Blockchain is a “long-term growth play” that solution providers should get behind, according to Stephanie Mitchko-Beale, a veteran media, technology and advertising executive.
Mitchko-Beale, CTO and COO of New York-based adtech firm Cadent, made the case for the distributed ledger technology in a Tuesday panel at The Channel Company’s 2018 Best of Breed (BoB) Conference in Philadelphia. She was joined by Dan DiSano, president and CEO of Axispoint, a New York-based solution provider that has begun developing blockchain-based applications and is No. 296 on CRN’s 2018 Solution Provider 500.
Axispoint is among a small group of solution providers that have started working on solutions based on blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin that some enterprises now see as a transformational technology for bringing more trust and transparency into business.
“Blockchain is perhaps the hottest technology right now in the development community and the C-suite world,” DiSano said. He admitted that the technology is still early, like how the Internet was nascent in the mid-1990s, but he said, “it’s not early in terms of investment.”
Bruce Lehrman, CEO of Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based Involta, No. 326 on CRN’s 2018 SP500, said he doesn’t see his company taking on a blockchain application development role. Instead, the company will more likely adopt the technology through its vendors in the future.
“We’re kind of users of technology, we’re not creators of technology, so I think it’s interesting. It’s fundamentally going to change a lot of things that we do, but we’ll be a consumer of it, not a creator,” he said.
Lehrman said Involta has had some conversations about blockchain with customers, but he admitted “it’s still too early on for most of the business users.”
Mitchko-Beale acknowledged that it’s early in the adoption cycle for blockchain, but she said the technology has the potential to disrupt “every industry under the sun,” including advertising, media, pharmaceutical and cosmetics.
“Any distribution network where you need to track what’s going on is an application,” she said.
Walmart, for example, has started requiring lettuce and spinach suppliers to join the company’s food-tracking blockchain powered by IBM to help pinpoint sources of food contamination and, as a result, accelerate and improve the product recall process.
“It’s a distributed way of keeping a ledger where each component in the block is encrypted along the way, and all the constituents have visibility, and identity is apparent and transparent,” Mitchko-Beale said.
DiSano said his company, Axispoint, started getting inquiries about blockchain 11 months ago, and now the company is working on multiple projects, including a real-time trading platform that is based on a private blockchain.
“We’re seeing a lot of development work,” he said.
Mitchko-Beale said she’s had a budget for research and development and investigation of blockchain proof of concepts for the last two years. While she said her company has yet to invest a lot of money or seen a return on investment in blockchain yet, she feels that it’s still important for Cadent to stay ahead of emerging technologies.
“I think it’s a long-term growth play,” she said. “It’s a technology, and people will figure out over time on how to use it in a whole bunch of ways, ways we haven’t even thought about today.”