SALT LAKE CITY — Beehive State lawmakers are considering a bill that would launch an exploration of how the hive mind of blockchain technology could help optimize some state government tasks.
Blockchain technology — which may be envisioned as a shared digital spreadsheet in which every transaction or change to the data must be verified by participating, validating peers — is an innovation best known as the platform on which cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, Ether and others are based. But, the potential applications are much wider ranging than just an alternative to fiat, or standard, currency.
On Thursday, members of the House Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Standing Committee voted their unanimous support of HJR19, a joint resolution that would direct a study of how blockchain technology could be utilized by Utah government agencies.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, said even before the bill's first committee hearing, he's heard from numerous companies that support the effort.
"It's been fascinating how many entities have come to me and said, as we study this as a state, they want to be involved," McKell said. "They've said this is something we want to work on."
Overstock.com's investment subsidiary Medici Ventures has been all-in on blockchain technology since launching in 2014. The firm has funneled tens of millions into companies working to leverage blockchain-based innovations, most of which have nothing to do with cryptocurrency.
Medici President Jonathan Johnson said his company is in full support of HJR19 and believes the effort, if approved by the Legislature, will help keep the state out in front of technological advancements.
"Overstock.com supports HJR019, the bill calling on legislative study of Blockchain technology," Johnson said in a statement. "Blockchain is the most promising technology to emerge in a decade. It is poised to resolve problems and challenges now known, and some that will stretch long into the foreseeable future.
"Utah has long positioned itself to be at the forefront of technological discovery and application, and this bill will help to move us to the crest of the blockchain wave."
While the resolution only directs that blockchain potentials be studied, David Fletcher, chief technology officer for the Utah Department of Technology Services, said he believes there are numerous areas, under the purview of state government, that could be made more efficient through the adoption of a blockchain-based approach.
"Really, there are dozens of potential uses," Fletcher said. "There are many interesting case studies out there … and we're seeing other states taking the first steps toward adopting some blockchain-based processes."
Fletcher said the management of property and vehicle titles would lend itself well to a blockchain-based system, as would driver's licenses and state-issued identification cards. Contracts, chain of custody records and the work of notary publics are other areas that Fletcher noted could be optimized through using decentralized blockchain systems.
The election system and vote casting is another area that has the potential to be substantially redefined by blockchain, which can provide a level of security that just isn't possible with systems, like the current voting protocols used by most states, that continue to rely on a centralized controls.4 comments on this story
Last year, Johnson told the Deseret News that he believes blockchain technology could solve ongoing issues with securing election processes.
"Democracy will benefit greatly from critical improvements blockchain technology can bring to voting systems," Johnson said. "For example, providing secure, immutable record keeping will bring greater confidence in accurate results, and ease of use will lower the barrier to entry for citizens to participate in elections."
HJR19 now moves to the full House for that body's consideration.