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Setting standards for blockchain benefits business

International meeting in Dublin seeks to set the future course of standardisation

‘Standards are all about facilitating trade’. Photograph: iStock

‘Standards are all about facilitating trade’. Photograph: iStock

 

Some of the world’s foremost experts on blockchain standards will gather in Dublin at the end of May for the next meeting of the ISO/TC 307 committee on blockchain and electronic distributed ledger technologies. Organised by the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI), the meeting will take place in the National College of Ireland from May 27th to 31st. More than 200 international experts from over 40 countries are expected to attend.

The committee has been in existence since April 2016 when the inaugural meeting was held in Sydney. It brings together international experts from 41 countries and 12 observer countries to set the future course of standardisation in this area. The members participate in a number of key study groups for standards development in areas such as foundational standards, reference architecture, taxonomy and ontology, use cases, security and privacy, identity, governance, and smart contracts.

According to founding chair Craig Dunne, blockchain technology can have huge implications in business and government.

Trust

“Blockchain technologies are a means of achieving trust and security when making exchanges, without the need for oversight by a trusted third party, and can be effective building blocks for other initiatives like anti-corruption and fraud prevention. Future standardisation in this area can take the development of these technologies to the next step by providing internationally agreed ways of working, stimulating greater interoperability, speedier acceptance and enhanced innovation in their use and application.”

“Standards are all about facilitating trade,” explains an NSAI spokesman. “That is the number one reason for them. They give people the assurances and confidence they need to carry out trade. They also facilitate inter-operability between different products and ensure the technologies can talk to each other.”

Standards are developed on a voluntary basis, the spokesman emphasises. It is up to national governments and other policy makers if they wish to adopt them as mandatory or reference them in public procurement contracts.

What standards do is create a level playing field between different products and help ensure that investment is not wasted on competing technologies. Examples of important voluntary technology standards in the past have included 56K modem protocols and Bluetooth. These facilitated open and healthy competition between compatible technologies to the ultimate benefit of all involved. The hope is that the development of voluntary standards for blockchain will allow for interoperability and give consumers and businesses the assurance and confidence they need when purchasing products and services.