By Srinivasan Sundara Rajan

This article is reproduced from GAVS’ enGAge magazine, Feb 2018 edition

Smart Contracts will redefine B2B interactions: Over the years agility of the businesses have been highly affected by lack of trust and transparency, and lot of time is wasted on intermediary validation and transfer of data between parties. However Smart Contracts enabled by blockchain technology making strides to solve this issue for enterprises. Blockchain enables direct communication between business stake holders , its underlying security features ensure that the business transactions can never be tampered with, and each stakeholder sees a Single Version Of Truth.

Some of the important aspects of Smart Contract being

  • They are written in Computer Languages rather than Legal Languages, which means most operations, decisions, outputs are Boolean (either Yes or No) and no room of ambiguity which is typical in manually written legal contracts .
  • Fully automation driven, which means the contract terms and conditions are enforced automatically when the desired condition met and no need for manual interaction. This provides agility and prevents fraud.
  • With the concepts like Digital Twins, Digital Sharing Concepts, assets that the businesses operating are converted to digital assets and smart contracts provide best options to integrate digital assets with business process flows.
  • Smart contracts also solve typical IT problems in maintaining the SOR (Systems of Record), which are typically ,
    • ETL (Extraction, Transaction and Loading) : A data transfer mechanism to send transactions records from one system to another system within the organization.
    • ESB/Gateways (Enterprise Service Bus) : A transfer mechanism to send transactions from one enterprise to another enterprise.
    • Backup/High Availability/Disaster Recovery : Mechanisms to ensure that the businesses continue to run without disruption, even if the contract information is lost due to human or system failures.
  • With their concepts like peer to peer networking, near real time replication, smart contracts also solve much of the typical IT issues mentioned above.

Smart Contract Market Place:

In future we may see certain solution providers creating standard smart contracts that solve typical business to business transactions. These could be smart contracts for purchase order, vendor quality checks, payment advice, bank transactions and more. Organizations can use the industry standard pre-built smart contracts as a base and make modifications as per their needs.

Smart Contract From the Eyes Of Legal And Finance People:

As smart contracts become main stream, the biggest consumers will be non technical people like those in finance , legal and other departments out side of IT. Now with the existing paper based contracts which are in natural languages like English, are being converted to programming languages, these set of people definitely require more help from the system for them to understand smart contracts and to act on them. With the possibility that smart contracts may be obtained from market place and not written by participating organization, it is even more important that these smart contracts are smart enough to provide enough meta data to identify them selves , and how a non technical person can interact and act on them.

BOT Framework :

As the innovation happen in the backend technologies like Blockchain, the user interface also transformed to a great extent. From a traditional request/response model the user interfaces have moved to “Conversational User Interface”, where by the application interacts with the user in a conversational way. Apart from building applications that uses rule based pattern matching techniques, BOT framework can be built using advanced natural language understanding and other cognitive techniques to make it highly user friendly, and infact replace the needs of a human intrepretor.

By building a BOT Framework interface for smart contracts, non technical users like attorneys, certified public accountants, finance professionals, government personnel all can easily understand a smart contract and act on them.

There are some articles written about Blockchain which provides a point of view that smart contracts will replace lawyers, accountants. But in real life, smart contracts will make their functions more efficient and transparent and BOT Framework could act as a much needed interface between the technological aspects of Blockchain and legal needs of humans. In other words, BOT Framework will compliment the stake holders in understanding the smart contracts better.

Azure as a leading Intelligent Cloud Platform provides both Blockchain as a Service as BOT Framework to enable organizations to think of integrated applications on both Blockchain and BOT framework.

Microsoft BOT Framework:

BOT Framework enables organizations to build conversational applications using multiple programming languages. The following are the salient features of BOT Framework.

  • BOT Builder SDK enables developer productivity with integration with IDE and provide easy to start templates that gives the basic flow for building BOTs.
  • BOT Portal enables developers to register their BOTs and enable them to be discovered and consumed from client applications
  • BOT framework SDK facilitates multiple kinds of interaction like Form based, Question & Answer based, Voice based (using Cortana) and Natural Language Understanding based.
  • Multi Channel enablement helps the published BOTs to interact with end user using multiple different options. The most popular channels being email, Skype, sms, Slack, Facebook and Directline for mobile applications.
  • Developed BOTS can be deployed into Azure platform to make them work across multiple consumers.

Azure Blockchain As A Service:

On the other side of the spectrum, Azure provides Blockchain as Service, which helps organizations to build private consortium networks using Azure enabled infrastructure components. Azure BaaS supports most of the leading Blockchain platforms like, Ethereum, Quorum, R3, Hyperledger. The service provides complete network components for building the initial leader and other members. It also provides easy to use scripts for adding new members to the Blockchain consortium. These features makes Azure BaaS as a easy platform for building production grade private consortium Blockchain networks.

Benefits Of Integrating Blockchain With BOT Framework:

  • Blockchain networks promote trust and transparency and hence humans play a major role in its success, which means any attempts to fully engage humans in a conversational and innovative ways will help their success
  • Major consumers of Blockchain will be non technical people and there has to be universal attempts to describe the metadata behind smart contracts and let these users to make best use of them. Writing custom user interface will slow down the adoption as well as the users less interesting.
  • With the concept of market place for smart contracts and third party smart contracts, a particular organization may not have any one technical enough to explain a smart contract and a generic BOT framework based conversational user interface will help with quick adoption
  • Combined with other deep learning techniques like Vision API, Facial API, Voice API, Natural Language Understanding these BOTS can provide value added services on top of Smart Contracts by ensuring that correct persons execute them and correct actions are taken.