Fintech, blockchain and digital security at MWC & 4YFN

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Written by: Sergiy Vakarin, UkraineIS Chairman
Photos: Vitaly Mamchyn

Many important announcements were made at the Mobile World Congress and 4YFN 2018 far beyond the Galaxy S9 / S9+, Xperia XZ2, animated emojis and 3D selfies that were shown by Samsung and Sony.

Blockchain and cybersecurity were among the particularly hot topics during the event. I started my journey from the State of the Crypto, Token and Blockchain Market panel (AlphaChain, Banco Santander, Brave Software and Fabric Ventures) at 4YFN that focused on innovation in the open-source world.

When you hear people like Brendan Eich, creator of the JavaScript programming language and co-founder of Mozilla introducing a blockchain project at the MWC, you realize there are no boundaries in tech anymore. Blockchain-based digital advertising sounded interesting and potentially disrupting the media sector as the users’ attention itself is intended to be valued with Basic Attention Tokens in Brave, the blockchain-based browser.

Most news, however, were coming from the MWC itself. Intel, IBM, DarkMatter, Ledger and many other companies presented their blockchain solutions. Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Rakuten (aka “Japanese Amazon”) announced launch of the company’s own cryptocurrency Rakuten Coin – in fact, a customer loyalty system based on blockchain.

Mercedes-Benz was also talking coins. Blockchain-based Mobicoin rewards drivers for positive behavior, as drivers could learn at How Blockchain can impact the mobility presentation at the company’s stand.

Read more: Ukraine’s major success at 4YFN and MWC

Mastercard announced a partnership with SAP’s Connected Vehicles Network platform to empower payments from the car driver’s seat. That was an interesting development to what I learned from the Swiss Payment Forum last year.

Cisco launched its Jasper control centre for NB-IoT with the aim to allow users to grow and deliver IoT products at a lower connectivity cost. This raises an important question about new potential fraud threats that accompany this opportunity and the need for trusted digital identities, in particular based on biometrics.

So it was not much of a surprise when SK Telecom announced at the MWC about acquisition of Swiss-based IDQ. The first quantum random number generator in the world and the first quantum key distribution service came from this quantum cryptography business, whose task will now be to strengthen data security in the next-generation telecom network.

IoT Security & the Blockchain panel (ARM, Cisco, KPN, Microsoft, Qualcomm) was discussing the IOT risks, blockchain and hardware-based security solutions. Some risk is inevitable in this new area, so the balance between risk and reward is needed when adopting the new IoT-enabled services.

New solutions to cybersecurity problems may come from quantum computing technology presented at the MWC, like Fujitsu’s Digital Annealer.

Read more: MWC 2018: King of Spain, smartphones, autonomous cars and spacecraft

Workshop by Xavier Foz of Roca Junyen “The Issuance Of Tokens As A New Way Of Financing” was about ICO as an opportunity for startups. ICO-based funding of blockchain projects has already surpassed the conventional venture capital funding. Legal and regulatory aspects in various jurisdictions as well as token types are among the important factors for the ICO.

So “Is a Cashless Society on the Horizon?” This was also the topic discussed by participants from Visa, Citigroup and other companies at the MWC.

The story would not be complete without mentioning the pitches of 4YFN 2018 Awards Finalists – AI was the hot topic and the winner was BoxMotions from Barcelona with an intelligent warehousing solution, while blockchain and cybersecurity featured high as well.

Excellent presentation of, and outcomes for, our Ukrainian startups (which included a Vakarin&Planida’s solution) were already covered in the previous article.

GoIgnite Alliance also announced a couple of startups in the IoT Cybersecurity area among the winners of their Global Call.

Many awards were also announced at the MWC itself. Evolved Intelligence became the MWC winner as the best mobile authentication and security solution for its Signalling Firewall that prevents network intrusions like eavesdropping/hacking on mobile phones.

Read more: Come to Barcelona to see the hi-tech future now – and Ukraine’s role in it

Republic of Estonia won the MWC’s government leadership award. As the GSMA said in a statement, “Estonia has made excellent progress towards the digital transformation of its government services, based upon a robust digital identity for all citizens.”

Almost at the end of the event, I tested sort of “mind wave” device to control movement of a toy car directly by the power of thought. Fascinating as it was, it provoked a thought – how does the security definition change if the function of this device could be reversed?

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