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Post written by:

Yves Gassot

Former CEO

Previously, in the DigiWorld… Over the past 10 years we have witnessed the rise of the GAFA heavyweight platforms within a winner takes all ecosystem then, without apparently making a dent in these veteran titans, new intermediaries began to emerge, shaking up the status quo in several sectors and, in some instances, seen as the harbingers of a new sharing economy (cf. Jeremy Rifkin).

In recent months, it was the financial sector’s turn to be challenged, this time by the FinTech phenomenon that is ushering in aggregators, multiple mobile payment and banking configurations, crowd-funding and -lending platforms, as well as cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and, perhaps most significantly, its blockchain infrastructure.

So here we are, at the dawn of the blockchain revolution. Thanks to a distributed database technology, which validates transactions (each a link in the chain) through a large collective of Internet users, we have a virtually tamper-proof way of managing transaction logs, without a central server and without an administrator.

Combined with connected objects, such as a front door, and smart contracts (programmes for automatically executing contracts once certain conditions are met), the belief is that blockchain systems could “Uberize” sites such as Airbnb by removing the need for an intermediary between the two parties. But we’re not quite there yet.

Between libertarian dreams and the highly supervised trials being carried out by banks and other companies, it is still hard to get an accurate picture of how efficient blockchain technology is, technically speaking, and how credible the vision of a world in which trust third parties of last resort have disappeared. But it would also be unwise to think that nothing will come of the technology[1] – or of the multiple start-ups that have embraced it to devise applications for sectors as disparate as banking, retail, energy distribution and music.

Whether at the upcoming DigiWorld Summit in Montpellier, whose central theme will be “The Internet of Trust” (15 – 17 November 2016) or the dossier we are preparing for the forthcoming issue of DigiWorld Economic Journal, devoted to “Digital innovation and transformation in the financial sector,” you will have ample opportunity to explore the ins and outs of these fascinating developments with IDATE DigiWorld teams this year.

[1] We have the feeling that smart contracts, which are often lumped in with blockchains, have what it takes to emerge as a solution unto itself and really catch on.