Blockchain innovations to watch
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Blockchain innovations to watch

Three platforms in Asia-Pacific set to change the way we communicate

An illustration of blockchain technology, which has shown promise in helping online users better protect their data.
An illustration of blockchain technology, which has shown promise in helping online users better protect their data.

Aside from its efficiency, blockchain's success in the financial sector has been driven by another prized luxury: security. Its peer-to-peer verification system -- which distributes the control once held by a single server to process massive amounts of data -- has become a compelling solution for financial institutions. The online ledger's immutability provides the assurance it will be safe from malicious outside forces.

But blockchain is also making waves in other industries. In the communication space, blockchain has already shown promise that it could help online users to better protect their data online.

Startups in Asia-Pacific are developing blockchain-based platforms and blockchain-enabled devices to introduce more advanced versions of communication platforms that consumers are already familiar with.

BeeChat: BeeChat is a showcase example of a decentralised messaging app that can provide high utility. Since its launch in 2017, it has attracted 10 million users worldwide. Developers made it available for download to Thai users early this year.

Aside from providing a cryptocurrency trading platform, BeeChat features end-to-end encryption so users can interact without the fear that their data and actions are being tracked.

When BeeChat messages are sent, they are turned into cryptocodes, so users are assured no one else reads or accesses the conversations and data they share. These codes are then turned into their original messages when it gets to the receiver.

The app runs on the Ethereum blockchain, so the way the codes travel from one server to another is untraceable, unlike VPN encryption, which still connects to a single server.

In these privacy-challenged times, ordinary citizens who may be sending confidential information such as credit card details and personal photos will find it useful.

"Our short-term goal is to create the most active blockchain communications community for everyone in the industry," BeeChat founder and CEO Sonny Sun said in an interview with The Korea Herald. "Ordinary users can immediately access blockchain knowledge, investment skills and good investment projects. Ultimately, we hope to provide a moneymaking platform for both individuals and organisations."

BeeChat is now available in 30 languages and supports trading in 12 cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum and Quantum.

BOB: With online messaging apps getting a blockchain makeover, it isn't surprising that the devices running them -- smartphones -- are getting an upgrade too. At the Blockchain Summit in Bali in October 2018, Singapore-based Pundi X unveiled the XPhone, a blockchain-enabled smartphone that lets users call and text without a service provider. It has since been renamed BOB (Blok-on-Blok) and the company began taking pre-orders for the device late last year.

The device's blockchain mode lets users access the Function X ecosystem, the company's own operating system, that gives them a unique cryptocode they may then share with friends and family so they may call and text each other. Think of it as BOB's mobile number.

Every device using Function X, in this case BOB, is a "node" or a point of contact and can serve as a host until the data reaches the right recipient. Pundi X is banking on the idea that as more smartphone manufacturers adopt Function X, more and more nodes will be available.

It envisions that users will be able to call and text with one another without any telco carrier signal or data needed.

"Somehow, we're going back to the original principles of the internet: making it more widely available to everyone," Zac Cheah, the co-founder and CEO of Pundi X, said in a press release.

Indorse: Another platform getting a blockchain upgrade is social media, one of the most polarising innovations of the 21st century. While the biggest social media platforms claim they have brought people closer, they are also accused of compromising privacy through their use of personal data for advertising purposes.

For the Singapore-based job marketplace platform Indorse, the antidote lies in letting users reap the benefits of their coveted data. While it's not a social media site as such, Indorse does let professionals -- coders and programmers in particular -- interact with the platform and monetise their activity.

The Ethereum-based platform calls itself a "resume verification tool" for firms that wish to hire coders and programmers. Applicants will be solicited to anonymously upload their resumes on Indorse, where its pool of experts will verify and test the skills they claim to have. These "experts" can receive cryptocoins for every applicant they "verify".

The model decentralises the power and profit once solely held by the platform, as it shares revenue with "indorsers". The platform claims to have processed 2,000 job applicants in six months, and looks to expand its business to India.

"By leveraging the experience of human experts across the world, Indorse provides companies with reliable and actionable insights about candidates," Indorse founder Gaurang Torvekar said in an interview with Yahoo! Singapore. "We are raising the bar in terms of quality appraisal of tech talent, while substantially reducing the direct and indirect costs of the hiring process."

Diana Princess Yamashita is a journalist based in Manila.

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