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In my 14 years as an entrepreneur in Alberta's technology sector...

I have witnessed firsthand the powerful potential our province has to be a global leader – not only in technological innovation, but in the adoption and commercialization of new and emerging technologies. Of the incredible tech I’ve seen developed in Alberta over the last decade, I believe that blockchain is one of the most valuable new tools to support the primary and secondary resource sectors in our province.

I’ve written in previous blogs about what blockchain is, but I now want to try to explain the technology in terms of its economic benefits, rather than just the technical details.  As I have described before, a blockchain is a distributed ledger that records and speeds up transactions, but what is lesser known is how blockchain can dramatically reduce the cost of transferring value by eliminating unnecessary intermediaries. This has incredible economic benefits for all industries – especially those still weighed down by mountains of bureaucracy, paperwork and red tape.

I have always been a fan of giving real-world examples to illustrate how technology delivers impactful contributions to our economy.

The best use case I’ve seen for how blockchain technology is making a positive impact on our challenged oil & gas sector is from my fellow entrepreneur James Graham. James is the CEO of a company called Guild One, truly a proud Alberta success story that demonstrates our strength as global innovators.

Seeing a need in the market for reducing costly disputes and delays in oil & gas transactions, James and his talented team at GuildOne developed a creative Blockchain-based solution and, far ahead of any competition, has been successfully deployed it with numerous companies. Guild One’s “Royalty Studio” was built on R3’s Corda platform, and it effectively addresses any inconsistencies in the interpretation of royalty contracts and disputes associated with them. The software is significantly lowering costs, lowering the number of disputes and speeding up settlement times in the the oil and gas industry. I am very proud of how my friend is helping to put Alberta on the map for industrial blockchain innovation!

Blockchain use cases seem unlimited

Just imagine being able to cut out redundancies, improve efficiency and decrease operational budgets across our most essential industries, including forestry, agriculture, oil, logistics and transportation. A major cost that underlies virtually every industry our province relies on is how products like oil, lumber and foods are tracked and transferred, and my next example, blockchain for supply chain management, may illustrate one of its biggest economic benefits.

By putting supply chains on a blockchain database, we can allow a variety of potentially competing participants, who do not want to share their existing databases, to securely record data about the flow of goods on a supply chain.

To give an example; a product’s journey from the manufacturer to the end broker/user is often heavily regulated, cumbersome and can involve dozens (or even hundreds) of administrative documents that need to be addressed by multiple parties. A blockchain’s shared, immutable database means that these steps can be significantly accelerated by removing redundant data checking and validating by third parties, while still maintaining the integrity of the supply chain process.

Applying private blockchain databases means that all involved parties can securely share information inside the logistics network, fostering confidence and credibility while limiting delays and inevitable human errors.

By linking supply chain to a blockchain, we can embed business rules and logic with smart contracts, increasing visibility, transparency and audibility of the business logic.

Maintenance is another high-cost operational item for resource industries, and one where the lives of workers and our environment both depend on the integrity of data. Here, a blockchain can provide an organized and decentralized way of sharing verified information collected from, for example, oilfield equipment, allowing problems to be identified and addressed faster and for some maintenance processes to be automated.

Other major inefficiencies can be found in the process of land title and mineral rights transfer – I was shocked when I first learned that it can take many months or even years for resource companies to work through the complexities of buying or selling properties. Blockchain databases can not only give an immediately accessible digital record of the chain of custody of these assets, eliminating the need for dozens of intermediaries who now conduct searches, review histories and verify applications, but could also potentially provide a way of turning land or mineral rights into an instantly-tradeable commodity.

These are the kinds of efficiencies that can help turn around our struggling resource industries;

at a time when we need to optimize to be able to withstand stronger regulations, manage larger amounts of information, and compete with lower-cost emerging markets. Blockchain can save significant amounts of money on internal administration and intermediaries like lawyers and accountants – just imagine how this can allow businesses to decrease their operating budgets and increase revenue.

As new and greater challenges are faced by our commodity industries, and Alberta moves forward with needed economic diversification, any technology that can help optimize business processes will have a major impact on our province’s growth and prosperity. However, for Alberta’s economy to benefit, we need to promote education, get strong engagement from a variety of industry leaders, and a create a unified effort to push adoption forward.

Those are the driving principles behind the Alberta Blockchain Consortium (ABC), which I’m proud to say has become one of Canada’s largest and most visible blockchain organizations in just a few short months. While supporting the development of Alberta’s resource sector, our tech industry has done some truly amazing things in my 14 years – and now, it’s time for the world to see the kind of transformation we’re capable of using the power of blockchain.