Blockchain, so much more than cryptocurrency

Blockchain has become the latest technical innovation. It is also known as the Internet of Value, in contrast to the Internet of Information that we are familiar with. Blockchain enables the decentralized, digital transmission of data . It uses cryptography so that the transaction details are simultaneously registered across the network, creating an immutable, secure, and traceable chain of blocks.

Blockchain is a technology that allows us to transfer property and value between two parties, without a middle man. It has the advantage of being programmable, so we can pre-establish the conditions that will give rise to a transaction. It is the most disruptive technological development since the internet. It facilitates the creation of a single record of organizations that is accessible, immutable, and verifiable; whether they are governments, businesses, individuals, or even things. It guarantees both security and traceability, creating trust in the digital environment.

Bitcoin was the first blockchain in the world, allowing the creation and transfer of a digital coin (the Bitcoin), without the need for a middle man. However, it is the marvelous discovery of the underlying technology — blockchain — which has sparked the interest of numerous industries and large companies. There are numerous examples of how blockchain can function outside of the world of finance. One of these is food traceability, by allowing information on traceability to be stored safely and immutably in the chain of blocks. Another is voting: blockchain can serve as a secure, reliable way to hold digital elections. It also can be used in journalism, video games, security, and advertising, among many others. One of these many others is the energy sector.

Pilot programs have been taking place for some time now. In Austria, Wien Energie has started to test an individual, green energy supply model based on blockchain technology, which is focused on end customers and decentralized. In New York, Enel has created an electricity microgrid based on blockchain. This is a local electricity supply network for the neighborhood that can work alongside the main grid. In Spain, Repsol is starting up a range of programs to evaluate the potential and impact of this new technology across our various.

We are currently evaluating various projects and analyzing where it makes sense to implement blockchain. It’s a blank canvas”, Nuria Ávalos, director of Innovation at Repsol

The keyword is “transversality,” explains Nuria Ávalos, director of Innovation at the company. “We are currently evaluating various projects and analyzing where it makes sense to implement blockchain. It’s a blank canvas”, she states. For Ávalos, this new technology is at the same stage as the Internet in the mid-nineties, to the point where it is hard to imagine “its consequences and how it could be applied in the future.”

For now, she adds, Repsol is targeting “process efficiency” with blockchain, so that it can act as yet another springboard in the company’s digital transformation. This is why, when it comes to assessing and learning about the impact and potential of this technology, we are already working on a pilot project to launch the Corporate Treasury digitalization process. In addition, we have successfully developed a prototype from the Entrepreneurs Fund. Using blockchain technology, this prototype has managed to systematically register and certify laboratory analyses carried out in the Technology Center, guaranteeing traceability and reliability and ensuring thatthe analysis has not been modified at a later date.

The distributed nature of blockchain is key, according to Ávalos. It allows players in different parts of the same process to connect via a single network, assuring the integrity and immutability of operations. They can create digital assets and work with the equivalent of a common operating system. Currently, each step of the value chain maintains its own system, which complicates communication between teams and creates the need for conciliation procedures and a parallel back office. “By giving all participants access to a single source of verified information, mistakes are less likely to be made and the need for intermediaries, arbitration, etc. is reduced,” she tells us.

Along with the innovation it represents, which is already being seen in the industry, blockchain also poses challenges. One is regulatory: To universalize the use of blockchain, you need to have a regulatory framework that legally validates transactions that are carried out, digital assets and the digital identity that certifies and represents each user,” suggests Ávalos. “Another challenge faced by this new technology involves standards and interoperability; there is not just one blockchain, but many,” she adds.

Alastria, the first regulated Spanish network

 

Repsol is aware of the importance of this phenomenon and has been part of Alastria since last October. It is the first multisectoral blockchain network to be created in Spain. Alastria is a nonprofit consortium made up of over 210 large companies and SMEs. It offers its members the action framework and technology to be a fast, efficient, digital and agile exchange and data registration ecosystem.

 

In the words of Nuria Ávalos, “we need a stable environment to operate in.” Alastria offers a technical and legal standard, which provides companies with a reliable and safe infrastructure for using blockchain technology. “If you want to build your applications on a blockchain network that can guarantee it meets Spanish legal requirements and gives you an identity to work from… Alastria provides all of that,” she concludes. It is undoubtedly one of the biggest moves towards enabling and accelerating the digital transformation of different industries, such as the energy sector.

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