“Legislation needs to change to unlock the potential that Blockchain has to offer”
Montse Guàrdia is the Digital Challenge Director of Banco Sabadell and Deputy Chairperson of Alastria, the world’s first national regulated network based on Blockchain. This non-profit consortium was created to accelerate the creation of digital ecosystems by making a common collaborative platform available to them.
Guàrdia insists that Alastria needs to work within a regulatory framework, but emphasises that in order for this to happen there needs to be a change in the regulatory environment in order to unlock the potential offered by Blockchain.
What does Alastria mean?
We first presented the consortium under the name Red Lyra. Lyra is the name of a star, and Alastria is a constellation in Star Trek. It is a very clear way of showing that we are a consortium formed of a number of different companies of various sizes.
Alastria is also a genus of moths with bright colours, and we chose this name because these moths are a burst of light in dark places, like we are when we innovate. Alastria is also an Australian heavy metal band, which is appropriate because what we do is ground-breaking.
Where did the idea come from?
The idea was first thought up by Alex Puig, an entrepreneur who came to us at Banco Sabadell because we had already organised high-impact activities, such as the Blockchain Hackathon and the involvement of Vitalik Buterin in 4YFN. Early in February we sat down with him for a coffee and we agreed that the project made sense, but we needed more companies to get on board.
Why set up a new consortium?
The consortiums that exist today are industry-based and focus on very specific aspects. A multi-industry consortium aiming to strengthen its use within a regulatory framework is something that has never been done before. This is why there needs to be a change in the regulatory framework to unlock the potential offered by Blockchain.
What are the foundations on which Alastria has been built?
The objective of the consortium is not for profit but for the public. We are building an infrastructure that we can use in a robust and cooperative way to do business. Transactions will focus on the end user, who requires not only financial services, but also insurance companies, food companies, energy companies, etc.
It is a semi-public, permit-based network
Blockchain technology was originally public in nature, but there are also private networks that are used for a single purpose.
Being semi-public and permit-based means that the majority of the services are public, but some nodes have a permit that allows them to be private and carry out a specific type of business.
You refer to Alastria as “the internet of the future”.
The current internet that we know today is a communication protocol that we use to set up software applications and keep centralised data.
Blockchain goes one step further. It adds uniform layers of software that allow data to be transmitted far more securely and doesn’t need it to be centralised, meaning that data can reach people in a more standardised way.
Can you give us an example of how it is being used?
We have come across a few very clear examples of how it is being used, which are linked to the end-to-end needs of users. A typical scenario is a car accident. After you have an accident, you need to pull over, fill out the paperwork, send it to the insurance company, take your car to the repair shop... And after that the insurance companies need to agree who will pay for the damage. After several months and many hours of work they finally repair your car.
Blockchain would automate this process. It would create a transaction that would bring together insurers, the repair shop, the company’s management and if necessary the user and the user’s bank account.
What is Blockchain?
Blockchain is a chain of records or blocks of information extracted from nodes. A node is a connection between the final user and the Blockchain which sends the information.
Tokenisation goes a bit further: it uses your node, which can be your PC, to associate unique data to a physical value. For example, Blockchain tells us what internet data about a person makes up that person’s unique digital identity. That person is therefore being tokenised, they are being converted into a series of unique characters that will be transmitted when their digital information is required.
A smart contract allows the token, provided that it meets a series of criteria between two or more people, to execute an action.
The entrepreneurial ecosystem is gaining visibility.
It is a fully inclusive consortium that maintains that Blockchain is a network for everyone. Today, the world is formed of industrial companies and also start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Most entrepreneurs know a lot about technology and we need them in order to work together. Blockchain is a technology that allows us to innovate, so the more open and diverse the better.
How many companies are members?
At the moment there are 121 official partners and 50 who are in the process of becoming partners. Close to 40 are SMEs (with less than 500 employees) and another 40 are large enterprises. There are also 17 non-profit institutions and law firms, as well as companies from the audiovisual, energy, healthcare, aerospace and other sectors.
There are 9 companies on the Board. We work well together despite being different companies, because we share the same values.
What is your roadmap?
Alastria is still in its project stage, we are linking nodes and running tests, but we have set up different committees in order to illustrate the aim with which we created the consortium.
The roadmap focuses on two of the consortium’s main objectives: the construction of the IT platform that robustly and resiliently uses state-of-the-art software, and the building of our digital identity. We are working hard for this project to become a reality in the near future and to have support from our notaries.
Will you join forces with other networks?
Yes, the idea in the long-term is to be inter-operational. We have decided to begin with the Ethereum protocol because it is the most advanced at the moment, but we are also running tests with Hyperledger. Our aim is to connect Alastria on an international scale.