Looking Ahead

Blockchain: Why Should We Care?

The implications of this burgeoning technology on the business of events are worth exploring.

Blockchain. Not many of us could do a great job of explaining how this cutting-edge concept works, but capitalizing on its potential is crucial for the business-events industry.

In January, the Guardian called blockchain “this year’s buzzword.” I don’t believe blockchain is simply this year’s buzzword or something you’ll only hear discussed among the smart people in your IT department or in the C-suite, but that it may hold the key to a balance between a greater need for personalization and data privacy. It is clear that because of the complexity of this subject many of us are just getting to understand the potential of blockchain. Even governments are struggling to pass legislation around regulating blockchain.

It’s no surprise that the business-events industry is a critical medium for spreading knowledge about this technology. This month’s Blockchain World Conference at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City, N.J., is expected to draw more than 8,000 attendees. On Oct. 18, the Blockchain Summit will convene 800 industry leaders, decision makers, tech innovators, and investors in San Francisco to explore how blockchain is being deployed across finance, insurance, logistics, utilities, media, and entertainment.

In this month’s Online story, Senior Writer David McMillin explores blockchain for events, giving us the backstory and updating us on how this distributed-ledger technology is stretching far beyond bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. David’s article and the accompanying informational graphic offer a quick primer on the complex concept, boiling it down to how exchanges between two users on a network are stored securely and permanently in data blocks linked in an endless chain. As David points out, major corporations are investing in how best to use it — including Walmart, which is eyeing the technology as a tool to improve food safety.

For the business-events industry itself, blockchain’s promise has more to do with data management. We handle a lot of data. Just think of all the registration information collected at a single event. And with initiatives such as Europe’s GDPR, we are now under even more intense pressure to protect that data. Such protection is one of the advantages many believe blockchain has over any existing technology.

We are at the threshold of an exciting technology. We know that to ensure success, events-industry standards for blockchain must be developed and implemented. Our industry has traditionally been slow to employ the most cutting-edge technologies, but we can’t afford to sit back. As we learned from several speakers at last month’s Education Conference, we must embrace change — however messy and complicated — in order to survive and to thrive.

When it comes to blockchain, we need to dig in, join together, and help take our industry to the next level. We’ll be talking more about this in the coming months, so stay tuned.

Sherrif Karamat

Sherrif Karamat is CEO and president of PCMA.