This article originally appeared in Northwest Arkansas Business Journal on June 6, 2019.
Getting to a single version of the truth is the ultimate goal of business intelligence systems.
It’s one of the most important values of blockchain, according to a panel of three Arkansas technology leaders who gathered recently for a roundtable discussion in the Firmin-Garner Performance Studio at Fayetteville radio station KUAF 91.3 FM.
Participants in the conversation were Meredith Lowry, an attorney with Wright Lindsey Jennings in Rogers, Joe Ehrhardt, founder and CEO of Springdale-based 3E Software and Brad Garrard, a senior director of engineering and technology at J.B. Hunt in Lowell.
“I view it as is just one version of the truth in supply chain management. And that’s what everybody’s looking for,” Garrard said. “J.B. Hunt has a piece of that supply chain but there’s a lot that happens before it gets on one of our trucks. And so being able to make that visible to our customers is something that I think they’re wanting blockchain to enable and I think it will. But we need more people using it in order to do so.”
Lowry said the single version of the truth also applies to her work as an intellectual property attorney, specifically mentioning smart contracts. The documentation, verification and compliance procedures associated with establishing trust between entities who want to do business with each other come with a cost. Smart contracts, Lowry said, can help reduce that cost.
3E Software, the developer of financial software Teslar, serves banks across the nation, from $50 million to $20 billion in assets. Ehrhardt said blockchain technology allows for financial institutions to create direct links between each other, but most people don’t want their finances or records distributed to multiple people.
“There are definitely practical uses for blockchain,” he said. “But how do you keep it secure? Security is always top of mind, especially if you let other people outside of the trusted bank hold data.”
Lowry, an advocate of advancing the state’s technology sector and promoting more female entrepreneurs, shared her perspective on key ingredients for not only attracting women to Northwest Arkansas for jobs but retaining them once they have those jobs.
“Certainly J.B. Hunt, Walmart, Tyson are working actively to attract female technologists to the area,” she said. “But then also we have to have education and more opportunities beyond just the ‘Big Three’ [employers] in the area because sometimes those women want to branch out and create a startup. So the area itself has to be hospitable and they have to feel like there’s going to be those opportunities for them.”
Ehrhardt, Garrard and Lowry shared their thoughts on a number of additional topics.