How are Portuguese companies benefiting from blockchain technology?

  • ECO News
  • 17 August 2018

EDP, REN, EMEL, among others, are investing in blockchain solutions to optimize processes and reduce their unnecessary costs.

The Portuguese economy is already looking at blockchain solutions as a technology that can solve the efficiency issues faced by businesses. Many case studies show that this technology would have a positive impact, be it in the public or private sector, applied to insurance, advocacy and energy companies, blockchain promises to help achieve better performance.

It has gained popularity last year because of its linkage with the bitcoin, and it became more and more possible to apply this technology to existent paradigms in several economic activities. Many companies started noticing the potential of blockchain technology and how it generates trust without the need for other intermediaries, which in itself would reduce many unnecessary expenses as processes became more and more automated.

EDP will record its energy consumption

One of the most daring examples of the application of blockchain in the context of a big Portuguese enterprise is the case of EDP Brasil. By the end of June, EDP’s Brazilian subsidiary publicly announced in an official statement that it would be the first company in the sector to use blockchain to measure its energy consumption and to keep a record of it through this technology.

The company explained that it makes it all the more easy to manage the data regarding clients’ energy consumption sourced from solar panels. These clients are called “prosumers” because they produce renewable energy (solar panels) at the same time as they consume it. This blockchain project was developed by EDP in partnership with Riddle & Code and it is still in a development phase.

“It is a sort of cryptographic equipment that is attached to each household’s traditional energy meters, and it makes the calculations of transactions and charging and so on much easier for the company. This way it becomes easier to determine whether there will be an excedent in consumption or, on the contrary, if there should be a discount on the bill that month”, EDP explained.

Blockbird is profiting from the trend

Some are clever enough to find a way to profit from the growing interest the blockchain trend is attracting. ECO explained in June that Portuguese companies and entrepreneurs do not fully (yet) understand the potentialities of this technology, however, all are quite interested in following up on the trend and figuring out a way of endorsing it and applying it to their businesses.

That’s why Blockbird Ventures was founded. Portuguese startup that will teach CEO’s how blockchain technology works so that each businessman can understand how blockchain can optimize their company’s processes. “We realized that CEO’s want to be connected with blockchain technology. However, in order for them to be able to decide something regarding this technology, they need to understand it“, José Figueiredo, co-founder of Blockbird, explained to ECO then.

The startup is organizing a set of training sessions with a focus on theory for those at the top leadership positions in companies, and it will as well provide training sessions to engineers with a focus on the practice itself so that companies can apply the technology in the best possible way.

Blockbird also has a consulting body and an idea hub in its structure, so that any idea that is developed in the Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) can get instant traction. One of the team members, Miguel Pupo Correia, is a teacher at IST, and one other member of the founding team is Novo Banco’s director of tech.

What is the blockchain technology, after all?

If you got here and you don’t understand yet what it is, well… That’s normal. It is not a simple topic, and ECO has published numerous articles trying to explain what it is, how it works, and what its purpose is. It would be absolutely necessary to take a higher diploma to fully understand what the blockchain technology is, as it asks for advanced programming and cryptography skills. Anyway, we can try to explain the simple logic behind it, by using the banking system example. So:

When X is transferring money to Y, they use an intermediate. In between, an entity verifies if there is money available in X’s account and only then transfers the selected amount to Y.

What is an intermediate? It’s a third entity that both X and Y trust. In Portugal, traditionally, this entity is known as SIBS which is a third entity responsible for managing the Multibanco network, and much more. Visa and MasterCard are also intermediates or middlemen. These middlemen have costs, as they can claim a portion of the transaction value as a payment for their service.

Now, imagine that there is a system that generates trust, without the need to resort to any middleman. Well, that’s what blockchain is all about. It is based on an unbreakable record chain, with such safety levels that if someone tries to break the centre of the chain it will block the whole chain. Meaning that if there is an intruder entering without the prior authorisation of all intervenients of the blockchain, he will be easily detected.

Did you understand what the blockchain is all about? Maybe this is too simplistic of an explanation, but it gives a general idea as to why companies and institutions are starting to see blockchain as a solution.

Many companies are showing interest in trying out these solutions but at the moment there aren’t many actually already implementing them. The next years or months will dictate whether this trend has come to stay or not.