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9. August 2018Distribute 2018: Bosch, Deutsche Bahn and TEAL discuss the potential of blockchain

‘Blockchain’ is the term that experts use when they are speaking to top management, reveals the consultant of a major German corporation with a twinkle in his eye.
At Distribute 2018 in Hamburg he tends to be among experts or at least those with an informed interest. What his talk shows, like many others at the blockchain conference, is that companies are no longer dealing only theoretically with the blockchain phenomenon, but instead are experimenting with how they can use the blockchain in practice.

Trust is crucial in order to persuade the end users
“Every device has to be in a position to do business with any other device,” explains Peter Busch, responsible for the automotive blockchain activities and a member of the automotive think tank at Robert Bosch. He paints a picture of an “Economy of things” and of a counterbalance to Silicon Valley. Attempts are made to obtain an IP address for every product made at Bosch and thus build up an IoT network. One of the main things Busch has realized is that the end user is much more likely to accept such solutions if the good old TÜV is involved.

Blockchain is not just pie in the sky
Deutsche Bahn is giving thought to identity management of things and machines. Michael Kuperberg, Lead Architect for Blockchain und DLT Topics with the Deutsche Bahn subsidiary DB Systel, evaluates products and approaches, drafts solutions and heads the development of products and prototypes. He talks of trains that conclude contracts with one another and of the practical reality. For Kupferberg, blockchain is not just pie in the sky; after all, there are systems in existence that have to be connected. “The blockchain has to be integrated in a different manner, which also calls for another type of thinking,” the rail expert points out.

While company representatives present their projects, Prof. Volker Skwarek of HAW Hamburg adopts a less enthusiastic tone. He says that we are still in the seventies as far as the subject of blockchain is concerned. “Without standards, it will not be able to establish itself,” Prof. Skwarek continues. Other speakers at the Distribute conference also appreciate this challenge. “In the world of MOBI (a blockchain consortium in the mobility industry) we end up with different blockchain systems,” explains one speaker.

Who is conducting the business with the data?
For Leif-Nissen Lundbaek of XAIN, users’ control over their data is a key topic where blockchain is concerned. “Facebook would have you believe that you have control, but in actual fact you don’t,” says Lundaek and presents XAIN as a trusted user-managed access system as an alternative concept to authority-managed access systems such as Facebook. The question as to who now owns the data and who will make vast sums of money from them is still pending was the view at the blockchain conference.

Nature as the master plan
Dr Klaus Holthausen, co-founder and CEO of TEAL, views the blockchain and its potential for the global economy from a scientific perspective. “It is only by laying nature’s paradigms alongside the blockchain that we can see the larger picture,” explains Holthausen. “The difference between a unicellular organism and a human lies in distribution, logic and infrastructure. Nature is wonderful at creating something as an independently organized infrastructure.” He aims to establish a smart blockchain ecosystem with TEAL. The target picture: independently organized, decentralized marketplaces that reproduce the mechanisms of nature.