Industry Experts, Academics Discuss Blockchain

Nearly 225 academics and industry experts discussed the potential of blockchain technology and its application to the future of large and small businesses at the Blockchain Conference 2018 on Friday, April 6, in downtown Fayetteville.

The Blockchain Conference was organized by Paul Cronan and Rajiv Sabherwal, co-directors of the Blockchain Consortium and professors in the Department of Information Systems at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.

Mary Lacity, Curators’ Distinguished Professor and International Business Fellow at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, was the event’s keynote speaker. Her talk on “What are Blockchains? Why Should We Care?” sparked a lively discussion among the conference participants who packed a meeting room at Fayetteville’s Chancellor Hotel.

A highlight of the morning session was a panel session on “The Blockchain Journey” where representations from businesses discussed efforts already underway or under study to incorporate blockchain into business on both the global and local level. On the panel were Kevin Yoder, associate director of innovation financial management for ArcBest; Jeff Charlson, chief executive officer and partner in Bike Rack Brewing Co.; Misty Decker, program manager of the IBMZ Academic Initiative for IBM; Jay Davidson, vice president of technology for J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc.; Lee Slezak, vice president of IT Architecture at Tyson; and Archana Sristy, director, Engineering, Global Business Services at Walmart.

Afternoon breakout workshops consisted of hands-on applications of the latest blockchain technologies. They were:

  • Design your own ‘Use Case’ work session – ‘Flesh it Out’
  • Introduction to Hyperledger using IBM Linux
  • Blockchain Software; Overview of SAP Cloud Platform Blockchain Pilot and Ethereum
  • Microsoft Strategy; Blockchain for the Enterprise
  • Business Analytics; Empowering the ‘Citizen’ Data Scientist using SAS

The event was hosted by the Enterprise Systems Blockchain Consortium of the Department of Information Systems, whose members include ArcBest, IBM, J.B. Hunt Transport Inc., Tyson Foods and Walmart.

In speaking to a group of University of Arkansas faculty and students in 2017, Lacity defined blockchain this way: “A blockchain is a decentralized, peer-to-peer system for validating, time-stamping and permanently storing transactions on a distributed ledger that uses encryption protocols to authenticate digital asset ownership and consensus protocols to prevent double spending, to add validated transactions to the ledger and to ensure the ongoing integrity of the ledger’s complete history. Some blockchains also use smart contracts that apply rules to automatically execute transactions based upon pre-agreed conditions.” She also is the author of a forthcoming book, A Manager’s Guide to Blockchain Applications for Business: Mindshifts, Strategies and Action Principles.