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Driving the Future of Blockchains: Conclusion

Over the last four weeks, Distributed’s series “Driving the Future of Blockchains” has explored the critical ways that blockchain technology is poised to, or has already begun, reshaping the automotive industry. If you missed any articles in this series, click on the links below.

Through the evolution of cars into mobile supercomputers, fundamental changes to the mobility ecosystems, the rise of ride sharing and the advent of usage-based insurance, blockchains will play a big part in how we get from point A to point B in the future. These developments are taking place all over the world and through the efforts of many different industry players. One of the earliest entrants into the blockchain insurance market is Gem. The Los Angeles-based startup’s partnership with the Toyota Research Institute (TRI) to facilitate usage based insurance, is one of the first examples of enterprise grade blockchain insurance solutions. It represents a paradigm shift in building entirely new insurance models built on data collaboration and sharing.

Here are some insights on the transformative nature of blockchain technology from Gem CEO and founder, Micah Winkelspecht:

Supply Chain’s Salvation

“Data integrity will be one of the most pressing concerns for business over the next decade,” said Winkelspecht. “Because blockchains allow data to be shared securely with full integrity across every industry.”

Winkelspecht said that Gem’s focus on blockchain enterprise solutions was a natural outgrowth of its initial business model as a Bitcoin Application Program Interface (API) developer. The blockchain was invented by now-infamous (and still pseudonymous) Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008 as the transaction network for the digital currency bitcoin. As such, it provided a decentralized means of authorizing and recording Bitcoin payments with a level of security never before equaled on the internet or anywhere else.

“When I read Satoshi’s white paper [proposing Bitcoin] I tried to poke holes in it from a technical perspective, but I couldn’t find any,” Winkelspecht said. He recruited his Gem team using a set of criteria that included passion and excellence, but not necessarily previous experience with Bitcoin and blockchains.

“We went after spectacular people across a variety of industries, knowing that the Bitcoin part of it can be taught,” he said. “Now we’re like a family.”

Bringing together a cross-industry group has also supported Gem’s ability to relate to the needs of a wide variety of clients. The Gem team soon realized that blockchain technology had applications well beyond the scope of Bitcoin or even the financial industry.

“We realized blockchain technology was not a financial technology, but a data management tool,” Winkelspecht said. “It allows us to build extremely robust data infrastructures — high level automation that simplifies, decreases costs and maximizes efficiency.”

Leveraging Expertise

The startup is now being approached by some of the biggest multinational companies to find solutions to pressing data sharing problems, from bank-grade security to smart contracts and the securing of asset and transaction integrity. The company takes a holistic approach to creating solutions, working side-by-side with customers from prototype to production.

One such use case can be found in Gem’s partnership with TRI, the Toyota Insurance Management Solutions, Japanese insurance company Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance Services, and Gem. The project’s goal is to build and test a usage-based insurance platform where users can securely share driving and autonomous vehicle testing data, and store usage information that can be leveraged to determine insurance rates.

“Blockchains allow you to replace that third party with powerful business logic that runs on data you can trust,” said Winkelspecht. “It has all the benefits of a central data repository with none of the drawbacks.”

Gem’s Joseph Bradley and Matt Smith will appear live as a featured speakers at the Distributed: Trade blockchain conference at Washington University in St. Louis on July 24, 2017. For information and registration go to

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