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What Does Provenance Look Like in a Data Driven World?


BlockChainWorking in the space of cutting-edge technology is both a radically fast-moving challenge and a slow step-by-step journey. If you talk to a blockchain enthusiast, you will hear that blockchain technology could change things as dramatically as the invention of the internet. These are the innovators and early adopters, who may very well change the world. Sit down with the laggards and you will hear about how blockchain is merely a “neat” technology looking for a solution. While I may not always be a “blockchain will change everything” kind of guy, I am certainly a “blockchain needs to change the way we think about data” kind of guy.

Big Data, Big Deal?

We all have heard about the value of big data. Whether it is tracking our internet searches, shipping and social media habits, retail activity or other consumer data, one thing is certain: The world collects data at an exponential rate. But how reliable is that data?

What does it mean for more traditional industries where data is still stored on paper? Are they going to be left behind? Are they not leveraging data to drive business growth or even protecting it from a consumer standpoint? Data can be a powerful force if what is collected has value and is executed with precision.

So, what is data as defined by the mortgage industry? And which of that data is useful? The traditional mortgage industry doesn’t need to know data on how many steps a consumer took while wearing their Fitbit. But it could benefit from knowing if they paid their mortgage on their phone or if that mortgage was paid on time. It may need to know how many real estate search apps consumers have on their phone or amount of times they visited the site.

For years, many big data companies have been trying to find ways to leverage the power of accurate data. The code still isn’t cracked. When every device we have is tracking data, how do you know it’s the right one, gathered by a reliable source where the provenance has been verified? A lot of arguments I hear against blockchain are that we can’t solve a “garbage in, garbage out problem.” That is correct and a primary reason why people’s jobs aren’t at risk. Blockchain can’t solve the garbage problem, but it can make data more valuable and powerful when it is correct.

While we can collect all the data in the world, it doesn’t mean anything if we can’t ensure it.

Trusting the Data

What makes us trust those who verify the provenance of a document, painting or antiquity? In good faith, we assume the auction house or appraiser is qualified, has the proper steps in place to prevent fraud, and has proper documentation. This model works because the volume of rare art and antiquities is relatively low and the process can move slowly.

The scientific community has solved this trust issue by implementing a scientific method in congruence with the concept of empirical evidence. We trust scientific data because of this methodology that has been used repeatedly for hundreds of years. When a new project is started on top of the original data, scientists don’t go through testing all the original proven data. The concept of empirical evidence is what allows us to not waste time proving the data is true.

With increased regulation, the mortgage industry developed a robust system of auditing and due diligence by sheer manpower that, by all assumptions, will not be sustainable in the long term.  When an industry become so regulated to prevent the checkers who check the checkers from failing, its progress slows down.

That said, it is time for us to move out of our silos and build upon each other’s progress. We can do this by trusting the proven system and then double ensuring it by leveraging blockchain technology.

When looking towards the future, how do we leverage our existing processes and make them more powerful? Harnessing the seemingly overwhelming data sets and digital assets is the first step.

Ensuring Data with Factom Harmony

The amount of data collected is not going to slow down, whether it be consumer or enterprise data. However, we can leverage data to make it more valuable. Protecting and valuing data is what Factom Harmony is here for.

Factom Harmony is the first collaborative blockchain platform that publishes evidence for the mortgage industry. This platform enables organizations to better coordinate audits, interact with all loan document and data across multiple sources, deliver final documents faster, and utilize resources more efficiently. To put it simply, our blockchain solutions verify and validate digital assets or a document’s originality and integrity.

Which brings me back to the scientific community. The scientific community is collaborative in nature, which has allowed for them to move forward. Can our industry operate in the same way? By collaborating with one another through trusted data with clear and indisputable provenance, we can ensure we won’t do the same work twice. Imagine how much time, money, and resources we’ll save if we can build upon data provenance.

A popular African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” It’s time we follow in the scientific community’s footsteps and go far together.

If you’re ready to talk about ensured data provenance, email us at info@factom.com or learn more at Factom.com.

About Author: Jason Nadeau

Jason Nadeau is EVP with Factom, Inc., where he leads mortgage strategy, revenue growth, and business development strategy.

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