Retrospective on Blockchain hackathon in Dublin
We have just finished our second hackathon on the topic of blockchain in transportation. This time, the hackathon was held in Dublin and we focused on the aviation part of the transportation business.
What a difference compared to just 7 months ago, when we were doing a similar event in Berlin focused on ground mobility. In June 2017 we were introducing blockchain as a revolutionary new technology that enables a new approach to decentralization, we were talking about the basics – distributed ledger, Ethereum, hashes, smart contracts, etc. For many attendees this was the first entry into the world of blockchain. Fast forward to January 2018 – we were now talking about the 3rd generation of blockchain technology and most of the teams attending the hackathon were already coding smart contracts in several different stacks supporting the distributed ledger technology. As Klemen Koželj – one of the speakers at the hackathon – put it eloquently: the time goes by very differently in the digital space.
On the first day of the hackathon, several speakers inspired the attendees with various topics related to blockchain in aviation. We covered the most recent developments in this space and provided an overview of the topics that blockchain might impact in the aviation industry. After Dejan Ćušić, Comtrade’s Business Director for UK and Ireland, opened the event, Rick Nassar took the stage. He is a blockchain expert, who is also active in the start-up scene. He introduced some common application cases of blockchain and gave some hints about how it could be used in the aerospace sector, e.g. identity management for safer and easier airport security, the next generation of Miles & More or airplane maintenance issues and many more.
Following him was Tony Winters, founder of lemmingchain, who explained some of the issues blockchain technology is still facing nowadays and how it can be applied smartly to add the most value to new projects and ideas which can benefit from a decentralized setup.
Klemen Koželj, Software Developer from Comtrade Digital Services, dove deeper into the area of cryptocurrencies and ICOs, showcasing the ephemeral and fluctuating market and introducing the third generation of cryptocurrencies which follow Bitcoin and Ethereum. Many industry leaders are already investigating and engaging with IOTA or Cardano for their future projects.
After these rather technology-focused presentations, Fiona McCabe from IDA Ireland presented the financial services industry’s viewpoint on the importance of blockchain technology. In the vibrant and highly complex Fintech ecosystem, blockchain has a huge potential for disruption and thereby affecting multiple industries which are a part of this interdependent financial ecosystem.
After the opening speeches, the participants were split into 11 groups and started working. It was truly exciting to see the amount of passion in the Dublin Business School, as the teams started with the first brainstorming discussions. The world is changing faster than before and never in history could young talent make such a large impact as it can today. And you can feel it in the air – the courage to go for big problems in the industry and the openness of thinking where anything is possible. And the motivation and determination – it was hard to make a move to the bar where we held the evening part of the program. Here, the participants had more time to get to know each other and start brainstorming their project ideas over some beers and tapas.
On the second day the hard work restarted at 7:00 a.m. and this is when true hacking also took place. While the emphasis was on finding a viable business case and business models, we were happy that most teams were able to also create the first prototype and prove technical feasibility of their ideas.
And then came the highlight – pitching. The teams did an amazing job in a very short time and managed to present the ideas very well. The winning 3 teams were rewarded, and their ideas nicely displayed the diversity of thinking and the application of blockchain technology. First place was won by the team that pitched the use of blockchain in the supply chain and maintenance of the aviation industry. With a tight connection to IOT, one can make a trustworthy audit trail of parts and maintenance work, which is an important topic for plane owners. The winning team made a great impression by knowing the industry very well and filling out the important details that ensured their solution made an impact.
The second place was won by a team that proposed a next generation loyalty solution. Again – loyalty systems are a big thing in the aviation industry and these systems are ripe to be disrupted. A decentralized approach can make a profound difference in terms of how loyalty system would work and how the ecosystem of related participants would interact with one another.
Third place was won by a team that proposed a P2P blockchain platform that would allow for the creation of a second-hand market for reselling plane tickets. The specific use case that the group would start with are business travellers who need last minute flight tickets on full flights. It’s a great idea that is currently blocked by the lack of support from airlines, which are not very keen to support the second-hand market. However, as we have seen in many industries before, new business models are hard to keep away and the longer it takes, the faster the transformation once somebody finds the magic formula to make it happen.
We had a great time organizing the event and are very pleased with the results. It is inspiring to see young talented minds coming up with bold new ideas and it’s a great source of energy and direction for us to keep our Digital Transportation Lab at the cutting edge of innovation activities. We believe in an open innovation approach – we are keen to share our ideas with others and we are grateful to find peers and partners that share our vision and approach.
For this event, our key partner was Dublin Business School. It is exciting to see that such a respectable business school has such a deep interest in new emerging technologies, such as blockchain. It shows another global shift when it comes to digital technology – the technology itself and the business side go hand in hand and can no longer be treated separately. To come up with new business model innovation you need to have a profound understanding on the capabilities of the emerging technology and vice versa, you cannot build a successful new technology for the market unless you are tightly collaborating with the business team.
As we are finishing this event, we already see our next challenges and how we want to continue this stream of activities. We would like to most sincerely thank our partners, speakers, mentors and jury members and, of course, the participants above all. Together, we made this an awesome event and we hope that some of this work will actually result in real wold implementations and have some positive impact.