Save water, vote safely or trade cattle – all with the help of blockchain
The designers of a unique water saving solution that uses blockchain technology to incentivise users to use less water were the winners of a special prize at the continent’s largest blockchain hackathon held in Cape Town last week.
The Unlock The Block hackathon was hosted by Linum Labs and the African Institute of Financial Markets And Risk Management (AIFMRM) and culminated in Cape Town’s first ever Blockchain Symposium. Almost 80 participants from around the world attended.
The special prize was awarded to project SudoTesla, designed to transfer water tokens via the Ethereum network to a smart meter. The tokens are allocated by the designated utility and users are compensated for water that they save.
The special prize awarded the team, led by Michael Sanne of South Africa, included a month at Absa’s Rise facilities at the Woodstock Exchange in order to further develop their project. Sanne said he hoped it would be possible to bring such a project to fruition one day, even if it was challenging. “Water is a scarce resource, and this solution aims to help manage that resource”, he said.
The overall first prize was split between two teams: the first being BlockPoll, who built a blockchain voting system facilitating better governance in companies, as well as transparency and security in elections. Judge Co-Pierre Georg, Associate Professor at AIFMRM, described their solution as “incredibly slick”.
BlockPoll’s team, consisting of WhenMoon?’s Brandon Kenley Verkerk, Christopher Maree, Iordan Tchaparov and Kavilan Nair, say the design’s main advantages are that it’s decentralised, immutable, and easily auditable. Moreover, they add, it’s easy to use, secure, and open source.
The other winning team was Proof of Steak by Yuna, which Georg described as “a really awesome tech solution to a true African issue”. The team, consisting of Kungela Mzuku, Kyle Roos and Una Singo, allows farmers to use their cattle as collateral on a block-chain, enabling peer-to-peer lending. The team described this as a “uniquely African” and “contextual approach” which would “allow anyone in the world to invest in your cow”. Farmers register their cattle on the blockchain, which functions as an immutable ledger, and investors provide funding to the farmer.
A further special prize for innovation was awarded to team EWAN from Berlin, who built a curation market application.
Prior to the event, Linum Labs’ Devon Krantz said beyond the immediate value of cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology held great potential for “changing systems that already exist”.
“The event has shown us two things, firstly that the applications of blockchain technology in improving people's lives in Africa are immense and second, it is much easier to build those applications than many people think - we just need to work together,” added Paul Kohlhaas, Founder of Linum Labs.
“This is a historic moment in time,” Georg said at the event. “Our economy will soon embark on a fourth industrial revolution.” Economic leadership would lie in the provision of scarce skills, he said. “There is therefore a need to think outside the box. Something clicked in our minds. This led to the hackathon.” Collaborations and partnerships of this kind, he added, would continue to address the need for scarce skills.
The Unlock the Block blockchain Hackathon was a 10-day long event during which participants learned some of these scarce skills, including how to develop blockchain applications. The first five days were dedicated to a digital “boot camp”, during which participants were exposed to overarching fintech trends and the blockchain tools needed to develop decentralised applications and protocols. Topics covered included Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies, and sessions were led by industry experts.
At the end of the hackathon, participants were given three days to develop their own blockchain application. The Symposium occurred on the final day.
The Hackathon was sponsored by both South African and international businesses, including Absa, Microsoft, Old Mutual, Status, Foundery, Consensys, Citi, Pick ‘n Pay, UCT and Rise.