An overwhelmingly positive response to blockchain technology was evident today, as a House of Representatives congressional subcommittee, led by Ralph Abraham, Chairman of Science, Space and Technology, welcomed industry leaders to Beyond Bitcoin: Emerging Applications for Blockchain Technology.
The hearing was an opportunity for members of Congress to understand more about the standards, guidelines and practices best used to ensure successful implementations of blockchain technology. This was not an intended discussion about cryptocurrencies (like Bitcoin) and the issues surrounding their regulatory issues surrounding them. The committee’s purpose was to highlight the benefits that can come to both business owners and taxpayers within the United States.
Business and academic leaders like Gennaro Jerry Cuomo, an IBM Fellow and Vice President of Blockchain Technologies, along with Frank Yiannas from Walmart, Vice President of Food Safety, gave statements regarding how they’re best utilizing the technology and how the government can follow suit.
Jerry Cuomo’s Recommendations for Congress & Trump Administration
Mr. Cuomo stated that one of the best ways to focus their efforts would be to support The Blockchain Caucus which is led by Representatives Jared Polis and David Schweikert. The focus of the caucus is to help individuals securely establish their identity and make secure tax payments. He believes that this will make a difference in the lives of citizens through digital identity, food safety and the supply chain.
He also warned to carefully evaluate policies moving forward regarding cryptocurrencies as there can be unintended consequences that can hinder the greater blockchain technological development and implementation.
Frank Yiannas’ Call to Revolutionize the Food System
Mr. Yiannas gave his testimony by talking about the importance and inherent features within the blockchain. This included the features of immutability, consensus, and the ability to conduct transactions in a complex network without a central authority and allow blockchain systems to create one version of the truth and rapidly scale.
He mentioned how in today’s food system, the majority of producers and distributors are still using paper-based methods to store and manage records. Even if they are capturing things in the supply chain and in the grocery store in a digital form, these systems are disconnected and disparate. Therefore it is near impossible to track how foods flow from the farm down to the family dinner table.
Mr. Yiannas mentioned how in 2006, a national outbreak of E Coli linked to bags of spinach in the United States made retailers and restaurants pull all bags off the shelves regardless of their source. It took two weeks to find the culprit linked to: “only one producer, one day’s production, and one lot number.” With a blockchain system he believes that this will be a thing of the past.
In early 2017, Walmart and IBM conducted a proof of concept by utilizing blockchain technology to track and verify food from its starting place to the store.
Informed & Collaborative Effort from all Industries
Along with leading statements by Mr.Yiannas and Mr. Cuomo, security experts also testified to the subcommittee. Charles H. Romine, Ph.D. Director of the Information Technology Laboratory and National Institute of Standards and Technology spoke about the NIST’s role in research and development in foundational cryptography, explaining that:
consumer needs using a strong and verified trust model. Much work still needs to be done to
understand this technology, bring out its potential, and set the stage for markets to reward usable
and secure implementations that meet real customer needs.” – Charles Romine.
Finally, legal expert Aaron Wright from the Cardozo Blockchain Project talked about the legalities and regulatory issues moving forward. His comments will be particularly exciting to the blockchain community:
blockchain technology is still occurring here, the U.S. government has the unique ability to shape
the development of the technology by passing laws and regulations that will either constrain or
promote the technology’s growth and adoption. The United States could choose to implement
regulations that make it expensive or difficult to develop or operate a blockchain-based service.
Conversely, the U.S. could implement favorable regulatory frameworks to protect businesses
experimenting with blockchains as part of pro-innovation policies”. – Aaron Wright.
The general consensus between all of these speakers was the need for technology-neutral regulation within the framework of partnership between private enterprise and public entities – in other words, an optimistic and positive outlook on the emerging opportunities blockchain provides.