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Blockchains and Insurance:
Opportunities and
Challenges
Christopher Brewster
christopher.brewster@tno.nl
1
Blockchain and Bitcoin
‣ Origins lie in Bitcoin - Bitcoin was developed
as cryptocurrency - a technological alternative
to fiat currencies (dollar, euro, pound)
‣ An attempt to be an anonymous eBay
‣ Finite number of Bitcoins supposedly
provides gold-standard type guarantee
against inflation
‣ Bitcoin depends on the bitcoin Blockchain to
function
‣ All Bitcoin transactions are recorded on the
bitcoin blockchain
‣ The blockchain is the infrastructure upon
which bitcoin rests
2
What is a blockchain?
‣ A blockchain is a simply database
but …:
‣ Distributed - everyone has a
copy
‣ Open and public - everyone can
add
‣ Auto-synced - every copy is the
same almost instantly
‣ Nothing can be deleted
‣ AND currently very slow
throughput, very low capacity
3
http://dataconomy.com/wtf-is-the-blockchain-a-guide-for-total-beginners/
Blockchain technology is
otherwise known as Distributed
Ledge Technology (DLT)
Important Blockchain Characteristics
‣ Very secure due to use of cryptography
‣ Capable of near real-time synchronisation or
settlement
‣ Very low transaction costs (only partially true)
‣ Typically based on open source software - changes
are developed by the community
‣ Transparency and traceability of transactions is
typically superior to current systems but user
identification may be weaker or nonexistent
4
Key Feature: Permanent Ledger
‣ “Nothing can be deleted ….”
‣ The BC as a distributed write only ledger is an ideal
repository for certain types of data
‣ Ideal for reducing some kinds insurance fraud
‣ Record auto accidents so only one claim can be made
‣ Record valuables so that no fraudulent claims are
possible
‣ Tracking art works across chains of custody
5
Key feature:Smart Contracts
‣ Idea is to transfer contractual obligation
onto an impersonal software system
‣ Much excitement now that one can
“run” smart contracts on the blockchain
‣ Bitcoin includes a form of smart
contacts. Etheruem is an infrastructure
to run a VM for smart contracts
6
‣ A smart contract is a software implementation of legal
contract. Originally developed by Nick Szabo in early ‘90s
http://etherscripter.com/what_is_ethereum.html
Ethereum
‣ Etheruem (https://www.ethereum.org) is a
programmable smart contract platform, using
ether as its unit of currency.
‣ Also very slow, guaranteed uptime computer!
‣ Example of Blockchain 2.0 - creating platforms
‣ Started by Vitalik Buterin and Gavin Wood
‣ Presold $15M worth of ether which has funded
its development.
‣ Major visibility and public backing, e.g. now
available on Microsoft Azure.
7
The Hype
‣ “Decentralised systems, such as the blockchain
protocol, threaten to disintermediate almost every
process in financial services” — “The Future of Financial
Services”, World Economic Forum, June, 2015
‣ “The most imminent effects of disruption will be felt in
the banking sector; however, the greatest impact of
disruption is likely to be felt in the insurance sector” ibid
‣ Venture capital in 2015 $0.5B - $1B, predicted to be
2016 $10B (Vinay Gupta)
8
Crop Insurance: A hypothetical example
• EARS http://www.ears.nl/
9
Real Examples (1)
‣ Everledger (http://www.everledger.io/)
- Eris based permanent record of all
diamonds to ensure authenticity and
provide a record against fraudulent
insurance claims.
‣ Dynamis (http://
www.dynamisapp.com/ ) - Ethereum
based, uses LinkedIn as social
network and oracle to provide
unemployment insurance
10
Real examples (2)
‣ InsurEth (http://
insureth.mkvd.net/) - Ethereum
based flight insurance - contract
runs on the Etheruem
blockchain
‣ Augur (http://www.augur.net/) -
Etheruem based prediction
market
11
How will BT/DLT affect the insurance
industry?
‣ Blockchains provide an opportunity for R&D to
develop new products/new ways to tailor products
to customer
‣ Distribution has already been deeply affected by
technology but now BC/DLT not so important
12
Risk capital/
re-insurance/
investment
Distribution ClaimsUnderwritingDistribution
Research and
Development
How will BT/DLT affect the insurance
industry?
‣ Collaborative underwriting - a significant potential
for a return to mutual insurance facilitated by BC.
‣ Smart contracts are the key challenge for claims
processing BUT depend on an oracle or some other
source of verification! —> Digital to Physical
Interface
13
Risk capital/
re-insurance/
investment
Distribution ClaimsUnderwritingDistribution
Research and
Development
Digital to Physical
‣ The need for an oracle! But not to
tell the future but rather reality!
‣ Crop insurance, delayed flight
insurance etc. are easy cases -
external digital oracle
‣ In other cases - fire, car accidents,
death - some certifying authority
is needed - this cannot be taken
away by automation, BC or smart
contracts….
14
QUESTIONS
‣ Gelieve mijn excuses dat dit gesprek is in het
Engels. Volgende keer dat ik hoop dat in het
Nederlands te spreken!
15
Further Reading/Links
‣ Walport, M. (2016) Distributed Ledger Technology: Beyond Blockchain Government Office for Science,
URL: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/distributed-ledger-technology-blackett-review
‣ The Future of Financial Services, World Economic Forum - http://www3.weforum.org/docs/
WEF_The_future__of_financial_services.pdf
‣ Huckstep, R. (2016) What’s in Store for Blockchain? URL: http://insurancethoughtleadership.com/whats-
store-blockchain/
‣ Rafiee, A. (2015) The Art of Forecasting: Augur’s Decentralized Prediction Market URL: http://
bitcoinist.net/art-forecasting-augur-decentralized-prediction-market/
‣ Redman, J. (2016) Six Ethereum Projects and its Five Competitors URL: http://bitcoinist.net/six-
ethereum-projects-and-its-five-competitors/
‣ Gilbert, S. (2016) Innovation Blog: The Hype Cycle of Insurance Disruption URL: http://
www.insurancetimes.co.uk/innovation-blog-the-hype-cycle-of-insurance-disruption/1417196.article
‣ Grewal-Carr, V. & Marshall, S. (2016) Blockchain, Enigma, Paradox, Opportunity Deloitte, URL: http://
www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/Innovation/deloitte-uk-blockchain-full-report.pdf
‣ Vaughan, W. (2015) Improving Insurance with the Blockchain URL: https://tierion.com/blog/improving-
insurance-with-the-blockchain/
16
Acknowledgements
‣ Thanks are due to Vinay Gupta, Trent McConaghy,
and others
‣ Image credits:
‣ https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bitcoin.png
‣ https://www.flickr.com/photos/fdecomite/11464052775/in/gallery-gamingfloor-72157638888166706/
‣ https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CumaeanSibylByMichelangelo.jpg
17

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Blockchains and Insurance: Opportunities and Challenges

  • 1. Blockchains and Insurance: Opportunities and Challenges Christopher Brewster christopher.brewster@tno.nl 1
  • 2. Blockchain and Bitcoin ‣ Origins lie in Bitcoin - Bitcoin was developed as cryptocurrency - a technological alternative to fiat currencies (dollar, euro, pound) ‣ An attempt to be an anonymous eBay ‣ Finite number of Bitcoins supposedly provides gold-standard type guarantee against inflation ‣ Bitcoin depends on the bitcoin Blockchain to function ‣ All Bitcoin transactions are recorded on the bitcoin blockchain ‣ The blockchain is the infrastructure upon which bitcoin rests 2
  • 3. What is a blockchain? ‣ A blockchain is a simply database but …: ‣ Distributed - everyone has a copy ‣ Open and public - everyone can add ‣ Auto-synced - every copy is the same almost instantly ‣ Nothing can be deleted ‣ AND currently very slow throughput, very low capacity 3 http://dataconomy.com/wtf-is-the-blockchain-a-guide-for-total-beginners/ Blockchain technology is otherwise known as Distributed Ledge Technology (DLT)
  • 4. Important Blockchain Characteristics ‣ Very secure due to use of cryptography ‣ Capable of near real-time synchronisation or settlement ‣ Very low transaction costs (only partially true) ‣ Typically based on open source software - changes are developed by the community ‣ Transparency and traceability of transactions is typically superior to current systems but user identification may be weaker or nonexistent 4
  • 5. Key Feature: Permanent Ledger ‣ “Nothing can be deleted ….” ‣ The BC as a distributed write only ledger is an ideal repository for certain types of data ‣ Ideal for reducing some kinds insurance fraud ‣ Record auto accidents so only one claim can be made ‣ Record valuables so that no fraudulent claims are possible ‣ Tracking art works across chains of custody 5
  • 6. Key feature:Smart Contracts ‣ Idea is to transfer contractual obligation onto an impersonal software system ‣ Much excitement now that one can “run” smart contracts on the blockchain ‣ Bitcoin includes a form of smart contacts. Etheruem is an infrastructure to run a VM for smart contracts 6 ‣ A smart contract is a software implementation of legal contract. Originally developed by Nick Szabo in early ‘90s http://etherscripter.com/what_is_ethereum.html
  • 7. Ethereum ‣ Etheruem (https://www.ethereum.org) is a programmable smart contract platform, using ether as its unit of currency. ‣ Also very slow, guaranteed uptime computer! ‣ Example of Blockchain 2.0 - creating platforms ‣ Started by Vitalik Buterin and Gavin Wood ‣ Presold $15M worth of ether which has funded its development. ‣ Major visibility and public backing, e.g. now available on Microsoft Azure. 7
  • 8. The Hype ‣ “Decentralised systems, such as the blockchain protocol, threaten to disintermediate almost every process in financial services” — “The Future of Financial Services”, World Economic Forum, June, 2015 ‣ “The most imminent effects of disruption will be felt in the banking sector; however, the greatest impact of disruption is likely to be felt in the insurance sector” ibid ‣ Venture capital in 2015 $0.5B - $1B, predicted to be 2016 $10B (Vinay Gupta) 8
  • 9. Crop Insurance: A hypothetical example • EARS http://www.ears.nl/ 9
  • 10. Real Examples (1) ‣ Everledger (http://www.everledger.io/) - Eris based permanent record of all diamonds to ensure authenticity and provide a record against fraudulent insurance claims. ‣ Dynamis (http:// www.dynamisapp.com/ ) - Ethereum based, uses LinkedIn as social network and oracle to provide unemployment insurance 10
  • 11. Real examples (2) ‣ InsurEth (http:// insureth.mkvd.net/) - Ethereum based flight insurance - contract runs on the Etheruem blockchain ‣ Augur (http://www.augur.net/) - Etheruem based prediction market 11
  • 12. How will BT/DLT affect the insurance industry? ‣ Blockchains provide an opportunity for R&D to develop new products/new ways to tailor products to customer ‣ Distribution has already been deeply affected by technology but now BC/DLT not so important 12 Risk capital/ re-insurance/ investment Distribution ClaimsUnderwritingDistribution Research and Development
  • 13. How will BT/DLT affect the insurance industry? ‣ Collaborative underwriting - a significant potential for a return to mutual insurance facilitated by BC. ‣ Smart contracts are the key challenge for claims processing BUT depend on an oracle or some other source of verification! —> Digital to Physical Interface 13 Risk capital/ re-insurance/ investment Distribution ClaimsUnderwritingDistribution Research and Development
  • 14. Digital to Physical ‣ The need for an oracle! But not to tell the future but rather reality! ‣ Crop insurance, delayed flight insurance etc. are easy cases - external digital oracle ‣ In other cases - fire, car accidents, death - some certifying authority is needed - this cannot be taken away by automation, BC or smart contracts…. 14
  • 15. QUESTIONS ‣ Gelieve mijn excuses dat dit gesprek is in het Engels. Volgende keer dat ik hoop dat in het Nederlands te spreken! 15
  • 16. Further Reading/Links ‣ Walport, M. (2016) Distributed Ledger Technology: Beyond Blockchain Government Office for Science, URL: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/distributed-ledger-technology-blackett-review ‣ The Future of Financial Services, World Economic Forum - http://www3.weforum.org/docs/ WEF_The_future__of_financial_services.pdf ‣ Huckstep, R. (2016) What’s in Store for Blockchain? URL: http://insurancethoughtleadership.com/whats- store-blockchain/ ‣ Rafiee, A. (2015) The Art of Forecasting: Augur’s Decentralized Prediction Market URL: http:// bitcoinist.net/art-forecasting-augur-decentralized-prediction-market/ ‣ Redman, J. (2016) Six Ethereum Projects and its Five Competitors URL: http://bitcoinist.net/six- ethereum-projects-and-its-five-competitors/ ‣ Gilbert, S. (2016) Innovation Blog: The Hype Cycle of Insurance Disruption URL: http:// www.insurancetimes.co.uk/innovation-blog-the-hype-cycle-of-insurance-disruption/1417196.article ‣ Grewal-Carr, V. & Marshall, S. (2016) Blockchain, Enigma, Paradox, Opportunity Deloitte, URL: http:// www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/Innovation/deloitte-uk-blockchain-full-report.pdf ‣ Vaughan, W. (2015) Improving Insurance with the Blockchain URL: https://tierion.com/blog/improving- insurance-with-the-blockchain/ 16
  • 17. Acknowledgements ‣ Thanks are due to Vinay Gupta, Trent McConaghy, and others ‣ Image credits: ‣ https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bitcoin.png ‣ https://www.flickr.com/photos/fdecomite/11464052775/in/gallery-gamingfloor-72157638888166706/ ‣ https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CumaeanSibylByMichelangelo.jpg 17