New York City Launches Blockchain Initiatives

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New York City is jumping on the blockchain bandwagon. The city’s official economic development corporation, NYCEDC, announced Monday that it is launching a Blockchain Resource Center and a public blockchain competition for an app that helps improve public services.

“The BigApps blockchain competition and the Blockchain Resource Center are great opportunities for NYC’s tech talent to explore the economic potential and job opportunities associated with this emerging technology. Thank you to the EDC and all our partners for working to open the door to new resources for NYC’s tech community to continue to innovate,” said Council Member Peter Koo, Chair of the Committee on Technology, in the statement.

“Blockchain” refers to any open, distributed ledger that can record transactions but is secure against unauthorized modification. It’s most often referred to in the context of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, which use a blockchain to track transactions. But blockchain applications go much further than cryptocurrency.

As Maria Bustillos, the editor of a forthcoming blockchain-based magazine (yes, really), wrote: “Whenever people need to know whether or not something happened — someone depositing money in a bank account, changing the title of a house, or voting in an election — we set up institutions to guarantee that it happened.…Blockchain technology can be used to make those guarantees automatically, by distributing a shared, verified public record to as many people as are interested in seeing that record.” Blockchain could, Bustillos speculated, help enable more civil comments on news stories, free from intrusions by trolls. Meanwhile, companies like FedEx are experimenting with blockchain technology to track high-value cargo.

Next City reported last month on a proposal to put zoning and development on the blockchain, in which community members are given “tokens” to make them eligible for certain types of housing. Next City has also reported on the city of Berkeley’s efforts to sell municipal bonds using blockchain technology. Delaware is piloting a blockchain-based corporate registry, and Illinois tested six blockchain-based pilots last year, including a blockchain-based birth certificate.

The New York resource center will be a physical space where entrepreneurs in the blockchain sphere can network and launch new ideas. Its NYC location is still TBA, but the NYCEDC said it is currently scouting locations close to financial, media and real estate areas in the city.

The center will be a place to “have an honest conversation about how (to) create a regulatory environment in New York City that is focused on consumer protections but also focused on spurring innovation,” Ryan Birchmeier, an NYCEDC spokesman, told Government Technology. NYCEDC is also hoping to take a look at the regulations surrounding blockchain, Government Technology writes.

The city today released an RFP looking for a qualified individual, organization or company to run the 2018 blockchain apps competition for the NYC BigApps Competition, held annually. In the RFP, the city said it was “interested in proposals that address how to educate the public sector about blockchain, identify and design blockchain-focused challenge statements that address public sector challenges, and expand the reach and impact of the program by drawing in new participants and partners.”

The initiatives were announced during “Blockchain Week NYC, which runs through May 17. Also of note was a city-sponsored hackathon over the weekend that challenged engineers to apply the blockchain to tracking fresh food from farm to warehouse to consumers, “especially those in our underserved neighborhoods,” NYCEDC said.

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