21 October 2019 ... min read Listen

Cees van Wijk and Peter Rutgers

We’re way past the proof-of-concept phase with blockchain

At the end of October, Cees van Wijk and Peter Rutgers will be speaking at jFall, the Netherlands’ biggest event for Java users. Their presentation is on how ING is successfully using blockchain technology in production applications, the challenges they face and how they solve them.

Cees, IT Chapter Lead of ING’s Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology chapter, explains why this is such a hot topic for IT engineers: “Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency based on blockchain technology, was invented in 2009. Then came Ethereum, an open-source platform for smart contracts. Blockchain technology turned existing business models completely upside down. All of a sudden, we could do things that had previously been impossible. The major difference with the traditional systems is that blockchain enables things like financial transactions to be performed in a distributed ledger. In contrast, everything had to be done centrally in the traditional systems; it always involved multiple organisations, each with their own administrative records. Blockchain is more efficient, involves fewer parties and the built-in cryptography and consensus protocols ensure that everyone in the distributed ledger sees the same administrative records.”

Blockchain technology in production

“It’s no longer revolutionary to build a blockchain-based test application or proof of concept. There are countless companies, including banks, that are delivering proof of concepts using blockchain. But it’s a whole different ball game to actually use the technology in production and comply with all the associated requirements – and that’s exactly what we’ll be talking about at jFall. For example, how can you keep confidential information secret in a distributed ledger? After all, you also have to share all that information in order to be able to validate it with multiple organisations. Our talk will touch on four aspects: confidentiality, performance (can we handle enough transactions per second to serve all our customers?), integration of blockchain within existing IT systems, and continuous delivery: how can we make fast and reliable changes, when the smart contract code in blockchain is immutable?”

Open-source solutions

“We’re already at a very advanced stage with this technology at ING. We have solutions for the issues I just mentioned and we’re using those solutions in real-world applications. We share our solutions as open source too, so we’re helping blockchain technology as a whole to mature. Besides that, our presentation at jFall is a good fit with our philosophy of sharing as much as possible within the engineering community. We have to work together with others if we are to grow bigger and better. It’s great that ING is using and expanding on blockchain technology, of course, but there’s not much point in doing it alone. Blockchain is based on the whole idea of collectivity.”

Audience reactions

“Presentations about blockchain are in huge demand because the technology is so fundamentally different from traditional centralised systems. Our presentations often surprise people in the audience. The general reaction is ‘I never expected ING to be so far already, and that you would also be helping to improve the technology by working open source,’ – because not many big companies do that. Personally, what I enjoy most is when people come up to ask us detailed questions after our talk. Then you can get into in-depth discussions and talk about real cases. And who knows, we might even inspire people to come and work with us – because if you’re keen to work with blockchain technology, ING’s a great place to be.”

Read more about jFall

About Cees

Cees is IT Chapter Lead of ING’s Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technology chapter. He works together with a team of engineers on real-world blockchain applications such as HQLAx (securities trading). He is also involved in blockchain research, such as the zero-knowledge range-proof solution.

About Peter

Peter is a software engineer at ING and is primarily focused on security and cryptography. He is one of the major contributors to ING’s open-source zero-knowledge range-proof in Ethereum.

They both consider it important to share ING’s story and they regularly speak at conferences in the Netherlands and beyond. Cees will soon be taking the stage again, this time at We Are Developers in Vienna.

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