Managing Director and Country Head of leading blockchain company, ConsenSys, Lory Kehoe, on the potential of the technology for business and industry in Ireland.
I’ve worked in strategy and operations consulting in both financial services and technology, for over 13 years. Never in all this time have I worked with a technology as profoundly impactful as blockchain. Blockchain’s ability to automate processes through acting as the golden source of data has led to the technology being adopted by governments, industry sectors and businesses around the world.
Blockchain essentially has the ability to link up all points along a value chain and provide a single, immutable source of truth, this allows for the disintermediation of processes, and can enhance security and speed while reducing costs. Smart contracts within the blockchain allow for the automatic programming of actions once specified criteria are met, such as the release of funds in escrow to a home seller once all the conditions and documentation of the deal are executed.
The multitude of enterprise and social benefits of blockchain or ‘Web 3’ solutions, as well as the associated high value jobs that they bring has sparked intense competition amongst countries such as Australia, France, Germany, Israel, U.K. and Switzerland to become the global leader for the technology. As we enter the future of work, gaining a foothold and a niche in disruptive technologies such as blockchain, machine learning and artificial intelligence will be imperative to Ireland’s sustained economic growth.
Ireland’s Future in Web 3
This year has brought some momentous gains for blockchain in Ireland, including the launch of the Blockchain Masters (MSc.) level programme in Dublin City University (DCU). However, as a nation, we have a lot further to go if we want to compete with the mounting global interest in this sector. Cultivating a blockchain ecosystem here is central to the work that I do with Blockchain Ireland (www.blockchainireland.net). In May, we held the first ‘Blockchain Ireland Week’ with over 50 free events taking place nationwide. We are increasing momentum, but we need to keep building on this.
As Forbes put it ‘Large Enterprises Are Betting On Blockchain In 2019’. According to IDC, worldwide spending on blockchain will reach $2.9 billion. On a global level, hundreds of exciting projects have kicked off across all major sectors – from financial services and insurance, to supply chain management and shipping, to healthcare and pharma, as well as in trade finance.
IKEA announced last week that it has started using blockchain to track and settle e-invoices along its supply chain through smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain. And the World Wildlife Fund also announced this week that, alongside ConsenSys, it would launch a Philanthropy Platform, utilising blockchain to modernise sustainable development for individuals, companies and NGOs, with the intention of furthering high-potential efforts towards the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Gartner forecasts that blockchain will accelerate towards more mainstream adoption through 2023 and by 2030 will generate $3.1 trillion in new business value, and recommends that ‘organizations should be exploring the technology now’. Most cases in use operate under the mandate of enhancing efficiency of existing processes as opposed to business disruption and new value creation. This is where I see Ireland’s opportunity to capture a leading role at the forefront of this innovation.
Blockchain for Irish Industry
Blockchain can also be used as a way to turn illiquid or high value assets into digital assets, or tokens as they are also known. For example, think of an aircraft or a property, with the asset’s value being represented as a set of digital assets (tokens) which are held in a secure tamper-proof network. This would make investing in the property more accessible to a wider pool of investors and also enable greater liquidity by the fact that digital shares can be exchanged without the underlying property having to be sold. A World Economic Forum Report has predicted that around 10% of global gross domestic product (GDP) is likely to be stored on the blockchain by 2027.
Blockchain technology will be of great value to Irish Industry over the coming years. Taking the pharma industry here as one example, blockchain could be used to track and trace medical devices such as stents, pacemakers and spinal support screws, providing clarity for medical personnel and consumers with a single source of truth for product specifications and records of use. This would prove invaluable in the case of a product recall. Similarly, blockchain could entirely modernise supply chain assurance in agriculture, particularly for our dairy and livestock production sectors. A solution like this could safeguard Ireland’s reputation as a premier food producer internationally, by providing transparency and data integrity. In the near future, customers may be able to scan QR codes on product packaging in retail outlets through their phones, and access relevant quality and traceability information.
The Way Forward
Blockchain offers consumers and businesses a mechanism to streamline everything from insurance, to supply chain management, data ownership, and asset financing. Blockchain is considered to be particularly suited to financial services applications due to its automation capabilities and auditability. The financial services and digital tech industries are linchpins of the Irish economy. The adoption of disruptive innovations within Ireland will be important to upholding high value presence and growth of these sectors. The willingness of political decision-makers to maintain and enhance Ireland’s attractiveness for new technologies and companies will also be central to the build-out of the ecosystem here. When I established ConsenSys’ presence in Ireland and scaled it up to 45 team members, I had developers leave higher paying jobs across the spectrum of major tech players in Ireland to join us. This is because they want to work building the architecture for what many believe is the next internet, or ‘Web 3’, at the vanguard of computer engineering.
About the author: Lory is Managing Director and Country Head of Ireland’s number one blockchain company, ConsenSys, growing it from 1 to 45 people in 18 months. Prior to ConsenSys, Lory established Deloitte’s Europe Middle East and Africa (EMEA) blockchain team, championing Ireland as the right location to centre this burgeoning industry. Advocating for Ireland to grow its position as a global powerhouse for disruptive technology is something that Lory is immensely passionate about. Lory’s determination in his vision for Ireland has steadfastly remained front and centre throughout his career with Deloitte, Accenture, and now ConsenSys, as well as his decade plus of lecturing as an adjunct assistant professor of Technology Trends, Strategic Management and Information Systems in Trinity College Dublin. It was this vision that compelled Lory to co-found Blockchain Ireland alongside IDA Ireland, with the stated objective of positioning Ireland as a leading location to attract blockchain enterprise and related FDI.