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Blockchain on agenda for CW International Conference 2018

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Derek Long, head of telecoms and mobile at Cambridge Consultants on the Science Park. Picture: Keith Heppell
Derek Long, head of telecoms and mobile at Cambridge Consultants on the Science Park. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cambridge Consultants' head of telecoms and mobile, Derek Long, talks about the potential of distributed ledger technology

Cambridge Consultants has developed a blockchain platform for the US pharma industry
Cambridge Consultants has developed a blockchain platform for the US pharma industry

Every year the CW International Conference (CWIC) becomes incrementally bigger, bolder and brighter.

This year the July 4 event is being held at the Wellcome Genome Campus Conference Centre. CWIC 2018: ‘Thinking Beyond the Hype’ will explore the technologies, business models and impact of seven technology areas through a mix of panel sessions, keynotes and networking opportunities. The topics are:

- 5G and network innovation

- Artificial intelligence and machine learning

- Blockchain

- Future mobility ecosystems

- Industrial IoT and the connected enterprise

- Mixed reality

- Satellites.

It’s quite a schedule but just to give you a flavour of what ‘Thinking Beyond the Hype’ means, I spoke with Derek Long, who is head of telecoms and mobile at Cambridge Consultants – the global technology leader headquartered at Cambridge Science Park – and Peter Busch, the speaker and panellist who is senior manager of connected services at the Stuttgart-based Robert Bosch Group.

Derek is leading the blockchain segment at 11am on July 4, and has invited a trio of guests for the panel: Alison Davies, business development consultant at IBM, Joshua Daniel, a research scientist for BT’s fintech group and Peter Busch. Expect some scene setting on blockchain.

“It’s controversial – it’s been hyped like you can’t imagine. The banks have invested significantly but as yet there’s no visibly breakthrough blockchain market or product and there is a reason for that – it’s a complex technology that has a complex impact on industry and society,” says Derek.

“That’s the challenge, and just because you can’t see its effect doesn’t mean there aren’t already very significant blockchain implementations, such as those we are highlighting at CWIC.”

The first application of Cambridge Consultants’ blockchain technology was delivered earlier this year for the US drug industry, where the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs and lack of transparency over drug prices has almost buckled the conventional pricing model.

By devising a set of smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain, Cambridge Consultants built a transparent and trust-based mechanism that treats drugs as commodities for pharmaceutical benefits managers, the intermediaries between insurers and pharma companies.

“The platform was built in Cambridge for use in the pharma industry in the US – by moving to an open market its creates greater price competition and improves access. As the network allows access for more traders and generates greater trust through the supply chain, patients, insurers and pharmaceutical companies stand to benefit.”

It involved making use of blockchain as a distributed ledger technology.

“The openness of the technology is one of the benefits,” he says. “The application is straightforward but the potential implications are significant.”

As an innovation company, Cambridge Consultants develops breakthrough services and provides business consultancy in technology-critical issues for clients worldwide, with offices in Cambridge, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, Tokyo and Singapore.

“We focus on solving the most important challenges our clients face, leveraging the development of new technology,” said Derek of the firm’s business model. “A lot of our work focuses on helping clients benefit from advances in 5G, AI, IoT areas such as manufacturing and robotics, and blockchain.”

It will Derek’s first time at the CW International Conference, though the company is a co-founder.

His session will cover applications including creating a more transparent billing system for international roaming charges. “A blockchain-based international roaming system tracks you to your UK account automatically and charges you as you go,” says Derek.

But don’t expect a significant focus on the bitcoin side of blockchain.

Commenting on blockchain as a currency, Derek says: “It’s an inefficient application of blockchain. Bitcoin doesn’t scale to the capacity required for a widely used currency. It has a maximum of seven transactions per second – Visa alone can scale to 1,500 transactions per second.

“We’re more interested in blockchain 2.0: how can we design a better blockchain? So for instance Ethereum can process a significantly higher number of transactions per second.”

The speakers at the Wellcome Genome Campus include Inmarsat chief executive Rupert Pearce on ‘The role of satellites in delivering 5G’ and Disruptive Analysis founder Dean Bubley on ‘Is 5G really revolutionary, is it just another G?’


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