There are non-blockchain distributed ledger technologies coming in to the picture as well. I think they're still at a research stage but that's very interesting. I think Hashgraph is one of those things out in the market right now.
I think they have solved one problem that every other blockchain implementation has been lagging on and that’s scalability.
At the end of the day mainstream adoption means everything you ever do with cash or currency is backed by cryptocurrency. If you think in that scale you can’t go at a transactions-per-second speed of around 100 or 200. You're thinking hundreds of thousands per second.
I mean if you want every single transaction every single Australian would ever do ever backed up by a blockchain you need to get a level of maturity in its implementation. I think we need to explore areas where scalability is at the heart of the technology and I believe that’s where blockchain is headed.
LM: Especially when you look at the trade-supply chain. I mean that’s a phenomenal amount of transactions which would have to get processed for this technology to succeed. If you look at bitcoin at the moment it is only processing about 150,000transactions a day.
HP: That’s right. That amounts to about seven a second.
LM: Yeah, at a cost of anywhere between $US100 to $US170 dollars a transaction. And the transaction confirmation isn’t seconds like we'd expect - it's many minutes.
Customers won’t want to buy something and then sit down for 156 minutes waiting for the payment to confirm. They’ll walk out of the store.
When we look at scalability I think this is really one of the things we look for. We look at hyperledger and feel the fabric is built for large-scale industrialised financial services. But you know I actually don't know whether we're using the technology today we will end up using in two years’ time or five years’ time.
I actually think at some point they'll converge into something different. Maybe a combination of Hashgraph, Hyperledger and other things.
ND: I'm sure that's true. Nothing we've done in our relatively contained pilots and in experiments has involved currency or coin or tokens or whatever but these make the news every day.
We're seeing you can trade all manner of crypto currencies but also issue your own. You can issue an initial coin offering and fund whatever venture you might have which is built supposedly around some sort of blockchain technology.
This is a fascinating new way of attracting investors in the first instance and also perhaps a really interesting way of funding a new business almost from nothing. But there is such fervor around this space. What are your thoughts?
LM: There are a number of countries which are actually looking at banning cryptocurrncies. I'm not quite sure whether we should get excited about it all yet. I mean obviously in areas where it's appropriate it's a legitimate form of raising.
ND: I admit I'm also fascinated by the prospect - but is it real money?
HP: Well it's perceived value. I mean the concept of money, I mean if you go back to the creation of currency it's actually all perceived value. I mean, how much do you think the Australian dollar is worth? It's supply and demand - basic economics.
If create something out of thin air and all of us believe there's perceived value in it, then, yeah, it becomes something like valuable gold. If we all agree that gold is not valuable anymore and then no one would really care about gold.
ND: But I can make my wife lovely jewellery out of gold - I can't make her anything out of bitcoin. Hari what do you think?
HJ: Being probably the least technology oriented person here, what amuses me and also worries me sometimes is the hype.
There are so many companies which have said they are going to get into the blockchain business and you see their share prices just skyrocket.
The latest one which amused me was Bananacoin. The value of the token and is it linked to the underlying price of bananas, which is fair. But then is a promise the value of the coin will rise, but how is it going to rise if the price of bananas fall?
I see a lot of those types of speculations which we need to be careful about. But the one good thing to come from this hype is it has encouraged different players to come and work together.
From an international trade perspective that has really enabled banks which previously would not necessarily like to come and sit together to solve common problems.
But do we need so many cryptocurrencies? I'm not sure.
Shane White is senior production editor at bluenotes