A blockchain-based innovation for a better and more reliable future
As part of the Ericsson Innovation Awards 2018 edition, two smart students from the University of Melbourne in Australia have reached the semi-final stages of the awards. As the final phase looms, students have been paired with mentors from within the Ericsson organization to prepare a submission about how to better enable the “Future of Truth”.
Innovation as a tool for relevance and a sustainable future
I find it fascinating how much history Ericsson has since it started in a little workshop in Stockholm. More than a hundred years later, Ericsson has a global presence that spans more than 180 countries with a workforce of more than 100,000 people who share the values of professionalism, respect, and perseverance. In technology, we can read everywhere how several of the big companies of today also had humble starts; however, few companies manage to successfully transition from one paradigm to another while keeping relevant.
The answer to relevance doesn’t have a single dimension; so many qualities are a must in a competitive global market: purpose, integrity, leadership come to mind to name a few. Something that is a must though, is innovation. Companies must continuously innovate to stay ahead of the game. One of the ways Ericsson helps driving innovation outside the company is through the Ericsson Innovation Awards (EIA). The EIA are a global, annual competition that gives students around the world the opportunity to develop new, innovative ideas in collaboration with Ericsson experts. These ideas tackle some of the big issues we see in our world today and are closely aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
The theme for the 2018 Ericsson Innovation Awards competition is “The Future of Truth”, which is about how we will find, validate, and share truth in the age of ICT.
The Future of truth
In an all-connected world, we seem to be experiencing a “privacy divide”: on one hand we have started to share and get access to increasingly more information via the internet and social networks, but at the same time, anxiety about privacy and what and who gets access to our personal information and data has become a very valid concern. According to research from Ericsson ConsumerLab, some people only want to use encrypted services, while others believe that everything can be hacked and that the idea of privacy no longer exists.
It has become then an imperative to – amongst other measures – come up with ways to ensure data integrity is maintained so any tampering with it can be identified and corrected, ultimately meaning that we can trust the information we share is safe and the information we search for and find on the internet and other sources can be trusted.
A blockchain approach to data search
Thanks to dedication, hard work and a very innovative idea, team “Nexus Associates” formed by University of Melbourne students Shelby Ueckermann and Eugene Fedorchenko was chosen as one of only 15 semi-finalists from a group of 1,444 university teams that applied to the 2018 edition of EIA. Nexus Associates’ idea stems from the fact that nowadays, information is often lost or misconstrued due to an inability to retrieve it efficiently, resulting in quick decisions made without all the facts. The proposed solution, built on a blockchain network devises a new way to categorize and search information, allowing companies, governments, and consumers to make faster decisions that are better informed and most of all, secure.
Being part of the top 1% of all entries was already a great start for the team, but what followed was nonstop work to massage the idea and develop a Minimum Viable Product that can be the foundation of a solution that can later be implemented. Here is where I finally come to the picture: together with two colleagues from Ericsson Sweden, we formed the core mentoring team that for several weeks tried to assist Shelby and Eugene as much as we could to develop their idea. While it can be sort of obvious the value that mentors are supposed to bring (advice, coaching, guidance – even if I was nowhere close to be an expert about blockchain), what I found even more telling was learning the flow of knowledge goes both ways. As a mentor, I also learnt a lot from the students, not only about the solution itself, but also about the several other concepts and techniques that need to be considered when developing a product. And, more importantly, got to meet a group of great new people: the students and my mentor colleagues. I really hope our team wins and that the proposed solution sees the light. But most importantly, I hope to stay in touch with my newfound colleagues. Go team Nexus Associates!
Ericsson Innovation Awards 2018 Finalists will be announced on April 3 on ericssoninnovationawards.com.