How far away are we from a blockchain-powered London?


Anxiety is running high about London's future as a global financial centre after Brexit. However, blockchain offers an opportunity for the capital to maintain its status as a world leader. Tapiwa Senah, ambassador of start-up Ideal App Technology, explains.

There have been many discussions, research papers published, and theories expounded about the increased ‘interactiveness’ of society. As we navigate through life, we expect to be able to contact others immediately through technology, whether it’s by instant message or video call. We assume there will be constant internet access via Wi-Fi or mobile networks wherever we go. We increasingly require everyday devices such as watches, TVs, speakers and fridges to be able to communicate with us and each other, and to give us intelligent feedback. The sci-fi dreams of yesterday have become a reality.

In fact, the internet of things and ‘smart’ culture is moving beyond the home and everyday communication devices - it’s becoming a vast sociological structure that is impacting the way we travel, do business, trade goods and essentially, live.

What excites me the most though, is that soon, if we continue to build on this, we will be able to use blockchain-powered solutions to power our cities. We will use blockchain to keep sensitive data about citizens secure, monitor driving behaviour in order to manage traffic flows and help control pollution, and manage waste more effectively. And that’s just a start.

Ideal App Technology recently hosted a summit to debate London’s post-Brexit role in the world. Guests with backgrounds in technology and business heard from a panel of experts in the fields of Blockchain and AI including Dr Chris Moore from the Department of International Trade and Dr Stylianos Kampakis from UCL Centre of Blockchain Authorities.

Dr Moore is a technology specialist who assists technology companies to grow in the UK and internationally. With 25 years’ experience in the industry, he specialises in artificial intelligence and data analytics. His primary focus in the discussion was on the technology that London currently has to offer which suggests its possible for it to become a blockchain-powered city:

“The AI landscape in the UK already provides a positive environment for businesses to grow and the tech sector is rapidly expanding due to the usability of blockchain and AI platforms.

“The potential in this area of technology is recognised by the UK government, who in recent years have shown an interest in AI and are keen to support and champion it in as many areas as health, cyber, fintech, fashion, retail and life sciences.

“Many institutes, universities and businesses are making the most of the opportunities.  The Alan Turning Institute, for example, is a relatively new enterprise, but it has already earned itself a reputation as a key institute in leading developments in Blockchain and AI.

Dr Moore spoke passionately about London’s potential and he reminded us that we should not talk down the city.

“London is a great place to find top talent. People often talk about shortages in the tech industry, but London is the central hub of tech in the UK. Added to this, the UK is an easy place to do business compared to many other countries and the guaranteed development of Blockchain and AI will only add to that ease.”

Dr Kampakis is an expert data scientist and blockchain advisor, with a PhD in machine learning and various degrees in artificial intelligence, statistics, psychology and economics. One of his interests is in looking at the future of blockchain-powered cities and how technology can address some of the challenges that cities face:

“A fifth industrial revolution is taking place and it is being driven by Blockchain, a faster, safer way to verify key information and establish trust, that is entirely dependent on automation. As block chain removes third parties from transactions between two entities, the trust of transactions becoming final, trust in blockchain-powered operations, speedier transactions powered by AI and therefore increasing efficiency, we can understand why.

“Higher levels of automation will coincide with our society developing into a highly efficient, fast-paced world.

“With public as well as private blockchains being created, the technology will be used to solve our basic public needs such as congestion, waste management and pollution. 

“Institutes such as UCL Blockchain Centre in London are leading the way with research into these public applications of Blockchain. However, enterprises such as Citymapper, the transport app, and Transport for London, are testing how Blockchain and AI technology can help solve traffic issues in the city.”

This is a really exciting for businesses in the blockchain and AI space. The recent announcement that Facebook plans to launch its own cryptocurrency confirms that the world, not only London, is on its way to becoming powered by Blockchain. So, now is the time to seize the opportunity to build on our capital’s strong technology and business platforms by continuing to support start-ups and invest in the great ideas being developed.