Will Blockchain Technology Finally Lead Us To A Fair Payment Model For Content?

Jacqueline Prause

During my journalism internship, I could already see there was going to be a problem with my chosen vocation. The small New England television station where I was interning was struck by a wave of media consolidation and competition from new cable networks. Writers were happy just to be called in as weekend temps. Geez, even my mentor was telling me to go to law school.

That was 1992, and traditional journalism was in deep crisis. Then along came the Internet, that happy digital highway of instant-publishing gratification. This had the effect of turning nearly everyone into a writer and publisher, for better or for worse. But the question ingrained upon me during my internship remained: How does anyone seriously get paid for this?

Different models – subscriptions, sponsorships, embedded ads, SEO, and pay-per-download – have been tried for promoting equitable distribution of digital content, but the question of secure, reliable payment still hovers over the media industry – as it does for most anyone who produces creative content, like books, movies, music, or pictures.

The traditional route of an author has been to present their work to a publisher and hope that their particular flavor of creative genius will be chosen for readers’ mass consumption. Few make the cut, and those who do face absorbent publishing fees that detract from hard-won earnings, sometimes leaving the author with a slim royalty of 25% for their e-book (source: Business of Publishing).

One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, wrote in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear about the many rejection letters – some helpful, some seemingly capricious – that she received from publishers. Undeterred, she chalked it up as part of the creative process, preferring perseverance to despair. She also kept her day job until her third book, the New York Times bestseller Eat, Pray, Love, won critical acclaim. Oprah promoted it in her book club, and Julia Roberts played the lead role in the movie version.

But what if there’s another path to publishing that’s open, free from media manipulation, and inherently just in matters of financial compensation? The answer might be found in blockchain technology. Underpinning the new “Internet of trust,” blockchains are open, distributed ledgers for recording transactions so they are verifiable and permanent. Inherently secure and resistant to tampering, this technology is ideal for recording events, records management, identity management, and transaction processing. But blockchain technology isn’t just for the likes of banks and insurance companies. It can also help creatives showcase their work, cultivate an audience – and get paid securely and directly.

DECENT, a Swiss tech startup, is applying blockchain technology to build a secured and trusted content distribution platform for authors, artists, and creatives of all calibers. Already in its second round of testing, with a launch date set for June 30, DECENT is attracting interest from technology enthusiasts and authors alike. Content posted on the platform includes e-books, blogs, videos, music, photos, and white papers, as well as independent software packages. Additionally, DECENT is encouraging third-party developers to build their own apps on top of its open-source protocol, opening the way for new publishing opportunities such as blogging spaces, photo galleries, and independent newspapers.

Freedom of speech on the blockchain

What makes DECENT different from other content distribution platforms is both the blockchain technology that supports it and its commitment to freedom of speech. Founded in 2015 by Matej Michalko and Matej Boda, both from Slovakia, DECENT is an independent, nonprofit peer-to-peer network that is wholly owned by its users. As such, it is not affiliated with any economic, media, or political party. In this decentralized network, content is hosted on multiple sites, meaning that it cannot be blocked, manipulated, or tampered with once it is published. This level of security provided by blockchain technology, in effect, also presents an interesting opportunity for independent media and organizations, like political opposition press and dissidents. “We have created a fully integrated and trustworthy worldwide platform system of digital content distribution, where blockchain plays a central role,” says Michalko. “Communication and all payments are done through the blockchain.”

That means no middlemen stand between the content author and the consumer. Whether in the form of publishing fees or content hosting fees, the cut taken by middlemen can be a serious threat to trust and profitability. “Most middlemen are unnecessary,” says Michalko. Citing a key advantage of blockchain compared to other technologies, he adds, “There is a significant reduction of costs of hosting because blockchain is peer-to-peer technology.”

DECENT community: Authors, consumers, publishers

The DECENT community is divided into three groups based on their relationships to the content: authors, consumers, and publishers. Authors comprise all types of content creators, whether they are individuals, organizations, businesses, artists, writers, photographers, software developers, music producers, or videographers. These people can upload their content, regardless of format, to the DECENT platform and set their price for which they will allow someone to access it. “There are no steps needed from the author. Just basically, upload the content to the platform and push the Publish button,” says Michalko. And what about tracking the content downstream? DECENT will tag the content with a digital fingerprint, enabling the author to identify copies of the content, so no unauthorized person can access or distribute it.

Consumers are the people who purchase the content and download it for their use. They can either access DECENT via its app or on the Web. “We built our products aimed at the general public, so no special knowledge is needed,” says Michalko. Purchasing content is like entering into a contract: the consumer makes a promise-to-pay; the author then delivers the content; and the payment is made. No payment, no content.

Payment is made with DCT tokens, a cryptocurrency like the Bitcoin that is the value denomination used in the DECENT community. DCT tokens are exchangeable to Bitcoins (BTC) and fiat currencies like euros, dollars, or pounds.

Which brings us to the role of publishers. Publishers are the members of the community who sustain the network by applying their independent computing resources for activities like processing transactions between authors and consumers and mining of Bitcoins. They typically provide their services in exchange for a fee. To be a publisher requires the necessary hardware and computing resources.

Startup credo: Build fresh, hire smart

DECENT stands out among blockchain startups in that it has its own blockchain built on open-source protocols. This provides the DECENT team with assurance in both the integrity of its technology and the mission of its platform. From September to November of 2016, DECENT held its initial coin offering (ICO) for its DCT tokens, raising 5,881+ BTC in the value of USD$4.2M at the end of the ICO and having a value of $15M in June 2017. More than 4,000 people backed the ICO, often buying in at two bitcoins or less. The funds will be used by the startup to further the development of its technology. DECENT’s team consists of 35+ people, spread among four global locations: Switzerland, Slovakia, China, and Armenia. Recently, DECENT hosted an AMA (Ask-Me-Anything) session to answer questions about its service offering and progress toward launching its main net. You can watch the recording of that AMA session here.

Michalko’s vision for DECENT is to be the content distribution platform of choice. He says, “I have confidence because we have great technology and a great team, and we are able to eliminate all the unnecessary middlemen.”

For more on blockchain, see How Can You Turn Blockchain Into Business Value?

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About Jacqueline Prause

Jacqueline Prause is the Senior Managing Editor of Media Channels at SAP. She writes, edits, and coordinates journalistic content for SAP.info, SAP's global online news magazine for customers, partners, and business influencers .

AI, Blockchain, And Cloud Fuel Banking’s Evolution

John Bertrand

Artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and cloud technologies are increasingly appearing on the horizon. This could be exactly what the banker ordered, given the legal mandates for open banking and General Data Protection Regulation for 2018. These three key technologies can fuel the financial services industry’s evolution into the digital age.

Artificial intelligence

AI is a collection of machine learning, natural language processing, and cognitive computing designed for scale. It is this scalability that is exciting, as it can create exponential growth and deliver today’s required personalized communications. For example, in July 2017 UK payments processed 21 million payments per business day. If 0.5% of the daily volume needed additional review, 105,000 items would need to be checked, often manually and with rules-based, tick-the-box solutions. AI would significantly increase productivity by matching payment behavior and pattern recognition, and simply asking the question, “does this look right?” AI-powered chatbots could help business users and consumers answer inquiries and enhance the customer experience.

Blockchain

Blockchain is also a mix of technologies that enables us to trust someone we do not know and protects us from cybercriminals. The block contains vital information about a party, and the chain is the sequence of third-party, verified events that have taken place over the history of the transaction. Blockchain is fully encrypted and can be permissioned for private and public groups. Given the manual, paper-based state of the supply chain, it is not surprising that we’re seeing many new proofs of concepts and pilots using blockchain.

Cloud

Cloud computing gives improved security, scale, and agility to respond to market demands and can decrease banks’ cost bases. The advances in cloud technologies permit software applications to move seamlessly between legacy, private cloud, and public cloud solutions. One such technology, containers, allows the applications to flow safely across the end-to-end processes regardless of the underlying technologies, much like how shipping containers transformed the inefficient, non-scalable 20th century transportation industry to the one today.

Finance’s digital evolution

These technologies are could be the savior of financial services industry. Financial services are rapidly becoming a technology-driven sector, evidenced by the increasing amount of money being spent in this area.

  • Financial services is now one of the largest buyers of software
  • IDC expects this figure to grow more than five percent over 2016’s spending
  • The forecast of $2.7 trillion in worldwide IT spending by 2020 is led by the financial services industry

Legacy banks and financial services firms can either build the technology themselves or work with fintechs to do so; either way it has to be done. Eminent evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin could have been discussing this new banking environment when he noted:

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. 

Potential impacts of financial services’ digital evolution include:

  • Low-cost centers using AI to increase straight-through processing (STP) to 100%, thus removing cost, increasing customer satisfaction, and reducing liabilities from errors
  • Administration of trade finance through blockchain to reduce costs and increase certainty of ownership at any point in time
  • Spare computer capacity created by using the cloud, enabling banks to meet peak-day requirements and increase cybersecurity

Security is now a bottom-line concern. See The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage.

This article was originally published on Finextra.

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Blockchain As A Miracle Cure For The $78 Billion Opioid Crisis

Susan Galer

Blockchain technology is relentlessly hawked as the cure-all for everything that ails business and society. Pushing the hype aside for just one moment, the super-secure, distributed ledger could well deliver the global supply chain transparency that will help this country address the opioid crisis.

Every day, more than 90 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention country puts a price tag of $78 billion on the opioid crisis, spanning healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice. To be clear, it’s a difficult, multi-faceted problem. Yet some experts argue blockchain’s promise lies in its ability to take on precisely this kind of complex challenge.

Opening the black box

Of all the industry supply chains, pharmaceuticals is among the most strategic, and there’s no further proof of that than the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). Under this mandate, all drugs delivered to patients must have a traceable technology element—it could be a two-dimensional barcode or something electronic. Regulators would then be able to trace the drugs back to the manufacturer.

It’s easy to see blockchain’s potential fit. It’s ideally suited to open industrial-size black boxes like global supply chains. Pharmaceutical production starts with the raw materials and manufacturers, and extends through suppliers, brand manufacturers and contract manufacturers to distributors, wholesalers, physicians, hospitals and pharmacies, all the way to patients.

Here’s why #blockchain is ideally suited to tackle the #opioid crisis

When it comes to tackling over-prescribing, blockchain could leave today’s databases in the dust. Right now, companies and regulators can manage bits and pieces of the opioid crisis puzzle. But the truth is, if a physician is over-prescribing, others are likely aiding and abetting.

“Once you start tagging drugs with an immutable audit trail, you can do what was impossible before,” said Josh Greenbaum, principal of Enterprise Applications Consulting (EAC). “It’s fairly easy to game a national database of prescriptions, providers, and patients. But making the drugs traceable provides a much more comprehensive view of what each party is doing with the opioids. Blockchain adds the full distribution picture, and could be tremendously valuable in exposing leaks.”

Note to pharma: get a DNA transplant

Of course, there are numerous challenges, notably the dearth of experts who understand the technology, not to mention security.

“Blockchain is very nascent and pharma distribution is old school,” said Greenbaum. “There has to be almost a DNA transplant to make it work well. And, even though blockchain is meant to be secure, it doesn’t mean it’s infallible. You need to make sure it’s truly secure, including at the points of integration between systems. Openness is meant to be the gold standard for commerce in the global economy, but pharma has a tremendous amount of personal identifiable information.”

Blockchain’s immaturity—glaringly obvious in the profusion of disparate, disconnected, non-standardized fabrics and consortia—is another major hurdle. Green sees blockchain in pharma functioning in a more private network. “There won’t be a single blockchain across the industry. You’ll have to reconcile multiple chains so suppliers or contract manufacturers aren’t buried under the technical complexity of monitoring and participating in multiple blockchains.”

Collaborative transparency

Blockchain by itself won’t deter people from misusing drugs. As an auditable, traceable service underlying the pharmaceutical supply chain, blockchain might just provide a trail for investigators to thwart more counterfeiters, and help manufacturers make sure what’s coming out of the factory ends up at the right point of sale to the right patients. There is no single solution to the opioid crisis, but we do have to find some answers. People’s lives depend on it.

This blog was originally posted on SAP Business Trends.

Follow me on TwitterSAP Business Trends, or Facebook. Read all of my Forbes articles here.

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Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences

Kai Goerlich

 

Google Cardboard VR goggles cost US$8
By 2019, immersive solutions
will be adopted in 20% of enterprise businesses
By 2025, the market for immersive hardware and software technology could be $182 billion
In 2017, Lowe’s launched
Holoroom How To VR DIY clinics

From Dipping a Toe to Fully Immersed

The first wave of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is here,

using smartphones, glasses, and goggles to place us in the middle of 360-degree digital environments or overlay digital artifacts on the physical world. Prototypes, pilot projects, and first movers have already emerged:

  • Guiding warehouse pickers, cargo loaders, and truck drivers with AR
  • Overlaying constantly updated blueprints, measurements, and other construction data on building sites in real time with AR
  • Building 3D machine prototypes in VR for virtual testing and maintenance planning
  • Exhibiting new appliances and fixtures in a VR mockup of the customer’s home
  • Teaching medicine with AR tools that overlay diagnostics and instructions on patients’ bodies

A Vast Sea of Possibilities

Immersive technologies leapt forward in spring 2017 with the introduction of three new products:

  • Nvidia’s Project Holodeck, which generates shared photorealistic VR environments
  • A cloud-based platform for industrial AR from Lenovo New Vision AR and Wikitude
  • A workspace and headset from Meta that lets users use their hands to interact with AR artifacts

The Truly Digital Workplace

New immersive experiences won’t simply be new tools for existing tasks. They promise to create entirely new ways of working.

VR avatars that look and sound like their owners will soon be able to meet in realistic virtual meeting spaces without requiring users to leave their desks or even their homes. With enough computing power and a smart-enough AI, we could soon let VR avatars act as our proxies while we’re doing other things—and (theoretically) do it well enough that no one can tell the difference.

We’ll need a way to signal when an avatar is being human driven in real time, when it’s on autopilot, and when it’s owned by a bot.


What Is Immersion?

A completely immersive experience that’s indistinguishable from real life is impossible given the current constraints on power, throughput, and battery life.

To make current digital experiences more convincing, we’ll need interactive sensors in objects and materials, more powerful infrastructure to create realistic images, and smarter interfaces to interpret and interact with data.

When everything around us is intelligent and interactive, every environment could have an AR overlay or VR presence, with use cases ranging from gaming to firefighting.

We could see a backlash touting the superiority of the unmediated physical world—but multisensory immersive experiences that we can navigate in 360-degree space will change what we consider “real.”


Download the executive brief Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences.


Read the full article Swimming in the Immersive Digital Experience.

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Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

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Jenny Dearborn: Soft Skills Will Be Essential for Future Careers

Jenny Dearborn

The Japanese culture has always shown a special reverence for its elderly. That’s why, in 1963, the government began a tradition of giving a silver dish, called a sakazuki, to each citizen who reached the age of 100 by Keiro no Hi (Respect for the Elders Day), which is celebrated on the third Monday of each September.

That first year, there were 153 recipients, according to The Japan Times. By 2016, the number had swelled to more than 65,000, and the dishes cost the already cash-strapped government more than US$2 million, Business Insider reports. Despite the country’s continued devotion to its seniors, the article continues, the government felt obliged to downgrade the finish of the dishes to silver plating to save money.

What tends to get lost in discussions about automation taking over jobs and Millennials taking over the workplace is the impact of increased longevity. In the future, people will need to be in the workforce much longer than they are today. Half of the people born in Japan today, for example, are predicted to live to 107, making their ancestors seem fragile, according to Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, professors at the London Business School and authors of The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.

The End of the Three-Stage Career

Assuming that advances in healthcare continue, future generations in wealthier societies could be looking at careers lasting 65 or more years, rather than at the roughly 40 years for today’s 70-year-olds, write Gratton and Scott. The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

It will be replaced by a new model in which people continually learn new skills and shed old ones. Consider that today’s most in-demand occupations and specialties did not exist 10 years ago, according to The Future of Jobs, a report from the World Economic Forum.

And the pace of change is only going to accelerate. Sixty-five percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist, the report notes.

Our current educational systems are not equipped to cope with this degree of change. For example, roughly half of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree, such as computer science, is outdated by the time students graduate, the report continues.

Skills That Transcend the Job Market

Instead of treating post-secondary education as a jumping-off point for a specific career path, we may see a switch to a shorter school career that focuses more on skills that transcend a constantly shifting job market. Today, some of these skills, such as complex problem solving and critical thinking, are taught mostly in the context of broader disciplines, such as math or the humanities.

Other competencies that will become critically important in the future are currently treated as if they come naturally or over time with maturity or experience. We receive little, if any, formal training, for example, in creativity and innovation, empathy, emotional intelligence, cross-cultural awareness, persuasion, active listening, and acceptance of change. (No wonder the self-help marketplace continues to thrive!)

The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

These skills, which today are heaped together under the dismissive “soft” rubric, are going to harden up to become indispensable. They will become more important, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will usher in an era of infinite information, rendering the concept of an expert in most of today’s job disciplines a quaint relic. As our ability to know more than those around us decreases, our need to be able to collaborate well (with both humans and machines) will help define our success in the future.

Individuals and organizations alike will have to learn how to become more flexible and ready to give up set-in-stone ideas about how businesses and careers are supposed to operate. Given the rapid advances in knowledge and attendant skills that the future will bring, we must be willing to say, repeatedly, that whatever we’ve learned to that point doesn’t apply anymore.

Careers will become more like life itself: a series of unpredictable, fluid experiences rather than a tightly scripted narrative. We need to think about the way forward and be more willing to accept change at the individual and organizational levels.

Rethink Employee Training

One way that organizations can help employees manage this shift is by rethinking training. Today, overworked and overwhelmed employees devote just 1% of their workweek to learning, according to a study by consultancy Bersin by Deloitte. Meanwhile, top business leaders such as Bill Gates and Nike founder Phil Knight spend about five hours a week reading, thinking, and experimenting, according to an article in Inc. magazine.

If organizations are to avoid high turnover costs in a world where the need for new skills is shifting constantly, they must give employees more time for learning and make training courses more relevant to the future needs of organizations and individuals, not just to their current needs.

The amount of learning required will vary by role. That’s why at SAP we’re creating learning personas for specific roles in the company and determining how many hours will be required for each. We’re also dividing up training hours into distinct topics:

  • Law: 10%. This is training required by law, such as training to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Company: 20%. Company training includes internal policies and systems.

  • Business: 30%. Employees learn skills required for their current roles in their business units.

  • Future: 40%. This is internal, external, and employee-driven training to close critical skill gaps for jobs of the future.

In the future, we will always need to learn, grow, read, seek out knowledge and truth, and better ourselves with new skills. With the support of employers and educators, we will transform our hardwired fear of change into excitement for change.

We must be able to say to ourselves, “I’m excited to learn something new that I never thought I could do or that never seemed possible before.” D!

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