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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

‘Unconference’ explores hot financial topics selected by attendees

NYPAY and Consult Hyperion hosted the 6th Annual Tomorrow’s Transactions Unconference Sept. 11, 2017, in New York City. Designed to facilitate spontaneous, open-ended discussions, the event’s unstructured format gave attendees a voice and a vote on agenda items, which included developments in blockchain technology, mobile financial services, cryptocurrencies and social and financial inclusion. Event organizers were pleased with the level of engagement and far-ranging topics covered in breakout discussions.

“The day-long conference coincided with Fashion Week and the first day of Finovate Fall NYC, but nevertheless attracted a good turnout and diverse audience,” said David True, NYPAY President and independent consultant. “We may have had a slightly lower attendance than in previous years, but interest levels remained high and discussions continued after the breakout sessions.”

Beyond bitcoin

David Birch, author and co-founder of Consult Hyperion, shared insights on bitcoin from his recently published book, Before Babylon, Beyond Bitcoin: From money we understand to money that understands us. Birch said blockchain has the potential to solve problems in the global supply chain and financial, energy and healthcare sectors. “Blockchain conferences have a revivalist feel,” he added. “The big picture around blockchain is its capacity to solve financial sector problems and to become the beating heart of the global financial system.”

For assessing blockchain technology, Birch recommended what he has dubbed the “Four C” model, as follows:

  • Contract: each event or transaction triggers actions
  • Consensus: agreement among parties recording the transaction
  • Content: unique and specific assets attached to each transaction
  • Communications: specifies which entities create and propagate each transaction

“[Blockchain stakeholders] all have copies on the same computer and make sure the consensus holds,” he said, adding that additional structural details such as how transactions will work in private versus commercial environments, and advanced cryptographic techniques still need to be worked out. Birch also noted that growing adoption of blockchain technology will ultimately create a “consensus layer” and lead to a different kind of market, which he called “ambient accountability.”

In addition, Birch said the more that federal and state regulators “put permissions around bitcoin,” the more it will feel like an old business model. He additionally noted that a bug had been found in bitcoin the day before the conference, and suggested it may be premature to build a business around it.

Beyond passwords, traditional banking

Melanie Shapiro, Chief Executive Office at Token, presented a smart ring designed to authenticate users across multiple channels and devices. “The way we authenticate is broken because our digital credentials are shared secrets,” she said. These personal credentials are not unique, and are stored in central databases, which eventually lead to massive breaches.

She called the “token” biometric solution a unique, decentralized, user-controlled “IoT on your fingertips … We’re creating an experience based on our identity platform that is completely simple, FIDO 2-compliant and uses open source standards, and we’re partnering with governments and banks.”

Futurist and author Brett King, CEO and founder of Moven, a mobile bank startup, led a discussion on the future of banking, charting the progress of financial systems from bank-owned architectures to dynamic, experiential ecosystems being built by Alipay, Amazon, Facebook and Google. The need for convenience and utility is so critical, that only the banks that deliver utility agnostically will survive, he noted. “Consumers don’t need to go to the bank anymore,” he said. “Can banks reinvigorate their credit algorithms and play in that new technology layer?”

Additional breakout sessions, led by subject matter experts, explored biometric identity, the Federal Reserve’s Faster Payments initiative, emerging cryptocurrency schemes and their regulatory challenges, consumer identity protections, and approaches to financial inclusion. The event was co-sponsored by Rise NYC and Deloitte LLP. end of article

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