Data management and blockchain use cases

The NOAA National Fisheries Data Management System: A Real Blockchain Use Case

By ZM Peterson • Aug 5, 2019

If you’ve paid attention to the federal government’s SBIR or STTR systems, blockchain topics periodically come up as broad agency announcement research opportunities. Several federal agencies, notably the armed forces and DARPA, have taken a real interest in practical use cases for blockchain for use in messaging systems that maintain data integrity.

While checking my email, I saw an award announcement through FBO: the NOAA National Fisheries Service awarded a contract to Concitor LLC for blockchain consulting services on August 2, 2019. Rather than going deep into the technical aspects of this particular solicitation, let’s look at what this means for the blockchain "industry" (I’ve put this word in quotes on purpose).

Finally! A Realistic Blockchain Use Case

According to the solicitation announcement on FBO,

The NEFSC requires consulting services from a contractor in the blockchain/decentralized data management industry with experience working with large organizations, and experience investigating the ecosystem of fishery science, management and business to provide input into preliminary discussions, the design and execution of workshops with the fishing industry, and a strategy to develop this data-sharing platform, using the East Coast federal squid fishery as a test-bed.

Let’s break down what exactly the federal government is looking to achieve.

Fishery data

NOAA's process for fishery data collection and management.

  • NOAA wants a data sharing system, but the fact that the system will run on blockchain implies that NOAA wants to ensure the data will be immutable.
  • The fact that this is a data sharing system implies that the system will be used and/or accessible by multiple stakeholders who must be held accountable for their use. A blockchain nicely provides this feature.
  • NOAA is paying $30,000 for "input into preliminary discussions," not necessarily for a working system.

Perhaps most importantly, notice the lack of mention of any cryptocurrencies. The crypto world should take note of this important fact: Realistic blockchain use cases do not need cryptocurrencies or tokens.

This is a perfect example of a realistic blockchain use case. The requirement of data sharing among multiple parties and data integrity create the need for a data management solution that no one controls but that everyone can access. This is all done without creating a tried-and-failed token economics model.

Maturity Comes to an Immature Industry

The state of the blockchain industry over the course of 2018 could only be described as tragic. With all the scam ICOs, casino mentality among token HODLers, and the get rich quick mentality among "founders," the blockchain industry left a bad taste in my mouth. I even watched crypto hedge funds knowingly invest in scam ICOs because they knew they could profit from a pump-and-dump.

The focus was always on tokens and cryptos, not on finding realistic use cases for a great piece of technology. The result is that delusional founders would create a project with no chance of success, no intention to produce a real product, and no intention to create value for token holders. Founders that ran successful ICO’s were able to make their fortunes quickly and easily, while unsophisticated investors were left with tokens that provide no real value.

NOAA is on the right track with this recent announcement. Going into the future, we’ll find the best use cases for blockchain will have nothing to do with cryptocurrencies, tokens, or even finance. The best use cases will follow this trend of protecting data integrity while ensuring accessibility for multiple parties and even the public. Watch for more of these realistic use cases by established institutions and the government in the future.


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