According to speakers, the fast and ongoing creation of blockchain-backed applications by numerous developers means what the technology will be able to achieve continues to scale and evolve.
“We don’t want to come in competing with others, we are looking at partnerships”
“We don’t know what the blockchain actually can do today, or our understanding is so limited that it goes back to the early 1990s when you spoke to people about the internet,” said Ken Seiff, managing partner of Blockchange Ventures.
“What they understood about the internet was very simple… nobody really talked about social networks back then, nobody really talked about on-demand transportation, or renting out your homes to strangers.”
One area of impact by technology, however, will likely be testing and assessment, according to co-founder and managing director of HolonIQ Maria Spies, which is a substantial opportunity for providers and third-party developers.
“The person who owns the test has a lot of power and traditional universities have owned the assessment and the credential,” she said.
“Who assesses skills and who trusts that assessment? Whoever owns that space is going to be powerful in the future.”
But while providers need to prepare for the future of blockchain, developers must also be cognisant that their technology may become a target for unscrupulous agents, Martin Hamilton, futurist of JISC.
“Anyone engaged in identity theft, nation-state actors will be very keen on hacking these to get access to information to generate fake identities for people,” he said.
“I would bet money in the next five years [on] a big data spill specifically around credentials databases, where there are loads and loads of credentials in one place. It probably is just a matter of time.”
When blockchain makes has its most significant impact on education could be sooner rather than later, however, according to Seiff.
“We will see an explosion of these cases, we will see it permeate education, we will see it permeate financial institutions, we will see it permeate our lives in much the same way the internet did,” he said.
“It’s going to be very big, I just can’t tell you how, or when, or why.”
At global consultancy PwC, Samar Singh, the company’s designate global blockchain driver, shared that PwC has a 500-strong team working on blockchain technology applications.
The vision for its Smart Credentials platform is to enable a fraud-proof repository for all of life’s qualifications and achievements – he shared that the first birth certificate was added to Smart Credentials platform from India.
“This is an ecosystem play,” he said. “We don’t want to come in competing with others, we are looking at partnerships.”
Singh said PwC had just formed a partnership with a leading university and issued 15,000 credentials “on the chain”. He added, “We know the importance of this being a team play.”