FEATURE: Diamonds to digital wallets: How blockchain tech is changing the business landscape

Words by Leanne Kemp, Queensland Chief Entrepreneur and Founder of Everledger


My journey into blockchain with Everledger began as an idea at a hackathon in 2014, hosted by Google in London.

It took me six months to hibernate away in my train - I have a train in Samford Valley in Brisbane - to unpick and decide whether there were true business challenges to be solved and if the technology was going to mature at such a rate where the collision of that maturity and the challenges within industry were sufficiently large enough for Everledger to blitz scale, as it has done now.

Blockchain is a foundational part of our technology stack, but we also venture into combining smart contracts and machine vision as well as artificial intelligence and cognitive recognition across the supply chain to be able to bring transparency to opaque markets.

Initially, in 2015, we began in the diamond industry - providing a platform of provenance that enabled the traceability of diamonds from the source of the mine right the way through to the retail network.

For the consumer, what that means is they can walk into a store and have a full consciousness of mind decision about the diamond they're considering purchasing. Where did it come from? Is it a blood diamond? Has it been traded correctly across the globe? Are the people who have cut and polished that diamond of good working condition? Is there a sustainability footprint for the diamond? They can confirm all of this from the range of data points captured across the blockchain network globally.

From there we extended into coloured gemstones - such as emeralds, rubies and sapphires - and now more recently, other metals and minerals. Because what could be the next most largest impactful or potentially conflicted supply chain in the world? And it’s lithium and cobalt that underpin batteries. So we've moved into that space too.

Before this journey into blockchain with Everledger, which went global first, I spent many years starting and subsequently selling my startups, and one thing I know to be absolutely true is that entrepreneurship is a team sport. It takes a village and a community to be able to lift and help entrepreneurs at the time that they are entrepreneurs, and at the time that they might even be thinking about becoming an entrepreneur.

That’s what really inspired me to take on the role as Queensland’s Chief Entrepreneur.

And yes, it is a challenging time for me, because not only do I hold the reigns of an incredibly fast moving startup in a space with blockchain and other fourth industrial revolution technologies all combining together, but I also think it's incredibly important to assist others on their journey.

Especially when I come back home and see the amount of support that has been recognised by the Queensland Government and councils like Brisbane City Council in infrastructure to help startups get started. I think there is a great trampoline effect that can now be afforded in the scale-up process.

Blockchain needs tech friends to have real impact

Of course, the Office of the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur (OQCE) is technology agnostic in that it doesn't preference any one discipline of technology. Its role is to support the flourishing startup and scale-up ecosystem that is being built here in Queensland.

Blockchain is one discipline of technology that would help to provide economic benefits locally and across the state, and that has been anchored by the Premier - she has openly recognised that blockchain is a foundation technology important to networks and the integrity and security of data.

Artificial intelligence has been preferenced as a technology and we have sought to create a centre of excellence in Brisbane, which was announced in my first week’s tenure as the Chief Entrepreneur with a total investment of $3 million.

When it comes to blockchain on its own - particularly in physical supply chain - it does not solve any problems uniquely or singularly. It must combine with multiple technologies to provide for a solution that is fit for market.

Everledger is the perfect example of that. In the diamond space, we combine scanning the material size, high-definition photography and use AI to extract the identity, and then combine it with blockchain, smart contracts and a cognitive business layer to ensure the integrity of the supply chain is maintained and persists over time.

Welcome to the World Wide Ledger

With all of these new technologies emerging and coming together, we are moving from what we once knew as the time of the World Wide Web to now the World Wide Ledger. Blockchain is a technology that is next generation internet technology, so it provides the foundation upon which we connect, communicate and share data securely.

That has an important construct not only within industries as a whole, but also for individuals and the storing and sharing of their personalised data in a way that ensures it is secure.

As a foundation technology, it will drive incredibly new and exciting business models. It will drive the digital money economy as we would probably like to call it, and then it will become as ubiquitous as the air we breathe as it starts to bake itself into the new operating system of the internet and the new operating system of business networks.

As for consumers, they will be interacting with this technology in various ways. Whether that be digital money through digital vault or digital wallet applications, or we could see assets like jewellery and cars being stored in virtual or digital vaults. Or we'll start to see digital twins of physical products or physical objects being replicated into blockchain, so that they can become a tradable asset.

It could also apply to things like property titles or the ability to own a diamond and then to have multiple people share in the ownership of that object. So you will start to see some really interesting new businesses being formed in a true peer-to-peer environment.

We've seen large companies paving a path into the market, such as Uber, eBay and Airbnb, but I wonder if there is a place for a ‘Duber’ - a distributed Uber - where the connection between two people exist rather than Uber being the middle-man.

The state of blockchain in Brisbane

I've been incredibly encouraged by the the blockchain enthusiasts that we have across Queensland. More importantly, I think there's a very core contingency of blockchain experts that sit within Brisbane, including some incredible purpose innovation around recycling and sustainability, and circular economy.

In fact, there's something like 300 people on the Sunshine Coast as well and about the same number on the Gold Coast. They’re all interested in the technology, and are spending significant amount of time on the technology to build businesses.

We have a blockchain community within the startup scene here that has an absolute potent strength, and it does feel to me like they have a deep sense of understanding. And beyond that from a technical end, know how to use it, where to use it, and place it with importance. I think that's a delightful thing to be able to see and recognise.

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