The Search for Breakthroughs in Blockchain Technology

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Sigrid Sømod (Photo Credit: Sigrid Sømod)

Lately, it seems like everyone is excited about blockchain technology. When I attended Blockchain New York, the technology was praised for its immense potential by banks, startups, and investors alike. Bitcoin was mentioned from time to time, as one may assume, but the name of the conference perfectly matched the audience’s true interest.

The companies attending the conference made up only a small portion of those “looking into” blockchain technology. Every day, it seems as though my Twitter feed is filled with announcements about the applications of blockchain technology across various industries. (Right this minute, five new related tweets have popped up, ranging from an infographic on how blockchain will disrupt banking to news about Align Commerce‘s funding.)

One such company pursuing developments in the technology is Accenture, a consulting services firm. The business has been in the news several times for their statements on the potential changes that could be brought about with blockchain technology, including an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. Recently, Accenture published a report on blockchain strategies for Asia-Pacific banks.

As blockchain rises, financial transactions will become more streamlined and the number of entities involved in any exchange of capital, equity, or securities will decrease. As seats at the table become fewer, only the companies and banks who embraced blockchain’s potential early will remain.

– Accenture, Blockchain in the Corporate Environment Has Big Potential, But Faces Implementation Challenges

I first found Sigrid Sømod through Instagram. She had posted a photo of her thesis, titled “Blockchain Technology”, and I reached out to her to learn more. Now that her thesis is complete, Sømod is working as a Business Analyst at Accenture to find real world applications for her studies: “It is very exiting for me to be a part of!”

Emily Braun: What inspired you to complete your thesis on blockchain technology? What did you study in school, and how did blockchain tech fit into it?

Sigrid Sømod: My master was in economics and IT, and I have especially been interested in macroeconomics. Even though my studies fit well with blockchain, it was actually not in school that I got acquainted with the technology. I have been very interested in politics, and I was introduced to Bitcoin in 2013 by some libertarian friends and became quite interested in the concept. I started my thesis on Bitcoin, but as the thesis progressed, I found that blockchain was more interesting. Less vulnerabilities and more possibilities.

Braun: How has your interest in blockchain developed over time?

Sømod: Originally, I [didn’t have] any interest in blockchain. But as I started to study Bitcoin, I became more & more interested in the technology and understood that the technology was actually the most interesting part of Bitcoin. I began to think that this could really transform the way we do cross-border payments. As my research continued, I of course saw that payments was only one of several application areas.

Braun: Do you still have any interest in Bitcoin, or are your interests solely in blockchain technology now? And why?

Sømod: I have some bitcoin, and I really like the idea of cryptocurrencies. I think of it more as an underground technology. I don’t think that Bitcoin will ever become a very utilized payment method or an asset for savings. I think it is too volatile, and it will be too hard to make people understand how the currency works; they will thus stay skeptical toward it.

Braun: What’s the most interesting thing that you learned while completing your thesis?

Sømod: The most interesting was actually to discover how outdated and cumbersome our current payment systems are. I had an idea that blockchain might be more efficient than what we currently use, and when I discovered how payment networks work now, I was not in doubt.

Braun: There are so many companies out there now that are utilizing blockchain technology. Are there any about which you’re particularly excited?

Sømod: As I work with established finance, my interest is mainly within the solutions that connect the technology to the existing systems. I am thus very exited about Ripple (even though they are not even a blockchain company), and I look forward to see what is happening with the R3 collaboration with all the big banks. I truly believe that the technology can disrupt the financial industry as we know it today.

Braun: Do you use any of the various blockchain services out there? If so, which ones?

Sømod: No, not really. I use the Mycelium wallet for my bitcoin, but that is all.

Braun: What are your future plans, now that you’ve completed your thesis?

Sømod: Well, I actually work in Accenture’s financial services. We are starting to look more into blockchain and its application areas, so it is very exiting for me to be a part of!

Braun: What does the future of blockchain technology look like?

Sømod: I believe that it will be a building block for the future infrastructure of financial services. There are so many ways in which blockchain can optimize the current processes. I have heard much about how the technology can be useful in other industries, but I know too little about these other application areas to evaluate the potential.

– Emily Braun

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