Here is our interview with Mr Keir Finlow-Bates, Founder and CEO, Chainfrog.com, Finland, one of the early adopters of blockchain technology whose company Chainfrog.com has filed more than 20 patents on the blockchain technology solutions and still counting. He shares many nuggets related to blockchain and its future course. Its a pleasure to have interviewed him for our wimplo news platform
Ganesh: Hi viewers. We have with us a wonderful guest who is an authority in the blockchain. He’s been filing patents, he’s been a known name in blockchain industry across the globe. He’s Mr.Keir from Finland and he’s going to share his thoughts on various developments happening in the blockchain technology. And let’s welcome him when we get to his thoughts. Greetings Mr. Keir. Thank you so much for agreeing to share your thoughts with us. Can you tell us how long you’ve been associated with blockchain technology and your journey?
Keir: Well the first thanks very much for having me on this podcast. I think I first came across Nakamoto’s paper either in late 2009 or early 2010. And at the time I thought it looked like a wonderful collection of various things cryptography and mathematics and databases and stuff like that. And then I think it was on and off over the next three years I kept dipping into it and seeing what was going on in the community because it was back in the early days. Nobody really understood what was going on with blockchain. And it was finally in about 2013 that I took the plunge really started putting some real time into it. So that’s my sort of early history.
Ganesh: So you started almost the same time as Satoshi Nakamoto.
Keir: I think I was about a year after him. No. And at that point, I was only interested in the technology itself. So, unfortunately, I didn’t go out and mine one hundred thousand bitcoins. That’s why I’m sitting. That’s why I’m sitting here in a Citroen and not a Rolls-Royce.
Ganesh: So you’ve been filing patents on blockchain technology on a frequent basis. So how many have been granted so far.
Keir: Well at the moment, I think the total is four about to become five with my own company. When I was working for my previous employer I submitted about 10 blockchain inventions between 2013 and 15 at that time. They didn’t really know what the technology was about. So they’ve got a couple of grants that I’m the named inventor and I think the applications that are pending I’ve got another 20 or 22 or so. We’re looking at about 30 in total. Of course, the grant rate is about 60 percent in that unit. So I’m hoping I’ll have about 15 within the next couple of years.
Ganesh: OK would you like to share with us which one you consider as a significant breakthrough of all the solutions which you have proposed and developed so far.
Keir: Right. Well, I’ve generally been focusing on is the layering sort of directly above the blockchain. So when you look at the patent landscape there’s an awful lot of patents. Patent applications and patents out there that are kind of like if we draw a parallel with the Internet it’s like people trying to patent selling dog food and on the Internet or showing video on the Internet the kind of applications. And at the very base level, you have kind of some sort of fundamental blockchain technology like consensus systems and most of my inventions are kind of one layer up on that. So it’s still generally not focused on a particular industry vertical but I’ve been generally looking at how can the existing blockchain infrastructure be improved and connect better with existing technologies like databases or digital certificates things like that but I have them sort of all the way up to sort of specific applications and then I’ve got a couple of consensus system ideas that are currently pending as well. So pretty much across the range but mainly focusing just above the base technology.
Ganesh: Are nascent blockchains susceptible to 51% attacks. If so can we fully overcome this compromise?
Keir: I’m sorry are you asking about the 51 percent attack there. I’d say it’s a real risk. I don’t think it’s gonna be a problem for the big blockchain like the bitcoin or ethereum and because they’re so large but for smaller blockchains that are public and open. It’s a real risk that somebody could come in and take over the mining power and then start basically completely controlling the coin. Particularly the case where a blockchain is just a straight clone of something like Bitcoin with a few parameters changed and they’re using the same consensus system. So if I was launching a new small blockchain I would stick a different proof of work system on it if I was going to use proof of work instead of two times. SHA 2 5 6 followed by Blake or some other hash function where the mining equipment isn’t out there and therefore it’s likely to be taken over. But indeed for small new blockchains, it’s a real risk.
Ganesh: We reported recently Volkswagen using blockchain for its cobalt supply chain. What are some productivity gains obtained from such endeavors? How other industries could simulate such use cases?
Keir: Well I sort of backing up a step there I do think that supply chain is one of the very good use cases or blockchain when you have a question of the sort of provenance of the goods on the chain and when you have all these different parties that receive goods maybe process them and then shipped them on to the next party. Or something like mining where you’re concerned about ecological issues and ethics and also the quality of goods it makes sense to me to put that chain on a blockchain especially since the existing systems don’t interact well so you have a surprising amount of paper involved in traditional supply chains. As for the Volkswagen specific case, I guess we’ll have to see. No doubt they’ll come out with some report as to whether it was a roaring success or whether in the long run actually didn’t work out.
Ganesh: Can we have bitcoin blockchain as a security layer in the cybersecurity domain? Nothing related to digital coins but a security layer for safety. What are the pros and cons and risks involved in implementing?
Keir: Yeah. When it comes to security and that word means so many different things right. You can talk about securing your data or securing access or identifying someone securely. So it’s a very broad question. Can we use a blockchain for security and I mean blockchain. As it stands as the sort of fundamental core technology the only security it really offers is one of I suppose Identity and Access Management namely when I have my private key I am the owner and not if I’m the only one who has the private key to my public address and I’m the only one who can validly submit transactions using that address and it has a balance associated with it. I’m the only one to spend it. And that really is sort of the fundamental thing the blockchain provides. Now you can then use that to for example issue security tokens in the way that is currently done in centralized systems where you have like a session token so you could use blockchain to provide a session tokens in a more decentralized manner. As for how that’s going I don’t really know at the moment. I mean it’s a possible application of the technology and it’s leveraging the strong identity capabilities the blockchain gives that an individual has given them.
Ganesh: At least at a higher level, can you say there are any risks involved in that.
Keir: Well it’s to do with the computers and data and networks. So, of course, there’s going to be a risk. Nothing in human endeavors is risk-free. There are always people trying to subvert a system to their financial or personal gain. And no doubt if we start seeing these kinds of security systems springing up we’ll find out there are all sorts of other weaknesses that we haven’t thought of before. This is the problem with security is you’re kind of playing a game Whack a mole that the malicious parties are always trying new ways to subvert the system to their own gain. And if you have a new system they will find new ways around it. So it’s there’s nothing that’s going to give us perfect security. This allows us an extra security layer or an extra approach to security. But it’s early days so we’re going to see all sorts of strange exploits in future I’m sure.
Ganesh: OK As blockchain size grows, transaction rate deteriorates. Is the major drawback being addressed to have seamless blockchain transactions? What are the alternatives?
Keir: Well I think firstly the increase in the size of the peer to peer network is generally not a limiting factor in terms of getting the messages around the network. But indeed there is a problem whereas you have more and more participants more people using clients you see more and more transactions and there is an upper limit. And that’s a natural case for any system whether it’s a blockchain or a database. And we have a lot of technology to improve transaction rates for databases and we have databases that are specifically focused on low size high volume transactions for example. I am not sure Nakamoto really sort of. He showed a lot of insight into a lot of success probably he probably thought about it but the system as it stands does have these limitations and now they’re down to things such as the maximum size of blocks and the rate at which blocks arrive. I think when it comes to improving existing blockchain systems we’re looking at bolt-ons. And if I can use an analogy here it’s like the car engine right. If you look at the engine in the bonnet under the bonnet of your car the core thing is these cylinders and Pistons but then there are heaps and heaps of other things that are bolted onto it. No starter motor alternator battery replacement of carburetors with fuel injection all sorts of inventions that have come up over the centuries are followed to make cars more and more reliable and efficient. And I think that’s what we’re going to see him blockchain to. Is that the kind of cool part we’ll just chug away as it always has. Because it’s very very hard to change but people will use their ingenuity to for example blockchain Bitcoin there’s the lightning network to take all these small high volume transactions off the main chain and use the bitcoin blockchain more as a clearing bank or settlement system. And similarly, we’re seeing for example with the Dags(Directed acyclic graph) that they can handle many many more transactions but they generally do this at a cost of reducing the decentralization come they add a certain amount of control back to a limited number of participants. So it’s all in development but people are thinking about it all the time. And I when I see articles on this issue there always there’s always progress being made
Ganesh: On the way, you give an analogy to every question. I have been following a couple of your Youtube, LinkedIn videos too. The way you connect real world scenario, how do you explain the technology with it. It’s really awesome.
Keir: Yes. Well, thank you very much. I think I picked that up when I was a maths lecturer in London to people. I found that the students did better if they had a real-life example some sort of abstract ideas to go to. It’s a way of working. It doesn’t work for everyone, of course, some people do just like. The kind of pure abstract but there.
Ganesh: How can the art industry leverage blockchain. Has there been successful use cases especially in managing & protecting IPR (Intellectual Property Rights)?
Keir: Got and you’ve got sort of a virtual property there. It’s not. It’s trying to protect ideas or the way that an idea can be expressed. You have different areas of IP like patents which cover. Machines that embody ideas. We have copyright which is for things like novels and song lyrics and stuff like that. And those protecting those are different problems. So when it comes to intellectual property like the written word or music or something like that you can use the blockchain trying to record who came up with it first. Then you have a record that says This person wrote this song. And you don’t end up with a problem which we’re actually facing in the blockchain world where somebody says I wrote this paper.
Craig Wright just did that with Satoshi Nakamoto paper registered that it’s his and he’s you know he registered with the Copyright Office.
If Nakamoto had stopped that on the blockchain because he couldn’t exist at the point that he published this if there was a copyright law then he would have a better indicator that this person really did produce that paper, not this other person. You could say well if you did produce this paper signed this transaction with your private key to do to prove it. When it comes to patents they are interesting because I think patents are the closest that the law comes to computer programming.
If you look at the language of patents they read very much like terms are very well defined very clearly defined. But it’s still open to human interpretation. So there again it’s just a matter of recording who wrote down what then ultimately courts to decide what the actual meaning of what was written down is whether a particular that you could find and again for.
Recording the fact that a patent it’s been filed or awarded blockchain may be useful for that. But I can’t see smart contracts removing the need for courts to determine whether patents are being infringed.
Ganesh: Which means it won’t be a significant impact even if we use blockchain in that space.
[00:16:32] Keir: Only in terms of having an immutable ledger so that people can come back and change history. And that’s actually not a small thing. Right. And we know a lot of legal arguments are. He said she said kind of discussions and then you need to convince a jury or a judge that you are the party who is telling the truth. So it can add a certain amount of you can add something extra to that. But it’s I don’t see it as being you know it’s not going to revolutionize this area. That would be my guess anyway.