Finding a good use for blockchain technology will take a community

More than 36 hours after it started, a hackathon inside the Sports Castle building ended Sunday afternoon, producing new tools to simplify app development, recover forgotten cryptocurrency keys and assure blood transfusion patients about the source of the blood.

But finding new uses for the burgeoning technology known as Ethereum blockchain was just a part of EthDenver, which was attended by a wide range of non-techies, including Denver public school students, the city’s elections office and politicians. Paving the way for this technology to become secure, trustworthy and mainstream will take a community.

“My inclination is to want to encourage the industry to self-police (and) set up a standard that isn’t just understandable by government but to some extent adoptable by government,” said District Attorney George Brauchler of the 18th Judicial District during a panel on blockchain public policy. “Right now there are 48 different data breach notification policies out there, one for every state plus whatever the federal government requires to be done. That is unmanageable. That is untenable.”

Blockchain, the foundation for cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, runs on a decentralized network of computers that keeps a record of things such as buying or selling bitcoins. Ethereum, a version of blockchain, goes further: Instead of trading just digital currency, it can support apps and smart contracts and keep items and transactions authentic, like a contract to buy a house. But it’s still hard for many to get their head around. So, EthDenver became more than just a hackathon.

“We wanted it to be a place for learning. That was the intent from the very beginning,” said Coury Ditch, an event organizer who said they reached out to key members in the industry — such as Dmitry Buterin, co-founder of education site Blockgeeks and also father to Ethereum’s young co-creator Vitalik Buterin — who helped turn the event into one of the largest of its kind, attracting more than 1,000 people. “It came together very fast.”

The event named seven winners, which included FeelGood, the developers of the blood donation system; Elkrem, offering blockchain tools for internet of things developers; and Profiler, a way to see all the costs it takes to make transactions on blockchain.

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