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Columbia Business Monthly

Block Star

Oct 12, 2018 10:58AM ● By Kathleen Maris

By Anne Creed, MBA, MFA

“Five years from now you’ll be using blockchain technology, and you won’t even know it,” says Dr. Colin Jones, a professor of finance at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business. “It’s going to affect daily lives. When I buy a bond, it will happen instantaneously instead of waiting three days. Health records and property records will be on the blockchain, but I don’t need to know that. It will just be behind the scenes. The applications for blockchain are nearly endless.”

Jones became interested in blockchain when reaching out to USC alums and asset managers. “I kept hearing about blockchain, blockchain, blockchain. I thought if all these Wall Street folks are talking about it, I’d better get into it,” he says.

While Jones got into it by creating blockchain courses at USC, making the university one of a few in the country to do so, others in that state are pushing to create a unique blockchain for “everything South Carolina” called PalmettoChain.

Dr. Gordon Jones, is one of the founders. “The idea behind PalmettoChain is to get South Carolinians to build their own platform,” says Jones, who is not related to the Darla Moore professor. “We want to create a utility that an individual, a business, a municipality, or the state can use to create applications.”

Diverse applications could all run on PalmettoChain. “The driver’s license system could run on it. The land titling for the state can be built on the same system. It works for virtually any transactional process where they want to maintain the transaction forever in an immutable ledger,” Jones says.

Early collaborators in PalmettoChain include Nelson Mullins, the City of Columbia, ZenCash, Government Blockchain Association, Universal Health Coin, CarolinaLiving.com, Electronic Health Network, RTA Solutions, Automotive eXchange Token, and Commit Good. The group is actively recruiting other participants and encourages people and organizations to volunteer through the PalmettoChain website.

Of these collaborators, four are South Carolina-based blockchain companies including ZenCash and Universal Health Coin, a blockchain system in development that will streamline the ways patients and their doctors interact, from making appointments to paying for services to rating doctors. Gordon Jones is also a founder of the latter firm. The names of the two additional blockchain companies working on PalmettoChain have yet to be announced.

The founders are pursuing nonprofit status for PalmettoChain and are trying to set it up as a 501(c)(3) with the IRS. They are also focused on education and facilitating discussions about how PalmettoChain would benefit the whole state.

“We’re available to come talk to anybody at any place at any time to tell people what’s going on and how they can get involved,” Jones says.

They are also seeking governments, businesses, and/or citizens who have a need or problem that they want to solve. “We are designing projects around those problems and are working to get funding and resources to build them,” he says.

To prove PalmettoChain’s value, they are working on a voting demonstration project to coincide with the coming elections. “This will demonstrate the capabilities that could ultimately be used by the state or any election entity,” Jones says.

Colin Jones also sees the blockchain’s election-day potential. “You could easily have elections on blockchain. People would only have one vote and there’s no hacking. It verifies voter identity without having to know who you are.

“When I talk to bankers and alumni, they get excited about all these uses because it will make the economy more efficient. People can focus on higher uses than counting ballots,” he says. “You see all the major companies starting blockchains. Walmart is active in the blockchain space. IBM is pushing blockchain technology to make companies more efficient so that they can focus on higher-value activities.” Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and others are pursuing blockchain uses.

Blockchain is still in the early stages. “We’re at the equivalent of the internet in 1993 with blockchain,” Gordon Jones says. “I’m a South Carolinian and I want the state to lead in blockchain development. It would be like the internet started in South Carolina to do this. We would be the first state to have our own blockchain utility.”

For more information about PalmettoChain and how you can get involved, visit palmettochain.io.

Potential Uses for PalmettoChain:

  • Supply chain management
  • Notary and records storage
  • Tax automation
  • DMV records
  • Financial assets management
  • Smart legal contracts
  • Court recordings
  • Chain of custody
  • Regulatory reporting
  • Travel documents
  • Lottery and gaming
  • Digital voting registration
  • Health records
  • Insurance
  • Tracking origins of foods (organic produce, wild-caught seafood)
  • Distributed energy
  • Inventory management

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