Blockchain: Potential Uses – Incorporating International Standards – Part 3

Blockchain: Potential Uses – Incorporating International Standards – Part 3


Potential uses incorporating international standards (Part 3)



Trust in a digital world

As I previously mentioned, trust in the digital world is an important subject, and I have explained how standards can play a part in building that trust.

Technological convergence

The convergence of creativity and technology can lead to radical changes in existing business models and the organizational structures they sit within.
Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) is presently as much a series of challenges and questions to existing structures, as opposed to a set of answers and practical possibilities.
But it appears to have at least some qualities, and to be in the appropriate context, to produce change at the more revolutionary end of the spectrum.
DLTs offer significant challenges to established orthodoxy and assumptions of best practice, far beyond the recording of transactions and ledgers. These potentially revolutionary organizational structures and practices should be experimentally trialled — perhaps in the form of technical and non-technical demonstrator projects — so that practical, legal and policy implications can be explored.

Make no mistake, blockchain is potentially disruptive to any existing organisations whose business model is founded on centralised control.

It is this potential for disruption and the ability to create global networks quickly that gives smaller, more agile, businesses an opportunity to compete in global markets in the same way as the internet has done in recent years.

There are challenges to be overcome, and new best practices will emerge through the development and adoption of standards, but small companies are well placed to benefit from this disruption to traditional ways of doing business.

Trust and interoperability

Trust is a risk judgement between two or more people, organizations or nations. In cyberspace, trust is based on two key requirements:

  • Prove to me that you are who you say you are (authentication)
  • Prove to me that you have the permissions necessary to do what you ask (authorization)


All contracts, smart or otherwise, rely on the ability for each party in a transaction to know who the other parties are.

There are many cases currently where the true identity of certain parties is not clear, and ISO 8000-116 identifiers will play a massive role in the future of smart contracts.

Another key element to ensure trust, is the level of security based on public key infrastructure federations, known as PKI. These security systems are rated by their Level of assurance (LoA).

In any system that has achieved a very high assurance, level 3 or 4, some sort of encryption standard will have been deployed.

In Austria, the e-government scheme is a level 3+ PKI.

Trust and interoperability

Trust is a risk judgement between two or more people, organizations or nations. In cyberspace, trust is based on two key requirements:

  • Prove to me that you are who you say you are (authentication)
  • Prove to me that you have the permissions necessary to do what you ask (authorization)

Interoperability involves several factors:

Data interoperability. We need to understand each other in order to work together, so our data has to have the same syntactic and semantic foundations;

Policy interoperability. Our policies need to be aligned or based on agreed common policy, so that I can be confident that you will treat my information in the way that I expect (and vice versa)

The effective, collaborative implementation and use of international standards.


Smart contracts of the future will take many forms. Whether these are permissioned or unpermissioned, public or private shared systems, depends on the use case.

Permissioned smart contracts could give a user the right to either share or withhold data with or from another party.

In this part of this section, we will discuss some practical, potential applications for the use of this technology. 

Trust in a digital world

Several industries use security systems based on Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) federations that rely on a cryptographic standard called X.509. These offer high and very high assurance levels (LoA 3 and 4) for employee authentication, notably in aviation, the pharmaceutical industry, defense, banking and, increasingly, e-health.

The US and China have the largest deployments of international-standard PKI federations, closely followed by South Korea (where it is mandated for all companies by regulation), Estonia, Netherlands and many others.

At LoA 3+, it is possible to link a user’s identity to other trust functions, such as legally-robust digital signatures, identity-linked encryption and physical access control in buildings. PKI federation isn’t the only option for high assurance supply chain collaboration and sharing sensitive information at scale, but it is the de facto norm today

Personalausweis, the Austrian e-government scheme is a level 3+ PKI

Today, most businesses run a centralised business model. This is a very controlled model, and it is vulnerable to a single point of failure.

At the other end of the scale we have unpermissioned, public shared systems that are 100% decentralised. Bitcoin and other crypto currencies are examples of unpermissioned, public, shared systems that are 100% decentralised.

Crypto currencies rely on anonymity, therefore must also rely on a control to gain consensus that transactions are genuine. Crypto currencies achieve this consensus through a protocol called “proof of work”. You may of heard that machines linked to Bitcoin require a lot of power to solve complex puzzles. These puzzles are the way in which thisproof of work is verified.

Business is not likely to adopt the crypto currency model. It is likely that the future of smart contracts will involve a private network of trusted parties who are authorised to verify transactions,

Permissioned, public shared, smart contracts

  • User 1 opts in to a smart contract on a shared ledger to share their address with an institution that possesses a blue key (there may be many other institutions, with many different keys).
  • But User 2 has opted out of sharing their address, so the institution only receives a copy of the latest address from User 1.
  • Opting in via a trusted agency may be useful when an individual changes their address, because the change could be reflected on their passport, drivers license and other key department databases.

Public authorities however, are predicted to adopt permissioned, public shared systems.

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Blockchain: Potential Uses – Incorporating International Standards – Part 3

Blockchain: Potential Uses – Incorporating International Standards – Part 4


Potential uses incorporating international standards (Part 4)



Practical application

In the UK when we move house, we currently have to individually inform many different public and private organisations, including subsidiaries of parent organisations we may already have contacted.

This is not only a waste of time for all parties, it inevitably leads to errors in adding these records into the multiple databases, hence why there is a major industry sector involved with updating name and address records in the customer relation management databases of both public and private sector organisations.

Current process

Address updating following a house move

Trust is a risk judgement between two or more people, organizations or nations. In cyberspace, trust is based on two key requirements:

  • Water
  • Gas
  • Electricity
  • Internet
  • Landline
  • Mobile
  • TV Licensing
  • Local Authority
  • Vehicle licensing
  • Bank
  • Employer
  • Post

Future process

Address updating following a house move

A hyperledger application could allow the creation of golden records so that users can choose who they share their data with, ensuring all records are current and verified.

Application of Blockchain

Businesses often find ‘permissioned’ block chains far more appealing than Bitcoin’s unpermissioned model, because specific parties are authorized to verify transactions. This allows the businesses to create secured, shared, private networks involving mutually trusting firms and individuals.

Public authorities are likely to adopt permissioned, public, shared systems

A permissioned, public, shared system based on Hyperledger technology would enable users to upload their personal address data to a single site, and decide who to share it with. As the data exchange would be digital, the number of errors in organisation databases would be vastly reduced, as would the time and cost of updating all these disparate databases.

The details would have the provenance of the individual, and verification built into the system so that multiple documents are not required as evidence.

An e-government scheme could easily be extended to cover this use case.

The private sector however, is predicted to adopt permissioned, private, shared systems.

Smart contracts

Smart contracts are being considered for a wide variety of uses, particularly for regulatory compliance, product traceability and service management, and also to defeat counterfeit products and fraud in the following sectors:

  • Food
  • Financial Services
  • Energy
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Health
  • Aerospace
  • Aviation
  • Telecommunications
  • IT and communications
  • Transport
  • Utilities
  • Agriculture
  • Oil and gas

A lot of sectors are examining how they can benefit from blockchain technology.

I chair a working group looking at master data management practices in blockchain solutions. This working group was set up as a result of a UK Government report.

The working group consists of representatives from industry, academia, and government who are working together to look at where this technology can help with regulatory compliance.

You saw in the earlier IBM video, that traceability of foodstuffs, known as the farm to fork solution, is a potential use case for blockchain.

I am delighted to announce that today, my company, KOIOS Master Data has been awarded a UK Government innovation grant to examine the use of artificial intelligence and distributed ledger technology incorporating international standards.

The use case is smart borders based on the World Trade Organization facilitation of trade agreement, that agreement is designed to lead to intelligence led, computerised pre-clearance of consignments.

The adoption of blockchain in this area, along with the ISO 8000 identifiers will enable customs authorities to identify irregular trends in shipping patterns, or supply chain irregularities, well before it is possible currently using existing systems.

The system will also allow for the automated mapping of tariff codes to the product specification, as the adoption of ISO 8000 will make all this data machine readable, so enabling the power of artificial intelligence to automate what is currently a very manual and subjective process.

So, it is not only the big organisations who can influence the future. Smaller organisations with a high level of subject matter expertise can be far more knowledgeable and agile than large organisations.

Scalability of these solutions is far less of an issue for small companies with distributed ledger technology than it is with large, monolithic, single instance, central databases.

KOIOS has been working on developing the potential for this solution for a number of months.

We are not blockchain experts, so we worked with the University of Southampton computer sciences and machine learning centres to employ two interns, one for the artificial intelligence element, and one for the blockchain element.

The work that Callum and Marcin did over the summer got us to a position to launch our bid for the funds.

The combination of our interns, our young team of developers and operations staff combined with our experienced directors and our domain knowledge created a compelling use case.

You may be aware that smart borders and international trade are hot topics in the UK at present, so the timing of the grant is very opportune.

We will continue our engagement with the University of Southampton to develop a working solution, probably using Hyperledger Fabric

Supply chain and
 Smart Borders

Using Artificial Intelligence and Distributed Ledger Technology with ISO 8000 Authoritative Identifiers and product data to address international trade and counterfeiting challenges.
This type of system is the basis for smart borders. The WTO facilitation agreement, and the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement, commit countries to moving towards intelligence led, computerized pre-clearances.

    Let us reflect for a moment on what we have discussed so far. Let us reflect for a moment on what we have discussed so far. 

    The advantages of such a smart contract solution for international consignments include: provenance of the data records through the use of authoritative identifiers; quality, machine readable, data to international standards; known and identified trusted parties in the contract; ability to track the chain of custody through immutable records.

    We also believe that this solution will play a part in reducing the problems caused by counterfeiting.
    I have detailed here some of the steps we have included in our outline proposal for smart borders. 

    We will also work with parties in the supply chain from manufacturers of items, through third party logistics companies, to freight forwarders and shipping companies, and also with customs authorities. 

    If you are one of those parties and wish to join us on our journey please speak with me later this evening


    There are many sources of information on the internet, some of them more reliable than others. I have used the following resources to create the content for this talk.

    As we have discussed, small businesses are much more responsive to customer needs than large businesses, and as small businesses adopt new strategies and technology they force larger incumbents to adapt and improve.

    Disruption is inevitable.

    To finish, I would like to share with you one more video that sums up some of what I have highlighted in this post.

    Distributed Ledger Technology: beyond block chain
    A report by the UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser

    ISO – The International Organization for Standardization
    UK Government Office for Science
    The intern programme from the University of Southampton

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    Standard based disruptive MDM technology

    Standard based disruptive MDM technology

    Standard based disruptive MDM technology

    Question: what do you call a consensus of best practice?
    Answer: an international standard

    Here I am writing a blog about disruptive and innovative master data management (MDM) solutions, so why I have started my blog defining such a constraining document as a standard?  Ask your MDM software supplier a simple question, which data quality standard is your software based on? Is it the standard that allows you to exchange multiple language specifications, portable data in other parlance?  Is it the standard that allows for interoperability through the exchange of digital data? Is it the standard that enables the semantic web by creating open, computer interpretable data?

    Why are these particular qualities important?  The lack of portable digital data is held up as key constraining factors in four key areas:

    1. the move towards interoperability of public authorities according to a recent EU report [1];
    2. the move towards interoperability of smart cities according to the publically available standard produced by BSI [2];
    3. the move towards interoperability in the oil and gas sector according to the (soon to be published) ISO standard on that subject [3];
    4. the move towards industrial interoperability outlined in the Industrie 4.0 (I40) [4] initiative promoted by the German government.

    It might seem a paradox that the disruptive solution to these issues is based on the international data quality standard, ISO 8000 [5], such documents are not normally seen as disruptive, the disruption comes because so few MDM solutions conform to the standard.  In addition to the solutions to the issues outlined above, ISO 8000 insists that messages are exchanged in a resolvable format that allows the receiver to be assured it is trustworthy, and also addresses data quality “from the bottom up” concentrating on accurate property values and units of measure.   As all experienced data quality managers know, the overuse of character, string or text fields in systems is the main cause of subsequent data quality problems.

    The KOIOS Master Data cloud software conforms to ISO 8000.  The software positively discourages the use of string fields, encouraging the user to create lists of values based on authoritative sources from the global concept dictionary that KOIOS has compiled.  Where that approach is not suitable the software encourages the use of “representation” to constrain the value to its correct syntax, ensuring data quality is locked in at the lowest level. As all properties used to create specifications must have definitions, not user guides, the chances of loss of meaning when data is exchanged is dramatically reduced, this again is one of the key pillars of ISO 8000.

    For manufacturers, KOIOS enables you to post a single version of the digital representation of your product specifications in the cloud, and allows you to control how your customers view your brand and product details, you can even control which fields you share with each customer.

    For end-users, cataloguing at source (C@S) now comes alive.  As end-users you are able to import product specifications created by the very people that manufactured the item, without third parties manipulating the data.  These descriptions can be imported into your “PO text” field in full, ensuring your PO text is always understood by your supply chain, and enables you to create consistent “short descriptions” for those items ensuring reduced search times for users of your system.

    Data cleaning is thus turned on its head by the use of data that is trustworthy.  Now that is disruptive!


    [1] New European Interoperability Framework Promoting seamless services and data flows for European public administrations NO-07-16-042-EN-N. 2017
    [2] PAS-181 – Smart city framework guide to establishing strategies
    [3] ISO/TS 18101 Oil and Gas Interoperability
    [4] Digital Transformation Monitor Germany: Industrie 4.0 January 2017
    [5] ISO 8000 (all parts) Data quality – Framework and the exchange of characteristic data