Blockchain research highlights risks, potential of technology

Data61 releases pair of reports on blockchain

Blockchain-based technologies “hold promise as a new foundation for transactions in society,” states a report released today by the CSIRO’s Data61 research group.

Data61 has published two reports on blockchain, the technology whose most prominent use is as a distributed record of transactions for the digital currency Bitcoin.

“Private blockchains are increasingly deployed inside large enterprises and across industry consortia. The adoption of blockchain technologies is still in its infancy,” states Risks and Opportunities for Systems Using Blockchain and Smart Contracts.

“Globally, many financial services companies, governments, enterprises and startups are exploring the applicability of blockchain technologies in their domains. New businesses and business models are expected to arise, but as yet there are very few examples of significant use in production of blockchain systems within industries or government.”

The report highlights potential uses for blockchain technology across financial services and government services, and within enterprises.

“The pace of change we are experiencing as a nation is exponential and we can't afford to be followers in the adoption of emerging technology like blockchain,” Data61 CEO Adrian Turner said.

“It has potential to reframe existing industries like financial services and seed new ones like food provenance and personalised health.”

The second report, Distributed Ledgers: Scenarios for the Australian economy over the coming decades, assesses four possible adoption scenarios for blockchain within Australia in 2030: Aspirational, transformative, new equilibrium and collapse.

The government announced in May last year that Data61 would scruitinise the potential of blockchain.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has said it expects the potential uses of distributed ledger technology to grow “exponentially” over time.

Major Australian enterprises have been experimenting with blockchain-based technologies, including some of the country’s biggest banks.

The Commonwealth Bank has run experiments involving smart contracts and issuing bonds using blockchain. Energy company AGL is staging a desktop trial of blockchain-based energy trading among households.

The ASX will potentially use distributed-ledger technology to replace CHESS (a system that provides post-trade services for the exchange).

The Victorian government has revealed it is interested in the potential impact of blockchain technology.

The two Data61 reports are available online.