Notes from the Field: Consensus 2017

We just returned from spending a few days in the Big Apple at Consensus 2017. Produced by CoinDesk, this has arguably become one of the most important blockchain events in the world. Once largely dominated by financial services, healthcare emerged as a core theme this year. For those among the 2700 who went to the sold out event and for those interested in what went down, consider this your field report.

There were three main threads that transcended the majority of conversations:

1) Code is Law

"White papers are great, but code is law" - Naval Ravikant, CEO & Founder @ AngelList


Production implementations of distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) lack direction. The calls for research, white papers, and early movers within the FinTech industry reflect common use cases applicable cross-industry: universal identity, instant payment reconciliation, personalized asset delivery, and many more. Now, production ready and demo-able code needs be the driving force to ensure we see the full potential of this technology. Everything else is irrelevant. That's a large reason we've been traversing the world.

The first day of Consensus, PokitDok's co-founder and CTO, Ted Tanner, Jr. was invited to speak alongside Intel's Kelly Olson, Director Distributed Ledger Tech. Hyperledger Executive Director, Brian Behlendorf moderated a panel entitled, "Get to Know Hyperledger's Distributed Ledger Technologies and Use Cases."

The discussion elaborated on what we announced earlier this month, which TechCrunch covered in the story, "PokitDok teams with Intel on healthcare blockchain solution." The panelists detailed the intricacies of delivering production ready applications to address the complexities of reaching consensus of identity across multiple namespaces. The panel agreed and concluded that the highly sensitive nature of healthcare demands permissioned blockchains.

2) Maintain Statutory Discipline

Dr. Bryan Smith, PokitDok's Chief Scientist, on the "Procedures and Policies within Healthcare Blockchains" Panel

PokitDok's Chief Scientist Dr. Bryan Smith spoke on a panel, "Procedures and Policies within Healthcare Blockchains". He was joined by Debbie Bucci of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) that is housed under new leadership at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Mike Jacobs of Optum, John Bass of HashedHealth, and Chris Young of Ascension also served as panelists for a discussion moderated by Perianne Boring of the Chamber of Digital Commerce.

They talked about the importance of empowering the consumer to own their own data, which CoinDesk covers here. This will generate a shift in liability and require statutory clean up in order to realize the real potential of a universal, consumer-first approach to identity within healthcare.

The rise of Initial Coin Offerings (ICO), token sales, and fast moving development brought players from the Security and Exchange Commission, Federal Insurance Office, US Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and others to the table. From the developers to the regulators, a common theme from across all discussions called for the de-regulation of the emerging distributed ledger technology. We are still within the early stages of development and the introduction of regulations will smother this arena's innovative potential. Let's step back and watch the industry work itself out before we introduce too many gates at the onset.

3) Collaboration is key

By its very nature, the success of DLT requires cross-industry collaboration. The early movers reported a few key components that inhibited the initial alliances and advised the space of partnerships to not repeat their mistakes:

  • Permit IP ownership to the alliance members building production code. Diluted group ownership of all IP, in the case of large alliances, hinders innovation due to red tape.
  • Limit alliance memberships only to those ready to take code into production. Many companies are joining up to have inside access to the discussions and progress of DLTs and now is the time to take these ideas into prod.
  • Encourage small working groups within the at-large membership. Due to the level of interest in the space, this is a tough one to balance. The main message here is to keep initiatives focused, relevant, and productive.

To highlight our collaboration centered around implementing DLT for the healthcare industry, Ted Tanner sat down with Nasdaq for a live Facebook interview to discuss the DokChain Alliance. This cross-industry initiative has brought together finance companies, technologists, healthcare companies, payers, providers, and insurers.

Stay tuned for where we emerge next and to get you ready, look for an upcoming blog where we will break down some of those blockchain buzz words that were being tossed around.

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