On Friday, 11 teams joined the 2018 EU Blockathon Challenge in Brussels for 48 hours of coding and co-creation. The hackathon, an initiative by the European Commission (EC) and the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), seeks to build the next level anti-counterfeiting infrastructure for the European Union (EU) powered by blockchain technology.
The 11 teams of coders, blockchain experts and stakeholders are competing for a EUR 100,000 prize and have just two days to create tools for enforcement authorities to rapidly identify fakes and criminal activity, all the while helping legitimate companies protect their business assets and enabling consumers to make informed, genuine, choices.
Infringements of intellectual property, such as counterfeiting and piracy, cost legitimate businesses EUR 90 billion and reduce employment by around 800 000 jobs every year. It also poses a challenge for consumers who are often confused about whether a product is authentic or not. In 2017, over 35 % of EU consumers, or around 150 million in total, wondered whether a product purchased was real or fake. That same year, 10% of EU consumers, or around 43 million citizens, were tricked into buying a fake product instead of a genuine one.
The organizers of the 2018 EU Blockathon said the event was aimed at bringing together the best coders and creative minds to unlock the potential of blockchain and co-create an integrated solution to combat counterfeiting.
“The EUIPO is determined to explore the potential of blockchain to interconnect systems and ensure security and immutability of shared data in order to add trust to our legitimate ecosystem for the benefits of citizens, enforcers and companies alike,” said António Campinos, the executive director of the EUIPO. “We believe a strong networked alliance can be built to secure logistics, ensure authenticity of goods, protect consumers and combat criminal and illegal activities.”
The 2018 EU Blockathon marks a broader trend in the EU where governments and the public sector are turning to blockchain technology to solve business and societal issues.
The EU laid the groundwork for widespread deployment of blockchain technology in April when member states signed the declaration on the establishment of the European Blockchain Partnership.
The initiative aims to facilitate collaboration amongst member states on technical and regulatory fields as the EU is preparing for the launch of EU-wide blockchain applications across the “Digital Single Market.”
“In the future, all public services will use blockchain technology,” said Mariya Gabriel, the commissioner for Digital Economy and Society.
“Blockchain is a great opportunity for Europe and member states to rethink their information systems, to promote user trust and the protection of personal data, to help create new business opportunities and to establish new areas of leadership, benefiting citizens, public services and companies.”
Industry participants welcomed the move with many arguing that the region is poised to become a leader in blockchain technology.
“The current level of blockchain innovation occurring within Europe is quite outstanding,” said Manuel Martin, co-founder and senior project leader at Orvium, an open source platform for managing scholarly publications’ lifecycles.
“Through continued cooperation, Europe may successfully position itself as a leader in new decentralized digital era, one that is only around the corner. The good news here is that the building blocks are already in place, and that the European public institutions are already moving in the right direction.”
“The differences between Europe and the rest of the world lies predominantly in the size of its talent pool,” Kowalewski said.
“The continent is home to major crypto hubs, such as Zug, Switzerland, which is home to the Lisk Foundation and was among the first of places in the world to embrace cryptocurrencies as part of its economic system. Other European cities, such as Berlin, are home to many prominent blockchain projects and are driving progress throughout the sector.
“To date, Europe has been a leader in the adoption of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.”