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Thomson Reuters hosts blockchain hackathon with FinTech partners

If you build it, they will come. If you host it, they will hack.

In early September at the London HackETHon, Thomson Reuters challenged more than 50 developers across half a dozen teams to build the most innovative applications of blockchain technology. We didn’t just provide the table for the event, but we set the table, pulled up a seat, and got involved ourselves.

Partnering with top-tier blockchain organization Ethereum Foundation, we set the burgeoning hacking community a task of designing and coding a data-driven smart contract using the distributed ledger technology of blockchain — in 48 hours.

Testing and trialing new Thomson Reuters solutions

Using their laptops adorned with stickers worn like military decorations, the coders competed on a private test network and trialed two new solutions developed by Thomson Reuters: BlockOne ID for Ethereum, and Pricing Oracle.

Blockchain hackathon particpants hack away using two new Thomson Reuters solutions.
Hackathon particpants hack away using two new Thomson Reuters solutions.

BlockOne ID is a hosted service that augments a key blockchain feature, the wallet (where users privately store their information, data and funds) to help app developers give access only to appropriately authenticated users.

Richard Collin, head of Engineering for Applied Innovation at Thomson Reuters, spoke about the technology his team developed.

“Our mission has been searching for a suitable niche for Thomson Reuters in the blockchain space, and my team believes digital identity might show us the way. The community told us it was one of the smoothest hacks ever and the tools we provided were perfectly built for purpose.”

Pricing Oracle is a plug-in (known colloquially as an oracle) that feeds information into the blockchain and lets the developers use it for their apps; in this instance, historical records of Elektron Real Time’s financial markets data.

Blockchain innovations like these are unheard of from traditional corporations. We are actively participating in a community whose technology is traditionally seen as disruptive to our industry. One coder remarked about our participation with the event: “It was nice to be exposed to regulatory and financial information which is usually closed off from ordinary developers.”

Blockchain hackathon participants busy at work.

Partnering to innovate

The spelling of the event’s name (‘HackETHon’, versus the usual ‘hackathon’) represents Thomson Reuters association with Ethereum Foundation that made the event possible. But there were many other partners attending and supporting the event from different industries. Oraclize, another technology partner, provided an oracle that fed the blockchain with actual, public data, such as the names of football players (keep that one in mind for later), or the status of flights at your nearest airport.

Our academic partners, Imperial College London and University College London, played key roles across the weekend, social blockchain platform CryptoCompare added to the £3,500 prize pool, and one longstanding client in the financial sector contributed a winning team.

These partnerships are allowing us to learn and experiment in direct collaboration with the nascent blockchain community. Community is an essential paradigm for the distributed ledger technology, promoting equal, trusting and transparent stakes in the exchange of information.

Thomson Reuters internal blockchain community is blooming too; colleagues from our Applied Innovation group, representatives from our Developer Community, and leaders from our Financial & Risk division combined to pull of the HackETHon. They hosted, hacked, mentored, and even competed at the event. In a friendly competition, Thomson Reuters employees put forward a comprehensive proof-of-concept that would hold the veracity of medical studies to account.

And the winner is. . .

The real competition took place across two days, with teams vying for two winning spots at Thomson Reuters next blockchain HackETHon in Switzerland early next year (and a share of the £3,500 prize pool).

The first creative, winning team explored an open, community-driven fantasy football league (remember that oracle from earlier?) ‘’ [sic], was the brainchild of a team of five coders at the HackETHon.

Team ""[sic], was the brainchild of a team of five coders at the blockchain hackethon.
Team “” [sic] took top prize at the blockchain hackethon.
“Fantasy sport is a $2 billion market and we wanted to show that the blockchain lets people securely tap into that enthusiasm,” said Chris Franklin, a coder from the team. “The hack was so much fun and really seamless.

The second award of the weekend went to ‘Truth of Stake’, who used the ethereum blockchain to let users provide data to verify an event – staking some of their own funds – ensuring truthful, relevant, and unprejudiced information.

The runners up, team BountyMax, were invited by B9lab to attend blockchain training courses worth £1,000 each.

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