Dubai’s second annual Future Blockchain Summit sets global precedent with unparalleled showcase of the technology’s real-world implementation

Sunday 26 May 2019
Dr Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, Director General of Smart Dubai
Dubai - MENA Herald:

The second annual edition of Smart Dubai’s Future Blockchain Summit, hosted in partnership with the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), returned as the region’s largest gathering of blockchain experts when it was held last month.

Running over two days (April 2 & 3), the event welcomed thousands of visitors from across the world, more than 170 speakers – 67% of whom were speaking publicly in the region for the first time – 68 blockchain startups, and businesses and governments from over 130 countries as the hugely-popular Summit further demystified the ledger technology.

Hosted by Smart Dubai, it united an agenda-setting global pool of technology visionaries, government bodies, the world’s biggest brands and industry first-movers to push blockchain forward, championing the conversation beyond theoretical use-cases and into real-life opportunities, featuring world-renowned brands including Coca-Cola, Tencent, Johnson & Johnson, Maersk, HSBC, eBay, Lufthansa and many more.

In a global first, UAE based telecommunications giant du brought a blockchain-powered society to life at the Summit with the walk-through ‘City of the Future’ experience. The feature – enjoyed by thousands of show attendees – allowed visitors to earn and spend tokens while coming to grips with the true potential of the new technology, learning how it can impact every single aspect of our lives. The unique experience featured ‘hubs’ hosted by local businesses and government entities including Dubai Police, Dubai Culture, Be’eah, Careem, Evoteq and Takaful Emarat, all demonstrating how they will utilise the blockchain through real-life examples.

Her Excellency Dr Aisha Bint Butti Bin Bishr, Director General of Smart Dubai, said: “We are building on the success of last year’s inaugural Future Blockchain Summit. While the industry continues to grow at a phenomenal speed, it has also experienced volatility and market correction in the past year. Resultantly, it is vital to bring all key stakeholders in the blockchain ecosystem together year-on-year to cooperate, learn and grow real business relationships.  We designed the Summit with this in mind, as the world’s foremost platform shaping the future of the industry. We look forward to seeing how the UAE, and all smart cities, will be impacted by the way this technology is implemented.”

The Middle East’s leading event for cross-industry blockchain learning and expertise

International speakers included Shark Tank panelist and the world’s first Bitcoin Oracle, Vinny Lingham; Brent Wilton, Global Head of Workplace Rights, Coca Cola who launched a blockchain programme with the US State Department to ensure Coca Cola's vast supply chain abides by its human rights policy; and Abdel Mageed Yahia, the Director of the World Food Programme, who pioneered a blockchain application to reduce world hunger.

The event also saw regional debuts from Phil Chen, the man responsible for the world’s first native Blockchain phone, Exodus 1, and currently the Decentralised Chief Officer at HTC; Aaron Cai, General Manager of China's Internet titan, Tencent; and Nolan Bushnell, co-founder of video game pioneer Atari.

Speaking from the Summit about how blockchain can give people back control of their online data, Phil Chen said: “The internet today is very centralised – it keeps track of everyone, with more predictive power and surveillance capabilities than ever before rested in the hands of handful of companies. In today’s digital-age, anybody can have access to your email and use it to transfer, for instance, money. In order for such things to not happen, we need to own our digital identities.”

Rewarding nascent talent and setting the future blockchain agenda

The third round of the Global Blockchain Challenge was hosted at the Summit by Smart Dubai, in partnership with Dubai Future Accelerators. The competition drew an incredible 700+ entries from 79 countries, all vying for the chance to be recognised as the world’s most innovative blockchain startup. Quantstamp – a smart-contract security company from the US – took top spot, winning US$20,000 in prize money. Indonesian agriculture startup iGrowChain came in second, winning US$15,000; while Grayblock – a blockchain financial services and development company from Canada – placed third, taking home US$10,000.

Naseema Khaliq is the founder of MedBlock, a startup aiming to disrupt the healthcare industry through the deployment of blockchain technology. She was given special praise as the only female entrant to make it through to the contest’s final. Naseema said: “I was very honoured to be one of the 20 finalists. We are now hoping to take our prototype and get it deployed. While we are based in London, we are aiming to implement MedBlock in the MENA region soon and hope that our participation in the Summit will help us achieve that.”

At the heart of this year’s Summit was the PwC Middle East-backed Global Leaders Exchange – an annual invite-only round-table discussion with over twenty senior government and business officials working to catalyse global blockchain adoption. The focus of this year’s Exchange was two pivotal topics: policy and governance for blockchain implementation, and positioning of crypto-assets and ICOs. The outcome of the meeting is a white paper report with guidelines on the focus areas which will be unveiled in June this year. Participating bodies included Smart Dubai, the United Nations, the Dutch Government, the Government of Estonia, the European Parliament, Litecoin and HTC, amongst others.

The Summit was also the host of several key MOU-signings, with one of its most inspiring being between the British University in Dubai (BUiD), the Dubai Blockchain Center and the University of Nicosia, who committed to collaborating to further the understanding and promotion of blockchain through training courses, workshops, conferences, educational programmes and research.

Nisha Ramisetty, Future Blockchain Summit Show Director, said: “This year, we saw the winners of blockchain at the Summit. The industry is now evolving at a rapid pace with real projects and ROI focused implementation across government and private sector organisations. We see this manifest through our speakers and partners showcasing exciting developments – from a token based simulation of a city built on the blockchain and the evolution of gaming to eliminating fake drugs from the pharmaceutical supply chain using the technology.

“We are delighted to have partnered with Smart Dubai once again to bring together the innovators, visionaries and risk-takers who will be at the heart of delivering the Dubai Blockchain Strategy and further solidify Dubai and the UAE’s position as a global leader in the early adoption of Blockchain. We look forward to seeing how Blockchain continues to shape our future ahead of our 2020 event hosted in April 2020.”  

The Future Blockchain Summit 2019 was officially hosted by Smart Dubai and organised by Dubai World Trade Centre. Key partners for the Summit included du (Smart ICT Partner), Finablr (Official Finance Partner), Dubai Land Department, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Strategic Partners), PwC (Global Leaders Exchange Sponsor), Lenovo, SAP and Sophia TX (Level 1 Partners).

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