Edward Weniger, President and CEO of Alpha Bitcoin, is leading Interface’s first Midwest Blockchain Academy starting February 5. The course will run through February 25 and will be hosted at the AIM Exchange building.
This first workshop will be geared toward CIOs and executives who want to learn about the blockchain, specifically how it impacts and can improve their company processes. It will focus on the basics of Bitcoin and the concepts of non-bitcoin blockchains such as Ethereum. There is still room to sign up for the course – interested individuals can visit the Interface School website for more details.
Developers and individuals that work in any number of industries including Financial Services, Real Estate, Healthcare, or IT Security are welcome to join the first class; however, there will be a 14-week Blockchain Specialization Course starting in April. The specialization course will be hands on, and participants will build their own application and have the opportunity to integrate it with their company’s current software.
This week we talked to Weniger about the basics of the distributed ledgers as well as the future of Bitcoin and blockchain technology.
SPN: What is the blockchain?
EW: If I own one bitcoin, I can send you half of that bitcoin through the Internet and it will be received in a matter of minutes. The blockchain is the central ledger that says I owned one bitcoin, but now I don’t own half of a bitcoin because I sent it to you. Basically, a huge number of computers around the world confirm that now I own half of a bitcoin, and you own half of a bitcoin. This is contrasted to using Paypal or American Express which is a specific entity responsible for reconciling those transactions. With the blockchain, a diverse and otherwise unrelated group of stakeholders agree on the transaction without the need for a bank or central authority. It’s all programmed and coded without personally identifiable information, which minimizes risk and provides the ability to transact with any party regardless of trustworthiness.
SPN: How are these transactions programmed?
EW: Outside of Bitcoin, there is a similar platform called Ethereum. Ethereum is another blockchain that also has the ability to run code and program smart contracts. It’s a way of programming if-then statements involving anybody with an Ethereum wallet around the world. So if one event occurs, it will trigger another specific action automatically. Internally this could be a part of your business workflow, or externally it could be a statistic like a sports score, temperature, or political outcome. Currently it’s most common use is to store and send money, or Ether as it is called on the Ethereum blockchain.
SPN: How is Bitcoin affecting charity?
EW: The blockchain is readily available globally for microtransactions, which lowers the barriers to entry for e-commerce in developing countries. You don’t need a lot of technology or money to get involved. There is effort being invested to empower students and code school attendees overseas to use digital currencies. For example, now I can send a kid in Africa or Haiti a fraction of a bitcoin, which may only cost me a dollar, but once it’s converted to his or her own currency that dollar would be worth a lot more. Now he or she has something of value that he can leverage to make a profit or save, and I can be sure those funds reached the intended recipient for maximum impact. In a digital world, Bitcoin can level the playing field financially.
SPN: Why should companies think about using the blockchain?
EW: In a traditional database model, there are many layers and many vendors protecting company infrastructure. With that complexity comes a need to vigorously maintain a lot of moving pieces. Because blockchain is flatter and inherently encrypted, you gain a huge amount of efficiency and security which can translate into cost savings. It also documents financial transactions more accurately than typical bookkeeping, which has huge implications for accounting and audits.
SPN: What does the future of the blockchain look like?
EW: When you’re talking about the IoT (Internet of Things), and being able to automate relationships or contracts with people, the Holy Grail is to be able to send money to devices directly without the complexity of payment processors and banks. For example, in a blockchain design, if you wanted to send money to a door lock or washing machine, each of those devices could have an address to receive those funds which in turn triggers the appropriate action. This wouldn’t necessarily have to be a public blockchain like Bitcoin. There are private or permissioned ledgers as well which could be better suited for your organization depending on the use case, which we’ll also be learning about in the Midwest Blockchain Academy.
Mel Lucks is a regional freelance journalist and former intern for Silicon Prairie News and AIM.