Tech experts discuss the future of blockchain and cryptocurrency

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Adam Dekavallas runs audience members through a game modeled after blockchain use during The Blockchain Experience Saturday, Sept. 8 at Startups on Central. Winners received Bitcoin as a prize. (Kailey Broussard/DD)

From big-name cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin to the system that powers them, EZ Crypto Training co-founder Adam Dekavallas said it’s time for people — especially Arizonans — to embrace the emerging technology.

“The idea of cryptocurrency isn’t going anywhere,” he said during a panel discussion on blockchain Saturday. “The big players in the game will be around for a while.”

Dekavallas and several panelists at The Blockchain Experience, a three-hour event at Startups on Central in downtown Phoenix Saturday, discussed the uses and logistics of blockchain. The secure record used to verify cryptocurrency transaction, Dekavallas said, is already reshaping world systems. Companies such as IBM have begun developing everyday technologies that users must learn.

“You have this huge gap of knowledge,” he said. “We saw that as an opportunity to educate people and to bring them into the fold to help mass adoption become quicker.”

David Saxton, co-founder of NET1 and Blockchain Equities, said corporations began research into the technology in the late 2000s and are implementing blockchain across different industries.

“Anything that involves the movement of information that has to be validated and secure is going to move to blockchain,” he said.

Unlike most banking systems, blockchains are not controlled by a central institution. Instead, transactions such as trading and depositing depend on community approval. Each user has his or her own unique code, and each transaction is marked by a timestamp. Blockchains are used to verify transactions behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

Blockchain security is based on encryption of user data. All users have a record of transactions, making hacking the system a difficult task. However, the novelty of a decentralized currency still gives some people pause, Dekavallas said.

Adam Dekavallas, left, and David Saxton, right, discuss cryptocurrency and emerging technology at The Blockchain Experience Saturday, Sept. 8, at Startups on Central in downtown Phoenix. (Kailey Broussard/DD)

Although best known for powering currency such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, blockchain is also being used to store medical data, verify concert ticket sales and process insurance claims.

Avery Carter, 23, a senior majoring in general studies at Arizona State University and a panelist, said blockchain and cryptocurrency are shrouded in an “air of illegitimacy” because of the few resources for beginning investors.

“There is a risk of getting hurt financially,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of people that come into the industry with not a lot of knowledge. They’ll dump their life’s savings into something that they think they can trust.”

The movement towards blockchain, Carter said, is unlike any other scientific development because of its strong monetary incentive. He described the “social push” to advance the technology, as well as the unwanted attention on the field, as  “necessary evil.”

Carter founded Blockchain Innovation Society, an ASU organization that hosts weekly seminars on various topics surrounding blockchain and bitcoin. He said although the future of blockchain in Phoenix is hard to predict, he is encouraged by the city’s “small but rapidly progressing tech scene” that is intent on learning the technology.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of cool things that are going to come up out of Phoenix as a blockchain ecosystem,” he said.

A team competes in a blockchain game for a Bitcoin prize Saturday as part of The Blockchain Experience, an educational event hosted in Startups on Central in downtown Phoenix. (Kailey Broussard/DD)

Arizona joins a handful of states that have passed legislation recognizing and regulating blockchain transactions, according to Brookings. Since 2017, Gov. Doug Ducey has signed off on multiple bills recognizing the validity of blockchain transactions.

In early 2018, Arizona also became the first state to offer testing grounds for innovations in finance and cryptocurrency, according to the state attorney general’s website. Called a “sandbox,” the program is geared toward providing developers and entrepreneurs the opportunity to explore ideas without the price tag.

Devin Vu, a 48-year-old entrepreneur, said he sees Phoenix as a “hotbed” for innovation.

“For Arizona, it’s going to be fantastic because it’s one of few places in the world that allows entrepreneurs or thought leaders in the state to actually proceed,” Vu said.

EZ Crypto Training’s next training event is set for 1 p.m. Oct. 20 at Startups on Central at 1 E. Washington St.

Contact reporter at [email protected].

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