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The Power and Future of Blockchain: A New Wave of Technology

Event Highlight


PMI Toronto’s Chapter meeting in April covered the timely topic of Blockchain, NFTs and Web 3.0. Want to know what blockchain is? Well, you’re not alone. Our energetic and dynamic guest speaker, Niki Weiss—a Senior Business Developer and Program Manager with Cigna in the USA—gave us a breakdown of what blockchain means and why it’s going to be so important.

Interestingly, Niki doesn’t work for a blockchain business, but studied the topic at length and is so knowledgeable and passionate about this topic it was an event you had to experience. The energy was undeniable!

Niki explained blockchain technology, its apps and related projects, and wrapped with the challenges it faces.


Getting Down to the Blockchain Basics

How many of you understand what blockchain is? Niki posed this very question during the event, and many weren’t sure. To ease the audience and to help them understand the concepts, Niki compared blockchain technology today, to the development of the mobile phone in the 1980s, and even the early days of the internet. Imagine that! Back then these things were so unknown and now you can’t do anything without either.

Look how far we’ve evolved from rotary phones or how much the internet has expanded since CERN launched the world’s first website in 1991.

Now that you’ve gotten an idea of how those two technological advancements changed the world, Nicki explained that “Blockchain technology is expected to grow exponentially faster than these two technologies did.” So now you understand its power but what is it exactly? 

Blockchain has been an idea since the 1990s but wasn’t widely developed until the late 2000s. Niki summarizes blockchain as “a digital ledger of global transactions.” 

A digital ledger is where new transactions are recorded in blocks and where a cryptographic hash of data identifies each block. It’s impossible to recreate the data from the hash. If any detail of the transaction data is changed, a different hash is created, and each hash of the block is then included as a data point in the next block. Let’s break this down a little more.

The digital ledger has six key characteristics:

> Distributed: It’s located in the Cloud, globally, and not belonging to any one physical server or computer

> Immutable: Fixed records that can't be edited or changed

> Transparency: All records are visible and viewable

> Efficiency: Digital records can be viewed quickly by anyone

> Traceability: Track and follow history of entries in a continuous chain (supply chain and retail e.g., Walmart has led this area since 2017)

> Security: Since all records and entries can be tracked, criminal activity is hard or impossible to hide

A key feature of blockchain is that it’s “distributed”, aka “decentralized.” This means that:

> Before the Cloud, companies would run programs in a centralized server

> Once Cloud service started, programs became distributed (one owner with multiple sites, or data centers managing information)

Blockchain is an evolution of this model. Links in the data chain are known as “nodes”, often a person (but not always!), and no one person “owns” the data of the blockchain.


Blockchain Applications (“Apps”) and Projects

Niki then related some hot news topics, describing bitcoin, the metaverse (META), and non-fungible Tokens (NFTs) as blockchain apps. Around the world projects are using blockchain apps, in many industries including healthcare, insurance, energy, real estate, and trade.

Governments and companies are using blockchain apps and projects to solve issues like securely recording your vaccination status or medical records, identity documents, banking transactions, student transcripts, title documents, property deeds, and more.

As an example, Walmart started using blockchain for their supplier data, allowing consumers to know where their food comes from. How would using a blockchain work for a company like Walmart exactly? Well let’s consider the discovery of a contaminated lettuce head in a shipment to a Walmart distribution centre.

Before using blockchain, the whole load would have been destroyed, and the issue would not be traced to storage issues, the farm, or delivery. Now with a blockchain ledger it helps to show the incidents along the supply chain, so we can understand what happened where and when, narrowing down what specific items or loads should be destroyed.

Niki also noted that blockchain projects use the same principles as agile or waterfall projects, depending on the development team or company. What are the benefits of blockchain in project management? Niki explains that PMs can utilize blockchain when “managing digital records and contracts such as contract management, documentation control, verification of systems…and more!”

Challenges with Blockchain Technology

Progress and technological advancements aren’t free of challenges either. While there are attractive features of blockchain apps and projects, there are also some drawbacks.

Blockchain is a fast-paced world with lots of change. As the technology is still developing, it is unregulated. Niki expects governments to start regulating the technology, especially as cryptocurrencies like bitcoin become more mainstream. Of course, security is a concern.

Considering that blockchain technology is still evolving and in the early-adopters phase, the future is unclear. While some scammers are out there, the nature of the ledger is designed to minimize crime. And recently the blockchain community has started developing solutions such as using blockchain technology for Green/LEED-certified building projects.


What’s Next

Niki concluded by reminding the audience about the developing nature of blockchain. Things change quickly. New solutions are being developed all the time, and we are at the beginning of a future that’s still unclear. There were many sceptics about the internet too so there is more to come about blockchain’s future.

Want to learn more about blockchain, Nick recommends a few outside resources to check out:

GBA Global (professional Blockchain association)

> Blockchain Training Alliance (online courses, certification and training provider)

> Cryptopia (a documentary released in 2021)

> Crypto (a movie released in 2019)

> Token Economy (a book published in 2019)

Global Blockchain Initiative (YouTube channel)



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