CMW_Blockchain

Blockchain, the new currency for conferencing?

Ramy Salameh looks at the implications of this new technology made famous by cryptocurrency Bitcoin and says it could be a major driver for meetings, as featured in issue 93 of CMW.

Blockchain is being perceived as the next ‘game changer’ since the arrival of the internet. Its technology facilitates and underpins digital currencies such as Bitcoin and Ether.

The phenomenal upsurge in the value of cryptocurrencies in 2017 created a wave of excitement not only within the financial sector but beyond, including in the meetings industry.

Robin Lokerman, group president of MCI, comments: “MCI has seen blockchain and cryptocurrencies as a growing subject for programme committees of the many conferences we organise. Especially in the Financial Services, Healthcare and Law sector events, has this subject come up.”

So what exactly is blockchain? In short, it is a networked database or digital ledger that records transactions on multiple computers. The USP of this technology is that once a record/transaction has been made in the form of a ‘block’ (each block is linked to the previous one, hence the name) it is unalterable. This traceability is a form of carbon dating the exchange of knowledge and collaborations. The technology can be utilised for contracts, agreements and in ‘e-voting’ systems.

Lokerman acknowledges that, “Just like the Internet and the dot.com bubble before, there is a significant amount of hype around cryptocurrencies and without doubt in the future this crypto bubble will burst (when nobody knows)”.

Such uncertainty, however, all bodes well for the meetings industry, which provides a critical platform to exchange knowledge on the subject. A quick Google search will find a myriad of global conferences related to the topic and organisers are moving quickly to meet the need.

The demand for Bitcoin and blockchain conferencing means that during 2018, delegates can attend many events such asthe Blockchain Summit Zurich (8-9 March); the Blockchain Expo Global (blockchain-expo.com), the world’s largest blockchain event series which starts in London (18-19) and Blockchain Expo Europe in Amsterdam during June.

Clearly organisers are seizing the topic and (Bit)mining a new meetings topic seam. Mark Boyle, marketing manager, Blockchain Expo World Series, says this is the second year this event will be running, and the interest across industries he describes as “phenomenal”. The event will address key industry verticals, including supply chain, financial services, healthcare, utilities and more. Over 300 exhibitors are taking part across Blockchain Expo, and the co-located IoT Tech Expo and AI Expo.

Creating shared value
Blockchain has great potential for creating shared value for the public, private and third sectors. The Bank of England is keeping a watching brief and others researching the subject will invariably hold meetings internally and externally to acquire insight.

And Lokerman points out that Dubai has announced that it wants to be the first blockchain enabled government in the world. “Many blockchain events have already taken place in Dubai,” he notes.

CMW_Blockchain_2Blockchain is definitely the new entrant on the technology block, and the appetite for knowledge is greater than ever. The conference and meetings industry needs to be agile to meet this potentially exponential knowledge demand, not to mention the great interest in learning how to harness the technology itself to create positive impacts for the MICE sector.

Caleb Parker, show host – thefuturein15.com, says: “I believe blockchain has the power to improve the financial relationships between MICE agents and suppliers, especially on a global level. From saving on FX costs, to providing transparency on contracts and transactions, the benefits could be significant”.

Many see the potential of the technology and its application as ‘transformative’; positively disrupting the current way of thinking.

Parker makes a further point: “To me, the biggest impact could be in the digital booking space, where the trend of booking meetings online is extrapolated. There are a lot of start-ups going after this right now, each growing their own database of inventory. What if these start-ups could distribute each other’s content, and event organisers and agents could choose the platform of their preference (perhaps for geographic reasons, or user experience) to book events?”

Some remain cautious but both Russia and Venezuela are in the process of introducing the ‘Petro-Rub’ and the ‘El-Petro’ cryptocurrencies, respectively, both of which could be accepted by China in a bid to shift reliance away from the ‘Petro-dollar’. Blockchain technology could theoretically be used to safeguard future dealings in oil. Lokerman feels that blockchain will have a major impact on many industries, as it facilitates contracting without intermediaries. “This,” he says, “will impact many professions like lawyers, notaries, bankers and insurers.”

Whatever the outlook for cryptocurrencies, there is a great need to learn the basics of blockchain technology in the context of the digital landscape. The technology is here to stay and the MICE industry can be the platform to share that knowledge and will be a benefactor from the burgeoning request for conferencing to deliver this new innovation.

Read the feature in issue 93 of CMW, online here.





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