Blockchain is a technology that is changing the rules. In the next few decades, blockchain will likely have a bigger impact on the world than the internet has had to date, as we enter the next stage of its evolution — the internet of value.
Ireland is positioning itself as a blockchain hub with companies across every industry in the country actively experimenting with the nascent technology. Let’s take a look at how some of these innovative companies are exploring new and exciting ways to leverage blockchain technology:
Ulster Bank, AIB & PTSB are collaborating together on a project known as Project GreenPay, which is exploring the application of blockchain technology to improve the speed of domestic payment systems. Bank of Ireland completed a proof of concept to demonstrate how financial institutions can combine blockchain with their existing systems to provide better client experience and regulatory oversight at a lower cost.
Citi’s innovation lab in Dublin delivered a blockchain based payment solution they launched with Nasdaq. Irish Funds created a blockchain proof of concept for regulatory reporting in collaboration with State Street and Metzler. JP Morgan is leading a blockchain based network called Interbank Information Network (IIN) that has signed up dozens of banks including AIB. They have also recently launched their own JPM coin on their blockchain network Quorum, an enterprise-focused version of Ethereum.
Deloitte’s EMEA blockchain lab is based in Dublin where they help their public and private sector clients design propositions and business models using blockchain as a platform technology to connect to their peers, suppliers, regulators and governments. The other big consulting firms along with a few smaller ones are also offering similar blockchain consultancy services to their Irish clients. ConsenSys is Ireland’s largest blockchain company who help build and deliver Ethereum-based blockchain platforms and products.
Unsurprisingly there is a number of active blockchain projects in the FinTech community with a good mix of tech start-ups and more established global players. Some notable ones are MasterCard, who have been working on a range of blockchain solutions in their MasterCard Labs since 2016, Circle who are global crypto finance company and Fidelity Investments.
Fast growing start-ups include TradeIX, a FinTech platform provider who are building the world’s first distributed trade finance platform, as well as we.trade which is a platform that uses smart contracts to make cross-border transactions more efficient between its consortium of 9 major European banks.
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Most of the major infrastructure tech companies based in Ireland such as Microsoft, Amazon and IBM are working on providing tools and applications which will allow their customers to create and manage scalable blockchain networks using open source technologies.
The rapid growth of blockchain means Irish universities are playing catch-up in terms of offering courses to help develop the right talent for some of the aforementioned companies. Most now offer some exposure to blockchain on their curriculum but more needs to be done. Firms have started funding their own scholarships now with ConsenSys, for example, having launched a scholarship programme with UCD, DCU and Trinity College to support computer science students and encourage them to pursue a career in the Ethereum blockchain ecosystem.
Governmental & Regulation
There are a number of governmental and regulatory bodies in Ireland coming to grips with blockchain technology. The Central Bank has established a working group focused on the latest financial technology innovation such as blockchain to help inform their policy decisions. The Department of Finance are carrying out active research into virtual currencies and the blockchain ecosystem that exists in Ireland, Europe and globally. The IDA is helping to promote and enhance the blockchain industry in Ireland.
To support FinTech clients working with cryptocurrencies or blockchain technology in Ireland a number of leading Irish legal firms are now offering their services in this space to help them understand the interactions between financial regulation, data use and technology. Cosgrove Gaynard Solicitors are one of these and were the first Irish law firm to accept Bitcoin payments from their clients last year.
Blockchain is seen as an enabler for greater supply chain efficiency from conducting payment and audits to tracking inventory and assets. The coffee company, Moyee Coffee, is a great example of this who are running a pilot project to provide supply chain transparency by recording and capturing data on every transaction from the farmer to the coffee cup while making real-time payments to Ethiopian farmers for their coffee beans.
Digital Currency Exchanges
A handful of digital currency exchanges — who make it easy for the public to buy, sell and store cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum — have operations in Ireland. The two most prominent ones are Coinbase and Poloniex, the latter of which was bought by US Dublin-based peer-to-peer payments platform Circle last year.
Last year in Ireland there were nearly 200 VC deals worth around €553m. VC investment in blockchain startups increased significantly recently with the likes of Cosimo Ventures and Draper Espirit making investments in start-ups focused on the emerging technology.
Blockchain is still very much in its infancy with a lot of technological challenges still to be overcome before it can properly scale and deliver on its promise of being the foundation for new economic systems that are more open, efficient and accessible.
However, that is not preventing companies all across Ireland from aviation to social impact and everything in between to actively experiment with blockchain to see how it can help save them time, remove overhead costs, reduce risk and increase trust within their business networks.
With so many new advancements and use cases of blockchain appearing every day it can be hard to keep up. Blockchain Ireland and BlockW are initiatives that were created to provide valuable sources of information on the Irish blockchain ecosystem and provide a platform for communication, education and discussion of ideas.
If you want to find out more information visit the Blockchain Ireland website or attend one of the many blockchain meet-ups that are happening regularly across the country.