After many stops and starts it finally appears that we are on the verge of a true convergence explosion between Internet of Things (IOT), AI, and blockchain. Or in other words, the production of data, the consumption of data and the distribution of data.

To review:

IoT, pertains to the interconnectivity of the world around us—basically how all of our personal and home devices work together to optimize daily human life.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has previously been described as the ability of computer systems to perform tasks that previously had required human interaction, but today it pertains more to algorithms that assemble and analyze personal data which is then used to facilitate and streamline human existence.

Blockchain is a digital ledger in which transactions are recorded chronologically and publicly. The technology often involves bitcoin or other similarly cryptocurrencies. The main benefit of blockchain is that it catalogues data into a permanent record along a chain that is transparent and linear.

The convergence of these technologies come with both enormous benefits and also significant risks. Industries have been looking at blockchain as a way to streamline their processes and make tracking and data collection simpler and more transparent. In the past, there have been those who worried about the susceptibility of IoT and AI to the hacking of encryption services. Those security concerns are one of the main reasons why we haven’t yet seen a true explosion of the convergence of IoT, blockchain and AI but the tide has begun to turn as blockchain advances have now made the aforementioned hacking more difficult.

What are the key convergence highlights? One of the main ideas at the interaction of AI and Blockchain is the data marketplace. If everyone owns their own data and can make it available as they choose in a private manner, we could have more data in aggregate.  To truly achieve its potential, each of the three building blocks of AI must be made available in a centralized, private, and secured manner.

Outlier Ventures explains the need for the Convergence Ecosystem by saying, “The Internet of Things is creating an unmanageable data environment, and artificial intelligence is giving those who control the most data more power than any company in history.”  Outlier adds, “The integration of these technologies will see markets become increasingly open-sourced, distributed, decentralized, automated, and tokenized.”

Observers are closely watching which sectors and companies will emerge atop the convergence industry bracket. Interestingly, this convergence war echoes what occurred several years ago with cloud/mobile convergence. The companies who emerged victorious from that battle were not initial sweetheart companies like Lycos and Yahoo but rather Microsoft, Amazon and surprisingly, IBM, a company once associated with hardware who has made significant inroads into this space, especially as of late.

Several budding convergence sectors will undoubtedly determine the winners and losers. The Government Accountability Office recently identified eight industries where convergence has the greatest upside. They include the health care industry, transportation (both personal and commercial), smart homes and buildings, manufacturing, supply chains, wearables, agriculture and energy. Other industries that appear primed to take full advantage of the technology include farming, marketing, retail and the financial services arena.

So if you’re making your convergence picks who should be in your Final Four? Not surprisingly the smart money is on the companies that are already leaders in the digital economy like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and, despite their recent Cambridge Analytica issues, Facebook. These behemoths have access to a wealth of data and already have established footholds in the IoT landscape. Google, for example, has cornered the market on geographic mapping. But the companies who could become major convergence players aren’t simply limited to the GAFA Four. Metromile, for example, is a San Francisco based company which provides per-mile auto insurance along with an app called The Pulse, which collects data about trips and car health. Ecobee is a Canadian home automation company that makes thermostats and smart light switches for both residential and commercial use and a company like Ring is already a major player in the home security field.

In the health care field, Chrono Therapeutics is focusing on improving clinical outcomes for patients battling addiction and living with neurological disorders via their Integrated Dosing Solution. The company integrates timed drug delivery with personalized, mobile-based digital support and data analytics which seeks to maximize compliance and improve overall patient health. Several smaller start-ups have a real shot at establishing and solidifying a hold on a market that escapes the view of one of the aforementioned tech giants.


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If ever there was a question as to whether New York City is the capital of fintech or blockchain, it was answered this week. Through a series of events from May 11 – 17, “Blockchain Week New York City,” surprised everyone in attendance with diverse panels. Conference organizers were particularly careful to put women on panels and get female attendance up.  “Satoshi is female” they declared and wore T-shirts to match, referring to the still unknown identity of Satoshi Nakamoto who is credited with founding crypto and blockchain. “We think cryptocurrencies should be built with  different values than Silicon Valley,” said Nyla Rodgers, the creator of the Satoshi is Female group.

The headliner and most talked about event of Blockchain Week is the 4th annual and 3 days long Consensus however, I found the most inspiring talks at the Women on the Block Diversity event on Mother’s Day. Their concept of having all women speakers was designed to highlight and recognize the contributions and innovations of woman across the blockchain industry globally. The event had over 400 registrants from all over the world, including 50 speakers from US, Canada, Japan, China, Canada, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Turkey, Australia, Lithuania, South Korea, Norway and the Cayman Islands.

The day of learning and thought leadership at Women on the Block had a goal to educate and empower women to become involved in the emerging and disruptive industry.  Topics included smart contracts, raising capital, creating startups, legal and regulatory issues and use cases and the room was a sea of diversity.

The event’s sponsor Microsoft gave out a series of awards, one woman particularly deserving is Amber Baldet, Clovyr Co-Founder and CEO, the recipient of the Corporate Innovation award.  Her company brings the flexibility and ease of use of modern application development to the blockchain domain. With Clovyr, people and businesses can experiment and even implement blockchain-based applications. Clovyr could also in the future easily enable merchants to accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment as seamlessly as they accept a credit card. It’s these types of developments that will cement cryptocurrencies place in the larger scheme of the consumer based economy. Previously, Amber led the team at J.P. Morgan Chase that developed the blockchain project, Quorum.

Another woman highlighted was Ashwini Anburajan, Founding Partner of the 22X Fund. 22X is one of the firms which represent the future of the cryptocurrency market, tokenizing real world assets to spread investor returns and give entrepreneurs greater access to capital. With her fund, Ashwini is democratizing access to capital by allowing investors to buy tokens representing equity across a diverse portfolio of startups. She’s bridging the gap between ICO and venture capital and revolutionizing the way start-ups look to raise capital. Investors into the 22x Fund are offered the opportunity to support the growth of 30 participating early-stage ventures, all of which have already raised capital from VCs or other traditional modes. Ashwini’s innovative take on funding is just one of the reasons she was awarded the Innovation in Venture Fundraising award from Microsoft.

Microsoft’s Entrepreneur In Residence, Tereza Nemessanyi, was the award grantor who said “People often tell me they don’t know any women in Blockchain, which is surprising because I know so many and more getting involved every day.  This week was pivotal in cementing key communities of diverse movers and shakers. It is still early enough in Blockchain to enter and shape what it will be.”

Blockchain Week was a far cry from the origin of the creation of crypto now known as the Silk Road and the Red Pill, a blockchain based crypto kicked off social media for extreme misogynistic views. What I did see were the merging of industries and the heralding of what could be the end of the era of the “blockchain bro”.  The origins of blockchain and cryptocurrency are part of the reason why the industry lacks diversity. The early days of blockchain and crypto consisted mainly of hacktivists and cypherpunks. Fast forward 10 or so years, and look at the contemporary origins of blockchain and cryptocurrency: tech and finance—areas which are still struggling to become more representative of the population as a whole.

The industry of blockchain is still relatively new so we have the chance to make this segment of the tech industry better than the rest for women and people of color. With blockchain we’re building an ‘automated trust society.’ Automated trust means equality and fairness, blockchain really should be the perfect space for inclusiveness and diversity to thrive. The underlying spirit of the technology lies in opposition to rigid or standard systems put in place by conventional finance companies or the internet’s data monopolies by requiring people of any kind to collaboratively use a shared ledger. To me, what blockchain week could represent is the redemptive moment for tech and diversity outlined at the end of Emily Chang’s book Breaking Up Brotopia.


First published in Forbes, May 20, 2018