Picture by Shane O’Neill
Traditional notions of the uses of blockchain technology were put to the test last week at the first annual “Blockchain for Good Hackathon” hosted by the Linux Foundation and Accenture. The hackathon occurred over two days at Accenture’s dockland facility for research and development.
A hackathon is an event where programmers collaborate intensively, in a short period of time on a software project. This event was aimed at re-evaluating the manner in which blockchain technology is utilised. Blockchain technology is an infamously secure way of storing information digitally. Records are stored as blocks, and information of transactions between blocks is stored using a range of cryptographic methods.
Blockchains are highly resistant to retroactive modification, as if one block is altered, all subsequent blocks must be too, which cannot occur without the majority of the network becoming aware. Thus blockchains are not only a protected technology for storing information but also one which allows open distribution. All these characteristics make blockchain technology particularly suitable for emergent cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.
The idea of the “Blockchain for Good” hackathon followed a new trend of reapplying the decentralised and secure nature of blockchain technology from its traditional uses in the world of cryptocurrencies to a more generalised use, in fields from banking to tackling the sale and distribution of blood diamonds.
The event followed the standard format for hackathon based events, consisting of a series of teams working against the clock to complete a stated goal. In the case of this event however, the goal was to discover a method in which the blockchain peer to peer network could be re-engineered to serve a broader humanitarian purpose.
After an intense two days the victorious team was announced as the four person “Block K-9” team, made up of Daire Homan, Fergus Gordon, Christian Facey and Thiago Azevedo. Their project specialised in the documenting of health and identification records of pets and animals with very clear applications for human Electronic Medical Records.
Aside from the development process itself, the gathering featured various speakers on the topic of re-applying the blockchain technology to more than the world of cryptocurrencies. Participants across the world travelled from around Ireland, Germany, Russia and the US.
There is a seemingly revolutionary nature underlying the application of blockchain technology to the management and transfer of information. David Treat, one of the hosts and managing director in Accenture’s global blockchain practice commented: “Blockchain technology is on course to revolutionise how the world exchanges value, information and material. This hackathon was geared to channel these innovations for humanitarian and environmental benefit, beginning with the right to identity and the need for environmentally sustainable supply chains”.