How businesses are exploring blockchain use in farming, healthcare

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On August 1, The U.S. Chamber Technology Engagement Center (C_TEC) hosted an open forum for leading tech entrepreneurs, lobbyists, stakeholders, bank traders and policymakers. The #BlockchainSmart event featured panel discussions and solo speakers that addressed how blockchain technology can revolutionize farming, healthcare, supply chain management and crypto.

C_TEC is a campaign sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, designed to promote open dialogue in order to initiate ramification of certain policies and legislation that could potentially hinder startups and other tech companies hoping to expand in America.

Blockchain is an open-source encrypted ledger that allows information to be stored without being manipulated once a new block of code is added to the chain. It’s often associated with cryptocurrency, but the technology is being explored in a variety of industries.

One of those areas is food safety. “Blockchain gets rid of anonymity when faulty foods surface,” said Frank Yiannas, Vice President of Food Safety for Wal-Mart. This factor is “key” when large box retailers have to issue product recalls, Yiannis said. By utilizing blockchain technology, retailers can locate and remove faulty products in a very small time frame.

Traditionally, food recalls require six or more days to track and trace the origin of the pathogen. However, with the use of blockchain, retailers and farmers can access an encrypted ledger that precisely identifies specific tainted products in a matter of seconds.

“Blockchain creates trust in a decentralized fashion,” Yiannas said.

Ramesh Gopinath, Vice President of Blockchain Solutions and Research for IBM, said IBM and Wal-Mart teamed up in 2016 to conduct traceability pilots on pre-package produce. The goal of the pilot was very simple: how long does it take to trace produce back to its origin?

In this case study, IBM was able to reduce the trace and trackability timeframe to under five seconds. As previously mentioned, tracking produce can take up to six days without the help of blockchain.

Jeremy Mullin, Vice President of Corporate Development for Coral Health, suggested how incorporating blockchain technology into the healthcare industry could help patients maintain personal records in more than one secure location. Blockchain has also proven to be useful in the management of prescription opioids, he said. Mullin also touched on how APIs could be utilized for physician paperwork reimbursement.

When it comes to finance, Jamie Moy, Vice President of Alliance Strategy for Sweetbridge and Vincent Molinari, CEO of Templum Markets, collectively agreed that cryptocurrency can effectively remove reliance on governments, humans and banks in regards to asset transfers. The notion of “frictionless” digital asset transfers is not very far fetched.

Navigating the regulatory structure was also a key topic of conversation throughout the day. Discussing global transfers, JoAnn Barefoot, CEO of Barefoot Innovation Group, said that global programmable money should be designed to operate without any intermediaries.

The implications of regulations on fintech in the U.S. were also a topic. Current U.S. legislation mandates all money transmitter apps (accessible in the U.S.) have to be individually registered in each state. John Collins, a partner at FS Vector, recalled the licensing fees required when he was Head of Policy and Government Affairs for Coinbase. To date, New York is the first state to pilot a BitLicense. The license is issued by the New York State Department of Financial Services in order to start regulating virtual currency activities.

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