Standards Australia releases roadmap for the development of blockchain standards

- March 6, 2017 3 MIN READ

Peak national standards body Standards Australia has released its roadmap for the development of standards for blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT), looking to set the scene for the development of standards both locally and internationally.

Standards Australia defines blockchain as “a digital platform that records and verifies transactions in a public and secure manner”, with the decentralised, cryptography-based solution having the potential to “redefine transactions by removing the need for middlemen”.

The roadmap seeks to, among other things, identify the technical issues associated with developing, governing, and using blockchains and DLTs; identify use-cases for blockchain and DLT relevant to Australian stakeholders and assess the need for standards to support specific use cases; and consider the role of standards in supporting potential future regulation on blockchain and the relationship between the law and standards.

The roadmap also looks to identify pathways to the development of international standards, with Standards Australia having last year been charged with managing the Secretariat of a technical committee for the development of blockchain standards (ISO/TC 307) by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO).

As part of this, Australia will host the first international blockchain standards meeting for the ISO next month.

Dr Bronwyn Evans, CEO of Standards Australia, wrote in the foreword to the roadmap that “blockchain and DLTs have the capacity to revolutionise the way we do business”.

“For many Australians and global stakeholders the key to utilising blockchain technologies is contingent upon the performance of the systems…there is a broad community expectation that an appropriate legal and standards framework will be developed in order to establish market confidence,” she wrote.

The roadmap was developed following several months of consultations, workshops, and a survey of more than 100 respondents representing industry, academia and research, consumer organisation, and government.

The survey found that over 88 percent of respondents believe that either national standards, international standards, or a mixture of standards and regulation are necessary to support an appropriate co-regulatory framework for blockchain-related industries; less than three percent of respondents stated that laws and regulation alone would be sufficient.

Terminology, privacy, governance, interoperability, security, and risk were highlighted as the most important issues when it comes to standards development by the survey respondents.

Looking at priority use cases, the roadmap identified the financial services sector, government services sector, and supply chain management as key areas for the application of blockchain technologies.

Within the financial services sector, Standards Australia found the use of blockchain technologies can support digital currencies, trade finance, remittances, and commodity exchange.

The most popular use cases for blockchain in government services, meanwhile, according to the roadmap survey, are in facilitating land transfers and property title registrations, personal identification and passport documentation, management of health records, and vehicle registrations.

The roadmap also states that ISO/TC 307 could support the improvement of supply chain management by developing a standard for unitising stock or goods to support the application of blockchain technologies, highlighting that work on this standard could support the agricultural supply chain and other sectors where the commodity unit changes nature through the course of the supply chain.

Looking at the development of laws, the roadmap suggests that ISO/TC 307 works closely with ISO member National Standards Bodies to ensure regulators from interested economies participate in the process of standards development.

Danielle Szetho, CEO of fintech startup industry body Fintech Australia, said the roadmap will help put the local fintech industry in a strong global position to take advantage of this technology.

“Blockchain has almost unlimited potential to transform financial services, particularly in regard to international transactions. Australia’s rapidly-growing fintech industry is at the centre of the global game to take advantage of this new technology,” she said.

“FinTech Australia’s blockchain members had strong input into the development of this roadmap and we intend to work closely with Standards Australia on an ongoing basis to ensure any new standards are fintech-friendly and also serve the greater good.”

Image: FinTech Victoria CEO Alan Tsen and Fintech Australia CEO Danielle Szetho.