As part of the Digital Currency Council’s Continuing Education partnership with Inside Bitcoins, the DCC’s Director of Curriculum, Dan McArdle, had the opportunity to interview the thought leaders that will be speaking at the Inside Bitcoins Conference in New York City on April 27-29, 2015. Today, we share an interview with Eric Lombrozo, Co-CEO and CTO of Ciphrex.
Dan: Can you tell us a little about why you got involved in Bitcoin and digital currencies?
Eric: I’ve been working on enterprise security software for nearly 20 years. In 2011, a friend introduced me to Bitcoin. I was immediately drawn to it and saw its immense potential but quickly ran into limitations with the existing designs and implementations. I began to think of ways to improve upon them…and I’ve been doing that ever since.
Dan: How is Ciphrex’s technology and product approach different than that of other bitcoin-storage solutions? Who is your ideal customer?
Eric: Bitcoin ownership really comes down to control and management of cryptographic keys. So I would say our focus isn’t as much on being a storage solution as it is on being an account management and transaction authorization platform supporting cryptographically enforceable authorization policies and procedures for tracking and moving funds. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to securing bitcoins, we support a very broad range of configuration options depending on the particular use case.
We cover the entire range, from simple single-user accounts with minimal configuration requirements all the way to accounts managed by large organizations with very intricate policies and procedures involving large numbers of people and equipment. Our technology can also be used to build custom storage solutions that other businesses, such as insured vaults, escrow services, and currency exchanges, can use to secure funds for their own customers.
Dan: Inside Bitcoins has brought together many of the best minds in the industry. What do you hope to learn, discuss, or accomplish at Inside Bitcoins New York this year?
Eric: I always enjoy meeting with other industry professionals and thought leaders to discuss emerging ideas. I try to keep an open mind and not have too many preconceived notions of what the main accomplishments will be. In my experience, the greatest accomplishments at these types of events usually turn out to be quite different from what I expected – often to my pleasant surprise.
Dan: As digital currency technology evolves, what are you looking forward to seeing develop in the next 1-3 years? And what’s your long-term (5-10yr) outlook?
Eric: The next 1-3 years will see a continuing rise in interest in this space, in popular culture, industry, and academia. I expect to see a lot of basic research, both theoretical and experimental, carried out in this timespan with several significant breakthroughs. Several seminal research papers and new testnets will come out. The ability to transact not only in traditional goods and services across computer networks but to directly incentivize and subsidize computational and human resources on peer-to-peer networks is truly revolutionary. Longer term, mesh networks with cryptographically enforced economic incentives will lead to a far more decentralized and secure Internet supporting applications we can scarcely even begin to fathom.
Dan: What do you see as the greatest challenge for the industry as a whole?
Eric: Bitcoin started out as an experiment. For better or worse it got out into the wild and became real money before the technology was solid and mature. There are significant technical, political, and economic challenges that exist in maintaining and upgrading these types of networks to keep up with the pace of innovation. Migration of protocols, applications, and infrastructure is a much harder problem for decentralized consensus networks than for most other types of computer systems – and a considerably harder problem than many had originally anticipated. Yet the rapid pace of innovation makes it all the more critical that we find ways to do this efficiently and with minimal negative disruption.
Dan: What’s your best advice for growing the ecosystem? How can we educate more people as to the benefits of digital currency and achieve greater adoption?
Eric: If there’s one thing I’d like to say to ecosystem it’s this: nobody has this stuff really figured out yet – not even the brightest minds in this space have it all figured out. We’re still in the very early stages. We’ve only started to scratch the surface of what we can do. We know our current solutions are still not quite ready to support global mainstream adoption. In particular, we need significant improvements in scalability, usability, extensibility, economic flexibility, and long-term maintainability. All we really have right now is scaffolding for part of the foundations of what will eventually become a skyscraper. We have some ideas, but many critical parts and pieces are still missing. Right now is not the time to try to consolidate – right now is the time to explore and invent!
Dan: Thanks very much for your thoughts, Eric. Looking forward to a great conference.