A blockchain is only as strong as its weakest link. Takeaways from the Beltug N-sight: 6 November 2019


"Blockchain is a foundational emerging technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, much like the internet was for the previous (or third) industrial revolution”, according to the World Economic Forum. In the years to come, blockchain will play a transformative role in more and more sectors.


Already, blockchain is moving beyond the hype, so we invited the Beltug members to take a look at the emerging reality. In this N-sight, we heard the real-life blockchain stories of Credendo and of the Original label for food traceability, and looked into the future opportunities of digital ID management for the media sector with Deloitte. Then Crowell & Moring provided insight into potential incompatibilities between the GDPR and blockchain. Finally, we shared the highlights of Beltug’s memorandum on blockchain for the Belgian government.


The presentations from the N-sight are available for our members (after login).  



Case: Blockchain in business: the Origin food traceability label


Johan Maes, Head of Architecture and Innovation at EquensWorldline, opened the session by explaining the importance of trust and experience when leveraging technology as a key differentiator. He took us through a case regarding food traceability: a hot topic. Today, most systems to trace food are centralised, with responsibility delegated to an external entity with full access and control. Blockchain provides an alternative, with responsibility shared between participants: everyone keeps control of their own data (slides 11 and 12).


The technology does have its challenges: on data quality, data confidentiality, governance and workflow complexity (slides 16-20). The combination of blockchain technology and an independent controller results in a trusted traceability system, Johan described.


Next, Johan explained how to get your blockchain project going. Start by clearly defining your product scope and project objectives, he stressed. Then evaluate whether blockchain is needed or not. And finally, define the users to involve in the project. And start off small, he advised. It's easier to scale up later, than downscale or even fail.


He ended his talk with a few conclusions:

  • Blockchain is a key technology enabler to address traceability. You must start by clarifying your objectives, as it is not always the most appropriate solution.
  • Actively collaborate with your stakeholders, and involve them as early as possible.
  • Blockchain is not enough to ensure reliable traceability
  • -> You need a 3rd party to make it trustworthy (link digital & physical)
  • The blockchain ecosystem and technology are not mature yet: be ready to launch a project with some open points that will be addressed later.



Case: Trust, but verify!


"Trust but verify": Jon Holvoet, CCOE Manager at Credendo started off with this Russian proverb. Blockchain is not new, he explained - it is a combination of existing technologies that can create networks that secure trust amongst participants who possibly can’t or don’t want to trust each other, without the need to operate with a third-party intermediary (slide 7).


You have to start your project by clearly defining the problem you are trying to solve. When it comes to handling surety bonds, the current process is quite complex, especially for checking authenticity (slide 9).


Credendo decided to put a layer underneath the existing technology, to make the bond easily verifiable and trustworthy. The customer can verify that the contract is issued by Credendo, that the bond is timestamped, that it is valid, that it is the latest version, and that it hasn’t been tampered with (slide 13).


While proud of the project, Jon did face a few pitfalls along the journey (slide 15).


(You can read more about the project in this press release.)



Blockchain and its (potential) impact on the media industry


Tim Paridaens, Technology & IoT lead and Joshua Davila, Senior Blockchain Consultant at Deloitte, zoomed in on the media industry with their blockchain experience. Several challenges for media industry include content creation, content distribution, revenue/royalty payments and the cross-value chain (slide 3).


Blockchain has a number of characteristics that can solve these challenges, such as automated royalty payments or decreased (intermediary) costs (slide 4). The latter relates to the need for plenty of intermediaries before the content that is created is actually watched by the public.


Joshua gave a demo of an 'Identity Management as a Service' solution for the telecom sector that allows different actors to automatically verify other B2B2C or public partners. Looking into the future, also machines could be added with an identity (IoT). Joshua concluded with a few lessons learned (slide 9).



Will GDPR kill blockchain?


Maarten Stassen, Partner at Crowell & Moring, reminded us of the GDPR and the risks of non-compliance: financial (high fines), reputational (loss of trust by the customers) and operational (a ban on non-compliant processing).


Let's focus on the real value of data, Maarten emphasised (slide 5), and on these main priorities when it comes to GDPR:

  • GDPR governance
  • data mapping
  • transparency
  • Data Protection by Design
  • data transfers
  • external risk / vendor compliance
  • security measures
  • training & awareness


Maarten matched each of these GDPR issues with blockchain features, and the challenges that come with them. He also specified that all participants in the blockchain will be considered as (joint) controllers in terms of responsibility/accountability.


Data retention is one of the mostly discussed topics when it comes to this tension area between blockchain and privacy Maarten gave us a few angles to tackle this challenge (slide 16).


Maarten wrapped up with blockchain security and warned the participants that a blockchain is only as strong as its weakest link: interacting with many different IT systems can create additional vulnerabilities unless all network participants have agreed to high security standards.



Beltug drafts a government memorandum on blockchain


Danielle Jacobs concluded by explaining Beltug’s initiatives in blockchain: the new Blockchain Task Force and the memorandum we have prepared for the government.
















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