Australia to take global lead on blockchain standards

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Australia to take global lead on blockchain standards

Gets ISO go-ahead.

Australia will lead the international development of standards governing blockchain distributed ledger technology after a model submitted by Standards Australia earlier this year received the tick of approval.

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) today said it had approved the Australian blockchain standards development proposal, with Standards Australia now set to lead an international technical committee to build a uniform approach to the technology.

The committee - which will include 35 ISO members like the US, UK, Germany, Canada and Japan - will be tasked with creating a common language for "interoperability among systems, privacy, security and terminology".

"International blockchain standards will play a key role in creating greater market certainty and confidence while supporting regulation of financial transactions, commodity exchanges and asset transfers," Standards Australia said.

It submitted its proposal in April. The document was considered by the ISO's 161 member countries before approval was granted.

The committee's work will focus on "technical solutions including protocols and interoperability" rather than legal obligations and regulatory matters, which Standards Australia said should instead be addressed by governments.

"There are currently a number of different blockchain protocols in use," the peak non-government body said in its initial proposal.

"The technical committee will consider key protocol differentiating elements including permission models (private and public), smart contracts (contracts whose terms are recorded in computer language rather than legal language), application programming interfaces and other elements."

It suggested leveraging the existing SWIFT ISO 20022 standard - which defines the fields and controls within messages and transactions between entities - for the blockchain standards development.

The ability of blockchain's distributed ledger technology to settle transactions faster and more securely has caught the eye of banks, governments and technology companies the world over. The technology underpins the world's biggest crypto-currency, Bitcoin.

Locally, the Australian Securities Exchange is looking at the technology as a replacement for its equities clearing and settlement system, and the federal Treasury and Data61 are studying potential use cases for industry and the public sector. 

Australia's biggest banks are part of an international consortium looking at using blockchain for bond trading, whilst Microsoft has released a cloud-based blockchain-as-a-service platform to entice customers to the technology.

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