Guest Editorial: From Blockbuster to Blockchain: How to Manage a Not-Quite-Settled Technology Platform
- Robert K. Perrons (Queensland University of Technology) | Tonya Cosby (Intel) | Ross Philo (Energistics)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- December 2019
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 14 - 15
- 2019. Copyright is retained by the author. This document is distributed by SPE with the permission of the author. Contact the author for permission to use material from this document.
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In this era of Netflix and online media that can be accessed anywhere, it is easy to forget that we used to have to work a little harder to get entertained. In the first few years of the new millennium, a typical home movie experience often began with a trip to the local Blockbuster store. There was a bewildering array of plastic movie cases that you had to pick up and investigate before making your final selection. Upon reaching the cashier, the sales associate would retrieve the appropriate disc for your selected movie and put it in the box before sending you on your way.
What made this ritual all the more challenging, however, was the fact that there was more than one type of disc format during the period 2006–2008. On one side of the store were the movies available for the HD DVD format, a technology platform led by Toshiba; on the other, movies for Sony’s Blu-ray machines. For the most part, the companies that produced movies had pledged allegiance to one of the formats or the other, but not to both of them. Blockbuster customers during this period were consequently faced with a dilemma. Everyone who had witnessed the drawn-out battle between VHS video tapes and Sony’s Betamax in the previous generation of Blockbuster products suspected that some kind of shakeout in the disc industry would probably happen eventually, and no one wanted to be left holding the bag with a disc player and movie collection tethered to the losing side. Thankfully, however, this problem was solved when Toshiba threw in the towel in 2008, leaving Sony’s platform as the undisputed winner in the movie disc technology war.
This episode in the history of the entertainment industry is an important lesson to remember as we think about how to introduce blockchain into the oil and gas industry. Blockchain is essentially “a mathematical structure for storing data in a way that is nearly impossible to fake” (Orcutt, 2018), which makes it a useful way to reliably share all kinds of valuable information (Tapscott and Tapscott, 2016). In the finance sector, blockchain is most famously the technology underlying cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but new applications are being discovered all the time—including in the upstream oil and gas industry. Companies in the oil and gas sector have already made inroads into the blockchain domain by using the technology to improve trading (Braga, 2018), guarantee the authenticity of wellbore rock and fluid samples (Whitfield, 2018), and create a shared consensus about the progress of drilling campaigns (Rassenfoss, 2018). In fact, there is so much buzz and energy in the blockchain area these days that several consortia and research initiatives have popped up to figure out new and inventive ways to deliver value with it, including the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance and the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger project (for both of which Intel was a founding member) or the Oil and Gas Blockchain Consortium.
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