these cases, blockchain allows someone to do something they could not previously do.

Khan encouraged his listeners to create revolutions or join others who are already doing so.


Source: Mobile Payments Today