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Blockchain moving from hype to reality

2019 is the year in which blockchain will take the leap from hype to reality – from science fiction to concrete deliveries. That was the keynote message at the blockchain software firm R3’s Nordic conference, which was held at SEB in Arenastaden. Among the participants were representatives from large corporations, other banks and fintech companies.

R3 is a software firm that is developing a global, scalable platform based on the principles behind blockchain technology. The company was formed three years ago in cooperation with a consortium of some 40 international banks, including SEB. Today R3 collaborates with a network of more than 300 financial institutions, supervisory authorities, trade organisations and consulting firms.

On Wednesday R3 hosted a conference to spotlight the technology’s potential and discuss examples of concrete applications in the corporate world. The meeting was opened with a few short welcome words by Paula da Silva, head of Transaction Services and a member of R3’s board.

Clive Cooke, Head of Business Development at R3, talked about development of the Corda infrastructure platform, which is based on the distributed ledger principle. This entails that all parties in a business transaction, such as a seller and a buyer, have access to identical copies of the same database.

This means that what the seller sees is the same as what the buyer sees. Both parties share the same truth. This creates transparency and eliminates duplicate work involved in reconciliation of accounts and bookkeeping.

R3 is developing an open infrastructure platform, Corda, which Clive Cooke compared to a smartphone operating system. On top of this platform, various interest and partners can develop “Corda apps” to solve specific business problems. The main areas that R3 is focusing on are digital identity, insurance, payments, trade finance and capital markets.

“At present there are some 80 to 90 apps under development, and at the start of next year six or seven of these will go live,” Clive Cook explained.

During the conference a panel discussion was held with the theme “How will blockchain and the distributed ledger technology change business processes for large companies?”. Harri Rantanen, from SEB, and Ernst Berger, from ABB, discussed how the technology can be used in practice and what is needed to scale up and bind together the many different blockchain technology experiments that are currently in progress.

Timo Hotti, from the Finnish company OP Financial, and Antti Kettunen, from Tieto, then described the work on using the Corda platform to create a decentralised service for managing digital company identities.

Representatives of the five Nordic banks that are included in the R3 network also participated in a panel discussion, where they described the Nordic collaboration and the importance of coming to a consensus on standards and rules to enable spread of the technology.