Blockchain: to APAC and beyond
Seeing as we are well into 2020, it seems fitting to take a step back and reflect on the developments in my area that so many of my fellow leaders in their relevant space do around this time.
For blockchain – a technology that has seen a steep growth trajectory since inception – taking stock on its status at this time is particularly thought-provoking.
We continue to see blockchain develop to cover a growing number of use cases across industries as diverse as financial services, insurance, supply chain and healthcare.
So, I thought I would take this opportunity to look back in order to look forward and make three predictions for how blockchain will develop throughout 2020 and beyond.
It is clear that, while the technology has historically seen uptake firstly in the US and Europe, the APAC region which I oversee is fast catching up in its deployment of blockchain technology.
Here, I outline three of the promises blockchain can bring to APAC, and beyond:
1. The digitisation of assets
The creation of new markets powered by digital assets is one of the most exciting promises of blockchain technology. Tokenisation of real-world assets is now happening on R3’s Corda platform, with the launch of Token SDK and Corda Settler leading the way in this area.
Asia is a hub for the investment and trade of valuable digital assets and as such, the region has become a focal point for R3 to work with national regulators on the development of regulation and legislation for digital tokens - for example, the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Project Ubin & Bank of Thailand’s Project Inthanon.
We expect to see a lot more development in the area of digital assets, not just in Asia, but globally.
2. Collaboration with regulators and central banks
In Asia-Pacific, R3 has the benefit of working with leading technology adopters. While there are those who have been slower to start, by and large, APAC corporates are punching above their weight in terms of forward-looking technology adoption. Especially in the blockchain area, we see a large chunk of our global Corda applications and implementations happening in APAC.
India, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong have all become hubs of blockchain innovation and progress. They are leveraging R3’s Corda to simplify processes, increase levels of automation, and create new business opportunities.
We expect to see this continue well into the new year, and, for R3, the continued involvement of major Thai banks in Project Inthanon is the next step towards a production-ready solution on Corda and accelerates the growth of the Thai banking sector’s blockchain ecosystem. We recently completed Phase III of the project that involved Hong Kong’s Monetary Authority (HKMA) and the banks in Hong Kong.
3. The growth of blockchain application in trade finance
A key vertical expected to gain momentum in APAC now and throughout 2020 is trade finance. HSBC recently announced the completion of the first yuan-denominated letter of credit using Contour, a trade finance platform built on Corda. This marks an important step forward for Contour’s popularity as a commercially viable model for Asia Pacific banks.
As a sector that is currently beholden to legacy processes and weighed down by inefficiencies, trade finance is ripe for blockchain to make a real difference. In 10 years, trade finance will be unrecognisable. An industry whose operating model has changed only marginally over the last century is going through an unprecedented transformation.
Despite the above predictions being grounded in my own experience as a technology professional, as with all technology-led solutions, there is no absolute certainty with which we can foresee the course it will take. What is certain, however, is that the wave of interest in blockchain technology that was once limited to the US and Europe is well and truly present in Asia and growing day by day. Perhaps in the future we will look to Asia as the gold-standard guide for blockchain’s deployment? Watch this space.
Amit Ghosh, Head of APAC, R3
Beyond Limits: Cognitive AI in APAC
Courtesy of current estimates, it looks like Asia-Pacific AI will be worth US$136bn by 2025. Its governments and corporations invest more money than the rest of the world in AI tech, the data of its citizens is considered fair game, and its pilots are small-scale and, as a result, ruthlessly effective. This is why, according to Jeff Olson, Cognizant’s Associate Vice President for Projects, AI and Analytics, Digital Business and Technology, the APAC region ‘is right on the edge of an AI explosion’.
Now, startup Beyond Limits is pushing the boundaries of what AI can do, mirroring humans in its ability to find solutions with even limited information. As of this July, it’s partnered up with Mitsui, a global trading and investment company, to expand its impact in APAC.
How Does Beyond Limits Work?
Most AI companies claim that they can help businesses make better decisions. But many need astoundingly large stores of data to feed their information-hungry algorithms. Beyond Limits, in contrast, takes a different tack. Perfect data, after all, is largely a pipe dream kept alive by PhD students. In reality, systems must often make decisions from small, incomplete sets of intel.
But Beyond Limits’ AI is no black box. ‘When little to no data is available, Beyond Limits symbolic technologies rely on deductive, inductive, and abductive reasoning capabilities’, explained Clare Walker, Industry Analyst at Frost & Sullivan. While making these leaps in logic, however, the system also keeps track, ensuring that humans can review the AI’s ‘thought process’.
Why Partner With Mitsui?
Beyond Limits is built for specific applications such as energy, utilities, and healthcare—but lacks the extensive industry network of Mitsui. Partnering allows Beyond Limits to access a portfolio of firms specialising in minerals and metals, energy, infrastructure, and chemicals. ‘We’ve been working on this deal for several years’, said Mitsui’s Deputy General Manager Hiroki Tanabe. ‘Mitsui’s global portfolio and Beyond Limits’ AI technology will...deliver impact’.
In the first test of that dramatic statement, Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) will soon deploy Beyond Limits’ new system. If everything goes according to plan, LNG will optimise how it extracts and refines energy, making money for both itself and investors—including Mitsui. This, in fact, is Mitsui’s strategy: go digital and don’t look back.
Why Does This Matter?
Forty-five percent of Asia-Pacific companies surveyed in Cognizant’s thought leadership ebook consider themselves AI leaders. Positivity bias, that oh-so-common tendency of humans to position themselves as above average as compared to others, strikes again. (Most small companies fail to launch successful AI projects on their own.) And partly, this is because firms fail to integrate AI with industry expertise.
‘A large part of the focus on talent for AI today has been getting the people who are strong in mathematics, AI, and technologies’, said Olson. ‘But where you make your money out of AI projects is when you apply them to your business’. In short: APAC nations looking for ways to bridge the gap might follow Beyond Limits and Mitsui’s playbook—coupling startup AI with a corporate network.