Blockchain tooling, which in the early days was little more than “a raw set of protocols” is now relatively mature, according to Kemp, although it is likely to take two or three more years until “killer applications” became available for the diamonds industry. De Beers, developer of Tracr, the first end-to-end diamond industry blockchain platform,2 has spoken of steadily scaling up blockchain processes by 2025 and complete integration into the industry by 2030.
On the specific problems that can be addressed by blockchain, Kemp believes that these vary significantly from industry to industry. The Kimberley Process, set up in 2003 to regulate the trade in rough diamonds, is one example. It has involved global coordination by those in the industry to address the issue and has benefited from the advance of blockchain technology.
However, as Laboure noted, in other sectors such as oil production although it is recognised that blockchain offers a range of benefits such as making trade finance and letters of credit easier and more efficient, the technology has yet to achieve critical mass.
Link spoke of the need for technology development to be matched by specific industry applications. “You need a good, long-term understanding of an industry and its particular problems in order to implement blockchain successfully,” he suggested. This means earning the trust of its main stakeholders, who will take on a new and unfamiliar concept only once they fully understand it. The initial costs also need to be relatively low in order to attract a sufficient critical mass of users,
Kemp acknowledged that there is still much work to be completed in the ongoing process of digital transformation. This requires a coherent data strategy, including a default set of standards on data and data sharing – although this is not a technology problem, but one of human trust. However, she stressed that there are ways of bringing together multiple chains and linking them for data to be exchanged.
For her, the “holy grail” is a future in which people routinely used blockchain-based products oblivious of the fact they are doing so. And for Link, blockchain has the potential to bring efficiencies to the entire supply chain management process as competitors come together through a mutual interest in using it to enjoy the benefits. “DLT technology is the one that adds value,” he concluded.