How Blockchain Could Improve Collaboration...

If that title doesn't pique your curiosity, it's time for me to exit and live out my days as a barista and writing jingles for TV.

Blockchain events are popping up everywhere these days, and last week, I spent a day at the Blockchain Futurist Conference in my hometown of Toronto. Like most people in my orbit, I have some toes dipped in this pond, both for business opportunities and to explore potential applications for collaboration. Well, in "Spinal Tap" style, if the artificial intelligence (AI) hype cycle is at 10, then it's at 11 with blockchain, and going higher.

Whatever your concerns are about blockchain, they're probably justified, and this event really didn't clear up mine. As with any emerging, disruptive force, there are more questions than answers, but more so than any other we've seen, this is purely a product of the digital generation.

If that world isn't native for you, it's going to be hard to understand where blockchain is coming from, as well as where it's going. I have a lot more to say, but this is starting to get obtuse, so to hold your interest, I'm just going to share two takeaways that I think will be of interest to No Jitter readers.

Takeaway #1 -- How Blockchain Can Improve Collaboration

While blockchain is often associated with cryptocurrencies and enabling bad actors to take their businesses off the grid, those same applications can be used for positive outcomes that help both people and organizations perform better. The underlying technology is complex -- and I'm the wrong guy to ask to explain it -- but we all care about security and privacy, and that's what you should be thinking about for collaboration. In human terms, what makes blockchain compelling is the potential to ensure trust when using the Internet and to protect our identity when communicating.

We all know that the threats undermining these basic needs are getting worse, and as deep fake becomes a thing, AI is getting so good that it will soon be impossible to know for sure who we're talking to, or even who is actually doing the talking. I'm not saying that blockchain is tailor-made for this, but as conversational AI becomes a bigger part of collaboration, trust matters more, especially when the chatbots are driving the discussion.

Now take this down a peg or two to VoIP, which is the cornerstone of all collaboration platforms aside from those built around messaging. This will be closer to home for our readers, many of whom will know that VoIP was never built with security in mind. It's often the weakest link in the chain for data networks, a vulnerability that gave rise to session border controllers (SBCs), which are now standard fare as enterprises migrate to IP, primarily for premises-based deployments.

For a variety of reasons, SBCs haven't made VoIP totally secure, and malicious activity such as call spoofing is easy to do if security measures are lax. Furthermore, in terms of use cases, there'll be collaboration scenarios that are highly sensitive and must be 100% private, or there'll simply be situations where some team members are in countries where VoIP is prohibited or monitored by government agencies. Extend that to mobile workers, who might be using Wi-Fi networks or messaging platforms that aren't very secure.

In short, blockchain is a distributed "ledger" that can't be altered, and can only be accessed on a permission basis in which all parties are validated. The basics of blockchain require more explanation, but even these core characteristics speak to the inherent shortcomings of VoIP, along with the above use cases, all of which can be holdbacks for effective collaboration.

These ideas may not fit the current collaboration value proposition, but as blockchain matures and finds its way into new markets, this space will have its moment. Currently, most business-based applications of blockchain are in supply chain logistics, where the value comes from tracking assets. With cryptocurrencies, blockchain is about tracking transactions, and with collaboration, it will be about tracking communications via data packets. While I didn't hear any talk along these lines at the conference, it's really not a big stretch to see collaboration vendors using blockchain at some point as a differentiator or value-add to make communications truly secure and private.

Continue to Page 2: Takeaway # 2 -- Larry King Asks the Right Question