​Melbourne's RMIT to explore the social science of blockchain

The RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub is expected to create research teams, help develop and implement blockchain policies, and engage in public debate over the societal impact of such technology.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) has established the RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub, touted by the university as being the world's first research centre focused on the social science of blockchain.

According to RMIT, blockchain technology, the underlying system that facilitates bitcoin trading, is becoming a core infrastructure for the global economy. The university expects the distributed ledger technology (DLT) to "revolutionise business as we know it" in the coming years.

The RMIT Blockchain Innovation Hub will be led by Professor Jason Potts in the School of Economics, Finance, and Marketing.

It is expected that the hub will develop an interdisciplinary research team focused on the economic, cultural, and social implications and impacts of blockchain technologies; partner with industry to share research, ensure students are work-ready when they graduate, and provide business solutions and advice; develop and implement policy and industry-relevant measures of the size and impact of the blockchain economy; and engage with government, policymakers, stakeholders, and the public debate on the social and policy impact of blockchain technology.

Data61 recently said blockchain -- the development of which is being overseen by eight different government bodies in Australia -- holds promise as a new foundation for transactions in society, in particular for voting, notarisation, supply chain, registration, and process coordination, in addition to payment-related services.

Researchers at the University of Sydney announced in July that they are building a new blockchain technology, dubbed Red Belly Blockchain, that they believe has the potential to revolutionise the global economy.

Australian corporates are also embracing blockchain technology. In October, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, in partnership with Wells Fargo and Brighann Cotton, claimed the first inter-bank trade transaction combining blockchain technology, smart contracts, and Internet of Things (IoT); while Australia's incumbent telco Telstra announced in September 2016 that it was experimenting with a combination of blockchain and biometric security for its IoT smart home offerings.

In addition, a project using a shared, distributed ledger that can store complete transaction history has almost been completed by the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX).

The ASX recently said its blockchain initiative is on track for a final decision in the second half of 2017, with the prototype complete and the organisation moving to build an "industrial-strength solution" to use as its equity settlement, asset registration, and clearing platform. Its broader plan is to become the first exchange in the world to upgrade to post-trade services using the technology.

Similarly, the Sydney Stock Exchange (SSX) announced a project recently that would see it instantly settle trades using blockchain technology with the help of Sydney-based Bit Trade Labs.

Last month, the Australian blockchain sector received a boost with the formation of the Australian Parliamentary Friends of Blockchain group, to be led by Liberal Senator Jane Hume and Labor Senator Sam Dastyari.

The Parliamentary Friends of Blockchain group is expected to provide a forum for members and senators to meet and interact on all things cryptocurrency.

Meanwhile, Standards Australia has been charged with managing the secretariat of an international technical committee for the development of blockchain standards by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

Along with 16 ISO member bodies including Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Estonia, Japan, and South Korea, Australia will facilitating the development of ISO/TC 307 Blockchain and electronic distributed ledger technologies.

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