Digital Journal: To what extent is blockchain technology disrupting the world of work?
Hugo Feiler: Blockchain technology is still relatively new and we are collectively still figuring out exactly where the current generation of technology sits in “live” use cases, and how the next generation can disrupt and improve existing business models.
While the current generation of live decentralised solutions are often proof of technical concepts looking for use-cases, the next generation such as Minima are looking at creating practical real-world solutions. In particular, we are looking at those cases where live systems have a high volume of third parties to act as trust intermediaries.
While our focus is currently telecoms, over the next 3-5 years we will see increasing disruption amongst those companies that act as middle-men, validating and securing data on behalf of other parties. They will find those parties swapping to blockchain solutions for the enhanced security and efficiency benefits meaning, in turn, they need to pivot their business model to fit into the new ecosystem.
DJ: How do you define a blockchain?
Feiler: A blockchain is an open, distributed immutable ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way. It uses a peer to peer network for inter-node communication for validating the ledger.
The two largest and most well-known blockchains, Bitcoin and Ethereum, record every transaction in a public ledger, which creates an ever-growing database that requires an increasing amount of storage.
The Minima Protocol adopts a different approach, where each user only keeps the data of their own transactions, but each has the hash of the entire database. With no group or cartel in charge of extending the Blockchain, this makes Minima far more resilient to both miner coordinated and State-level attacks. All Minima users not only run full validation of every transaction but are also involved in the construction of new blocks and the creation of the Blockchain.
This considerably reduces the data storage requirements and allows the nodes to be run on mobile phones. Minima thus needs no more computing power than a popular messaging app.
The Minima main chain is built around permissionless open data, much as you would see in many current solutions, but matched with sidechain solutions where a business can “colour” their own tokens and create permissioned and closed systems based on their business requirements.
The Minima protocol keeps the existing core of what a blockchain was intended to be, a decentralised, highly secure, permanent ledger that can always be trusted without the need for third parties to validate transactions. We’ve just added flexibility and usability to adapt the solution to business requirements, rather than forcing businesses to adapt to the requirements of the solution.
DJ: How will blockchain assist with mobile communications?
Feiler:Mobile communication network implementation is a win-win scenario for truly decentralised blockchain solutions such as Minima. For the blockchain company, it has the potential to build a large user base quickly, essential for the security and effective function of a decentralised solution.
For the telecoms operators, blockchain-based solutions have the potential to replace a range of legacy systems with easier to manage, more secure and more flexible solutions. It also gives the option of direct lines of charging and access from the operator to the end-user without additional software stacks or third parties, particularly when it comes to roaming.
For the operator, this creates better margins, lower overheads, and increased product range flexibility. For the end consumer, it creates a better system for managing their use, increased value, and more flexibility.
DJ: What does the Manx Telecom and Minima project involve?
Feiler:The Proof of concept was an opportunity for Manx Telecom (through their incubator Vannin Ventures) to explore the possibility of blockchain technologies, and a chance for us to spend time diving into the detail of where telecoms have issues and identifying how Minima can improve things for them and their end-users.
We quickly understood how much overhead telecoms face, particularly in the area of roaming, so the next step was to plug Minima directly into their current systems.
As a result, we were able to send a token to release a data session for the end-user. The overall goal was twofold, first to prove that there was a benefit to the telecoms from implementing a Minima solution, secondly to prove that Minima could interact with existing telecoms platform to perform a useful action.
Both of them were huge successes and confirmed for us that taking Minima into the telecoms world was the right move.
DJ: How will this benefit businesses and consumers?
Feiler:For the businesses, the benefits are decreased overheads, larger margins, and increased flexibility in product creation. By replacing existing billing platforms Minima would be filling the place of multiple legacy systems that have built up over time but never fully replaced.
Currently, data is present in multiple locations which all have to match up, staff need to be trained on and given access to multiple systems, and the end-user experience for customers is often far from ideal.
By using Minima, they can have a single source of “truth” in the data which anyone with the correct permissions can access. It also gives that permanent ledger solution for audit and trust in the charging platform, both by the operator and their end-user.
The end consumer of the telecoms service also gains several benefits from the operator implementing a blockchain solution.
Aside from the increased level of data accuracy which they will potentially have direct access to, consumers will also benefit from improved tariff flexibility, newer services being available to them faster, and a cleaner and quicker billing process that can be viewed live at any time.
DJ: How will success be measured?
Feiler: The technology has to improve the day to day running of the businesses implementing it, the work lives of the staff using and managing it, and the user experiences for customers at the end of the service. So as measures of success we are looking at aspects such as:
Can it fully replace the existing services rather than just being another layer of software for developers to learn on top of their existing stack?
Will it make measurable improvements for the business in terms of reduced overheads, increased potential margins, and decreased costs and time in ongoing maintenance?
Will it offer an improved user experience to the customers using the service both locally and while roaming?
We know that the Minima protocol works. The proof of concept was to prove that the benefits are there to the businesses and they are not going to merely use it as the PR point of being a “blockchain business”. Success for us is not about just implementing Minima into a telecoms infrastructure, it is about the benefits they get from using it.