Blockchain - Enigmatic or crystal-clear? User cases and insights from Vlaamse Overheid, equensWorldline & DNV GL. Takeaways from the Beltug N-sight of 16 November 2017


The world of IT is buzzing about blockchain and its possibilities. Hyped as an answer to many challenges and concerns, we took a close look at this new technology. Our experts gave an overview of what blockchain is all about and where the opportunities lie. We explored the legal aspects, and what to consider when negotiating a contract for a blockchain project. And we learned from real-life experiences that put the theory into practice. Presentations from the event are available, exclusively for Beltug members (after login):


Blockchain is about having an audience, explained Johan Maes, Head of Business Architecture & Innovation at equensWorldline Belux.  If you do a silly dance in front of an audience, everyone sees it and records it in their head.  If you feel embarrassed later - you will have to buy many beers to convince all the audience members to forget about it.  That’s the concept of Blockchain: a potential hacker would need to make so much effort to alter a piece of information, that it becomes almost impossible.


Blockchains can be public or private.  Combine cryptography, a network, and lots of mathematics to the puzzle – then chain all the information together (so that removing one block invalidates the entire chain), and you have the concept of blockchain.


Blockchain offers much more than cryptocoin usage – potential business cases include representation of an asset, conditional transactions (execution based on conditions such as time, action by other stakeholders, approval by multiple parties, etc.) or the need for multiple approvals.


Blockchain is already adding value or presenting opportunities to many domains; Johan touched on a few:

  • Your car maintenance and repair log book
  • eHealth
  • Etc.


Johan highly recommended that when you are considering a blockchain, you should feel it, smell it, and try it.  A POC can be set up fairly quickly and add value to your processes.


To wrap up, Johan shared a few stepping stones to help you to decide whether blockchain can add value to your business (slide 26).


Next Erik Valgaeren, Advokaat-vennoot, Head TMT/IP practice at Stibbe, presented the legal implications of the blockchain technology.  Erik defined blockchain as a database based on 5 benefits:

  • Transparency: everyone can follow up the status of a transaction in real-time
  • Ownership: transactions (e.g. 'order', 'invoice', etc.) have a clear ownership
  • Traceability: all actions build upon the previous action and log the complete chain of the trade
  • Distributed: all information is on the blockchain, certifying the authenticity of the transactions, avoiding disputes (in principle)
  • Trust: only one record, clear ownership and actions, transparent


When considering the legal aspects, it's important to think about the context, on a case-by-case basis - sector-related legislation for instance.


The 'panorama perspective' shows blockchain to be a real game changer, and we need a global and transversal approach. A blockchain project has to correspond to many legal 'layers', so multi-layered, case-by-case analysis is needed for every project: (slide 8)

  • Functional legislation
  • E-legislation
  • General law


You need a smart contract for a blockchain project, but this holds its own challenges: the concept of 'consent', or the interpretation of the code. You must ask the right questions (slides 10 and 11).


To end his exposé, Erik shared his legal checklist for a blockchain project:

  • Technology audit
    • Assessment of IP rights
    • Proper transfer/licensing schemes
  • Regulatory compliance
    • Identification of applicable rules (functional interpretation)
    • Alignment with regulators
  • Security
  • Quality control
    • Contracts with partners (B2B) and customers (B2C)
    • Roles and responsibilities
    • Liability
    • Choice of applicable law
    • Data protection aspects
    • IP aspects (ownership, licenses, indemnification)
    • Back-to-back coverage of certain risks
    • Etc.


Daniel du Seuil, Programme Manager and Blockchain Architect for the Flemish Government, was next on the agenda.  The Flemish government is also beginning to build blockchain into its processes and flows; projects are currently in the pilot phase.


Daniel presented his view on 4 main advantages of blockchain for a government (slide 8):

  • Reconsideration of the central role of government in various trust and archiving processes
  • More possibilities for transparency and auditing
  • Smart and efficient subsidies via smart contracts
  • Greater autonomy and control for citizens, enterprises and organisations.


Next, we got an overview of cases that the Flemish Government is tackling with blockchain – with both positive and negative conclusions:

  • International exchange of degrees and diplomas
  • Nature conservation
  • Council estates / public housing
  • Local decision-making
  • International transportation of waste
  • Registration of foreigners.


There are challenges and risks related to blockchain.  (Slides 20-24)


Blockchain doesn't stop at country borders - more and more projects will be developed between countries (e.g. the program on transportation of waste).


To conclude, Daniel shared the approach and vision of the Flemish Government in the area of blockchain: inform, experiment, stimulate, frame and underpin (slides 26-30).


To wrap up the session, Geert-Jan Rens, Principal Consultant Digital Transformation at DNV GL, dove into the certification solutions DNV GL offers and the business drivers behind its blockchain project. The project has been well covered by press and DNV GL is now asked to speak about it during all kinds of events.  DNV GL's customers, on the other hand, are still a bit reluctant to use the blockchain technology.  Obviously, clients need to grow into the idea as well.

















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