Lon Wong will be joining us at Blocfest, presenting the topic: “The Future Of Decentralised Networks”.
Sean: Tell us a bit about your journey and how you ended up in the blockchain world?
Lon Wong: My career has always revolved around cutting-edge technology. Back in the mid 80’s, I was involved in computer networking — putting computers together in local area networks which was at that time, the forefront of a leading edge industry. This took place in Brunei, a small but wealthy country that I was stationed in. The government of Brunei was willing to invest in what they perceived to be the future. In the other countries around South East Asia, my ideas weren’t as well received mainly because the other countries were not as wealthy as Brunei. That was in the 80’s. In the 90’s, I practiced as an electrical engineer in the building industry but soon realized that this profession was mundane and uninteresting. There was however an industry that piqued my interest and that was the internet industry, during the time when dial-up internet was still in its infancy. So what I did was I spent a lot of time building many dotcoms on the internet. I later moved on to focus more on software development using internet technology, which in the early 2000s was practically unheard of. After that, I spent time building up mobile wireless solutions that included broadband services.
In 2006, during the last 2 years of my involvement in the internet space, I sold my business to a publicly listed company and today, it is still running as one of the few wireless mobile service providers in the country. I then retired and not too long thereafter, someone introduced me to cryptocurrency mining and Bitcoin. I wasn’t interested in Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining per se but I started thinking about the powerful technology driving this — blockchain. Then in 2013, I decided it was time to get serious about blockchain. I studied it deeply and asked myself how I could get involved in this technology. I decided to focus on the ledger technology surrounding it and that’s when I began wondering how blockchain could aid the financial industry. Unfortunately, the financial industry is highly regulated all over the world making technological solutions involving this industry very difficult to sell. This however, became the impetus for me to look at how blockchain could extend beyond a ledger for value transactions only, to include data transaction and thus become applicable to the non-financial sector.
Sean: What was the problem that your product was trying to solve?
Lon Wong: I initially wanted blockchain to be a part of the financial industry but the financial industry is, as I mentioned, very much regulated. Throughout the years though, I have noticed a growing interest from other industries such as the banking industry, asking how blockchain could be used for identity management. Hence I came to realize that that part of the industry needed to be addressed and blockchain was the perfect solution. Another aspect of blockchain that could aid other industries is traceability, particularly with the pharmaceutical industry. Blockchain could be used to trace items such as food, drugs, and a host of other items that require tracing. If you look at blockchain in isolation, it’s not a very feasible solution. You’d need to have a data transfer solution that works hand-in-hand with blockchain technology, and that’s the problem I want to address. Today I’m targeting industries that aren’t as highly regulated as the financial sector and right now, our product is market-ready whereby we are offering such services to the general public. This is the Proxima X project.
Sean: What has it been like to watch the blockchain industry grow in Malaysia, and where do you see it headed?
Lon Wong: In all these years being involved in technology, I’ve never seen a technology as interesting as blockchain. Malaysia is a unique country in the sense that despite being relatively slow in adoption, it embraces new technologies without much friction. I have no idea why, but that’s the uniqueness of Malaysia as a country.
So far, the regulators and authorities have been indifferent to blockchain in that they have not tried to regulate it, which is good. If you take a look at the rest of the world however, you’d see that the authorities are putting a stranglehold on the technology. In my opinion, doing so stifles the growth of that technology. For example, in United States because of regulations, growth is pretty much inhibited and in about 5 years, they could find themselves lagging behind the rest of the world. So everyone is trying to circumvent the problem that is now in existence in the United States — but if you look at Malaysia, no one is stopping you from doing something as long as it’s not illegal in approach.
Sean: ‘Blockchain 3.0’ is a buzzword I hear being thrown around quite often these days. What does ‘Blockchain 3.0’ mean to you and how does that tie into the future of where decentralised networks are headed?
Lon Wong: I believe that Blockchain 1.0 and 2.0 had more to do with value transactions. Additionally, Blockchain 2.0 added more features and changed the way we do transactions as compared to Blockchain 1.0. Bitcoin as a proof of concept has basically successfully been deployed, and extending from that, value transfers has also been successfully proven. The next question is how efficient are the transactions and this is where bitcoin is lacking. It doesn’t mean its not working, but rather it isn’t as efficient as it could be.
Moving along, we’ve always been talking about value transfers, but value transfers have limitations. It’s mostly regulated and that’s where you have a lot of ICOs not working — for that simple reason that it is within a highly regulated industry. Hence, we have to move beyond that. By using blocking technology in other industries, we must have efficient data transfer as I’ve mentioned earlier. Data transfer in this case, meaning the entire services that we offer using blockchain technology, has taken a huge change in direction. If you look at every industry out there, there are always invoices and quotations being created and these documents must be stored somewhere.
Be it on a pendrive, hard disk, or a server, or the cloud, the fact remains that we are always storing documents. If you have an ERP system, you’ll need an application that runs on a network and you have to store those documents somewhere too. Almost all tasks we do today require some form of storage.
Sean: For sure, the world runs on data.
Lon Wong: Exactly, the world runs on data. And extending blockchain to include data, is a natural progression. That is when you will see Blockchain 3.0 providing such technologies to enable businesses that could change the way cloud services are offered. This is due to the fact that blockchain is proven to be very cost efficient and deployable. So in my opinion, this is where things will change. I choose to believe that blockchain is much more efficient and inexpensive compared to traditional technology, and that’s why there is a value proposition with blockchain.
Sean: Absolutely. Blockchain as a whole has the capacity to disrupt almost every industry imaginable — and it feels like a competitive sprint between companies to be the first to reach widespread adoption. Which other areas of blockchain do you see as being the ‘low-hanging fruit’ for blockchain to solve?
Lon Wong: When it comes to low-hanging fruit, it should have been mobile payments, but that industry is largely regulated. For example, Touch ‘n Go in Malaysia wanted to implement an eWallet but that didn’t turn out as expected and they are taking a very long time to implement that. With the sort of blockchain technology that we have, we could have powered that within the space of 6 months for much less than 10 million Ringgit.
In fact, I think the biggest challenge now is overcoming the negative feeling and insufficient knowledge when it comes to blockchain that often deters people from embracing new technologies. The skepticism that surrounds blockchain can be chalked back to ignorance in my opinion, and the best thing for us to do is to have like-minded people spearheading knowledge on blockchain technology and showing the public that this is the way to do things.
Sean: Disruptive tech companies like Netflix and Uber for example are often ridiculed at first, but then before people realise it, the shift has already happened. I think it speaks volumes about the human psyche in regards to belief and adoption — people don’t believe it until they see it!
Lon Wong: Well said. I think it’s much easier to shut down new ideas than to embrace them. Change does come around eventually though, just packaged in a different flavour from the initial idea.
Sean: Who do you think is leading the race in Southeast Asia in terms of blockchain?
Lon Wong: I think Singapore is very good at promoting themselves as a financial centre, and when it comes to blockchain, they said the same thing. However, it appears that their government, regulatory boards, and private industries have different stances on blockchain, which usually results in a disconnect. For example, if the government says we’re blockchain friendly, foreign investors would gravitate towards Singapore. And these investors would then go to the local banks to open an account to fund their blockchain-based business but only to realise that the banks don’t allow that for lack of a better term. That’s usually the crux really.
Sean: Is fear a driving factor of that in your opinion?
Lon Wong: Yeah, usually it’s fear, ignorance, refusal to take risks.
But in Malaysia, it’s really different. Here, you can walk to a bank, explain your business and have them open up an account for you and you’re done. The government doesn’t bother you about your blockchain-based business, and they’re usually up for promoting blockchain-based businesses. The banks don’t tend to ask questions as long as you can produce your source of income or whatever coin you may have. And I think on that note, we are ahead of Singapore. We are more stable as a country, we have the infrastructure, people, technology and a sizeable population. And all this makes for a good testbed!
Sean: Absolutely. We’re super excited to have you on as a speaker at Blocfest. What are you looking forward to most about the experience?
Lon Wong: Basically, it’s about going out there and continuing to evangelise blockchain and to better ourselves with this technology. It’s my hope that Malaysians will take the lead while we still have this window of opportunity whereby we can be world players and being involved in global projects such as NEM and Proxima X.
Connect with Lon Wong on Twitter.
Connect with ProximaX on Twitter here.
Lon Wong will be joining us at Blocfest as a panelist on the discussion topic: “The Future Of Decentralised Networks”. Hear from him and many other thought-leaders as we deep-dive into all things blockchain this September.
With a raft of respected blockchain thought-leaders from Malaysia and around the world set to feature, Blocfest’s focus will be on blockchain’s immense potential in the Southeast Asian region, where the technology has already made great headway.
Blocfest is set to launch 26-27 September, and guests are invited to also join us for KL Blockchain Week.
Find out more about our speakers by clicking here.
Sean’s unequivocal passion for all things blockchain blossomed in late 2016. Starting off his journey as a daytrader, he found himself quickly immersed in the projects and their visions of a decentralised future economy. He is Content Director at Blockchain Asia Connect, and publisher of blockchain blog Channel 3.0. When he’s not busy writing about and exploring the world of blockchain, he’s running his music blog passion project: Producer Hive.