Do you have technology teams already involved in the W3C? Is your organization participating in a company or university innovation lab? You should. Through collaboration, innovation grows.
The W3C blockchain interoperability workshop at MIT is an incubator for inspiration and a source for new perspectives. The workshop might have even answered some questions. But we all know asking questions is more fun.
As you read the workshops highlights, ask yourself as a leader three questions:
Is my company an innovation leader?
How should my organization get involved in setting standards?
Who from my organization should I get involved?
The morning kicked off with an introduction by Doug Schepers, with World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). He framed the two-day workshop around a vision of enabling collaboration and engaging in technical discussions. The two days were organized primarily around lightning talks, short five-minute topic introductions to spark conversations. Four subject areas created the framework for the workshops:
Identity: reputation, personal data BYC, various aspects of identity
Provenance: licensing of IP, assets, and services
Blockchain primitives and APIs: browser like features, wallets, a consensus protocols, standard data formats
Kitchen sink: everything else that didn’t fit above
Schepers asked each table to come up with one primary theme that represented a magical and powerful collaboration story. The underlying goal was to identify the pieces of successful collaborations. Below is an abridged version of the big hitters.
Collaborative consensus is the secret sauce
Everyone, not too much agrees: friction can be productive
Shared problem statement that is an evolving document
Recognized when you’re finished and when to stop
You want motivation that might not be rational
Flexibility and diversity
Fail fast by staying focused
Breaking down of information and taking ownership of issues
Shedding concerns about ecosystem ownership
Encourage early adopters with hands-on-play
The event had a graphic facilitator. Thanks, Blockstream!
W3C standards workgroups
Wendy Selzer, with W3C, kicked off the day with “Intro to W3C standards” presentation that also provided an excellent outline of the W3C organization. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is an international community where member organizations, a full-time staff, and the public work together to develop Web standards. The mission of W3C is to lead the Web to its full potential with over 400 member organizations participating in shaping the future of standards. Selzer discussed several workgroups that were making strong process towards standards in the Web space. Currently, W3C has over 40 active workgroups. If your organization doesn’t have technical leaders, involved in these groups, it’s advantageous to be engaged in creating the standard, versus blinding having to adhere to it.
Web authorization (GitHub): to define a client-side API providing strong authentication functionality to Web Applications.
Web cryptography: to define a high-level API providing standard cryptographic functionality to Web Applications.
Web application security: to define a high-level API providing standard cryptographic functionality to Web Applications.
Web payments: to make payments easier and more secure on the Web.
Privacy (Interest Group): to improve the support of privacy in Web standards by monitoring ongoing privacy issues that affect the Web.
Web platform: to continue the development of the HTML language, providing specifications that enable improved client-side application development on the Web (including APIs).
Web performance: to provide methods to observe and improve aspects of application performance of user agent features and APIs.
Arvind Narayanan, an assistant professor of computer science at Princeton soon followed with a priming presentation. Well not a typical presentation, we all hate those, more like a discussion igniter. His blogs Freedom to Tinker and 33 Bits of Entropy have insightful pieces of information, worth exploring. Narayanan also produced a course titled, Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Technologies from Princeton University. The course is quite popular, with over 35,000 students attending the last offered class introducing students to crypto and computer science.
Narayanan started by asking, how do we marry the power of the blockchain with the reach of the web? There were a lot of great examples over the course of the workshop. I’ll highlight a few of the thought provokers below.
USB-based car key for car sharing: in general, signatures would be uploaded to the blockchain. Then using Bluetooth, the car would query the key, requesting proofs, resulting in the temporary authorization enabling the individual to drive the vehicle. This entire transaction would be verifiable by the car including using proof-of-work.
Blockchain receipts for your hamburger: We all have purchased hamburgers, but what if you could have your hamburger stamped with a unique hash to show that audit trail (proof the location was inspected, not necessarily who made the burger). What if every food receipt in the world became proof?
Graceful failure: Between 1845 and 1957 bridges fell with frightening frequency. Today, we know when they are going to fail, we just don’t fix them. Adding traffic lights to bridges, linked to the blockchain, could prevent cars from passing when a suspension wire sensor fails. Let’s redefine graceful failure.
This concept is primarily associated with Luciana Duranti, a professor of archival science at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia, Canada, who first proposed the concept and Heather MacNeil. MacNeil conducted research into the integrity of electronic records, with her 1996 paper, The Protection of the Integrity of Electronic Records.
The archival bond is a concept in archival theory referring to the relationship that each archival record has with the other records produced as part of the same transaction and located within the same grouping.
When we applying this concept, records would not be on the blockchain, but rather, only the hashes would reside on the blockchain (or related links or mappings). Does this mean library science and archival studies will be rising educational majors? Will the “Chief Archival Officer” be the newest wave to enter the c-suite?
Tell me about the future
During the 2-day event, many more topics were covered, and there were a lot of questions asked. What’s the difference between blockchain and a database? How do we integrate existing the legal framework into blockchain? How do we transmit verifiable claims?
Doug Schepers, W3C, the MIT Media Lab, and the dozens of volunteers did a great job organizing this awesome event. From exploring security impacts of ISO standards to user interfaces for the integrity of devices and transactions – discussions around blockchain standards will continue.
Peter B. Nichol is a business and technology executive recognized for achievements in digital innovation by the CIO 100 awards program, the MIT Sloan School of Management, Computerworld, BRM Institute and the Project Management Institute. As managing director at OROCA Innovations, Peter leads the CxO advisory services practice, which drives strategies across digital, innovation and blockchain technologies.
As the former head of information technology at Access Health CT (AHCT), Connecticut's health insurance exchange (HIX), Peter oversaw AHCT's online marketplace systems and worker case-management and electronic integration with the systems of federal agencies, state agencies and insurance carriers. He was responsible for AHCT's industry-leading digital platform, which transformed consumer- and retail-oriented services for the health insurance industry. For this, Peter was recognized as a finalist for the 2015 MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award.
Peter also championed AHCT's digital implementation with a transformational cloud-based SaaS platform and mobile applications that were recognized by CIO magazine in the 2015 CIO 100 awards. Peter also received a lifetime achievement award for leadership and digital transformation and was honored as a 2016 Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader.
Previously, Peter was the program director for AHCT's marketplace implementation, providing the most stable HIX launch, on Oct. 1, 2013. The system helped reduce Connecticut's uninsured rate by more than half. It was recognized as a national model for success and was a finalist for the Project Management Institute's Project of the Year Award in 2014.
Recently, Peter was recognized by the BRM Institute as a 2019 BRM Excellence Award Winner in two categories: 2019 BRM Trailblazer and 2019 BRM Practitioner. The BRM Trailblazer award is for individuals within organizations who are making an impact on global BRM adoption. The BRM Practitioner award is for innovative initiatives implemented within the past year to help BRMs advance their leadership and impact on the world.
Peter has a B.S. in computer information systems from Bentley University and an MBA summa cum laude from Quinnipiac University. He earned a PMP certification in 2001 and is a certified Scrum Master, SAFe Agilist (SA), SAFe Practitioner (SP), and Six Sigma Master Black Belt. He also is the first leader to be globally credentialed as a Master of Business Relationship Management (MBRM) by the BRM Institute, a growing organization now spanning 85 countries. Peter is a commercial-rated pilot and a master scuba diver. He understands, based on firsthand experience, how to anticipate change and lead boldly.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of Peter B. Nichol and do not necessarily represent those of IDG Communications Inc. or its parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies.