Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan recently launched the Dubai Blockchain Strategy, a plan to use the technology in several different areas. The Blockchain Strategy has three main objectives, making the government more efficient, creating specialized sectors for business, and achieving global leadership.
“Dubai has sought to position itself at the forefront of the technology, and became the first government to introduce this technology in the world.”
- Dubai Blockchain Strategy
One of the blockchain platforms being used in Dubai is a universal loyalty and rewards system, run by New York-based blockchain startup Loyyal. The company CEO Gregory Simon officially announced the launch of the Dubai Points program on Sunday night.
The beta pilot is designed to incentivize tourists to visit places of cultural and historic significance. The smartphone app based system offers points for many different activities, from traveling, to visiting museums and staying in specific hotels. Points can then be used to offset the cost of attractions being promoted by the provider.
The points are recorded on Loyyal's blockchain, making them easy to audit and difficult to counterfeit. Program administrators have a live view of every point, how they’re earnt, and how they’re used.
Simon intends to extend the platform beyond tourists, once the test is complete, by “incentivizing citizens to voluntarily behave in a way that contributes to individual happiness and the greater good of society.” The end goal is a “radical transformation in how people and government co-exist.”
“[Loyyal] introduces interoperability to the currently fragmented industry, multi-branded coalitions, superior program liability management and dynamic issuance/redemption options customized for each unique relationship.”
The Dubai Points system is the first beta test to emerge from the Dubai Future Accelerators program. The 12-week program run by the Dubai Future Foundation that pairs companies and entrepreneurs with partners in Dubai.
Participating teams are encouraged to use cutting edge technologies like AI and robotics, genomics, 3D printing, distributed ledgers, biomimicry and biotechnology, as well as new business models and ways of working.
Identifying and deploying city-wide scale prototypes is a primary goal for every team. To accomplish this huge task, the Dubai Future Accelerator has linked the participants and their solutions with seven government departments.
"The Dubai Future Accelerator is the most ambitious program in the world," said HE Mohammed Al Gergawi. “It is designed to link our most powerful and influential government leaders with the world’s most ambitious companies and entrepreneurs to create radical new solutions to change the world.”
To claim the title of “the largest government-supported accelerator globally,” and help Dubai become a world leader in the seven "Future Challenges,” the Crown Prince funded the Dubai Future Accelerator to the tune of AED1 billion, or US$275 million.
“Dubai usually doesn’t do things average, when they do something they do it right, better than anyone else. Taking the innovation initiative to including utilizing the benefits of blockchain technology was a logical and expected result.”
- Gregory Simon, Loyyal CEO
The accelerator differs from other programs for startups in that it is government run, and does not take any of the equity nor intellectual property from the companies they are working with. “We only ask only that we be invited to invest alongside other partners if fundraising is part of the eventual outcome of your participation in the program,” the foundation’s website states.
The foundation received 2,200 applications from 73 different countries before selecting, “Over 30.” The startups all get to share a new purpose-built facility, and access to US$2 million in venture capital per month.
Participants range from new startups like Loyyal, to the highly-anticipated Hyperloop project from Tesla & SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and Fortune 100 diversified technology and manufacturing leader, Honeywell. Hyperloop One is working with the Roads and Travel Authority, while Honeywell is working with the Dubai Health Authority.
Two separate ethereum-based blockchain platforms are also in the mix, Blockapps and Consensys. Both startups began offering “Blockchain as a Service” applications through Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform last year, and have been in talks with insurance giant John Hancock about modernizing insurance and other financial projects.
“We have directed Dubai Future Foundation to oversee the strategy and to benefit from the expertise it accumulated through the initiatives of the Global Blockchain Council. We have also directed Dubai Smart City Office to be the executive arm for this new strategy.”
- Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan