What is Rakuten about? What is their strategy?
According to Executive Director Naojiro Hisada, Rakuten, they are all about the customers and their reach is extremely wide. Many people use VIBER as an app, but few people know it’s linked to Rakuten.
Rakuten is developing a cross-usage program to simulate usage via points. They want to grow and they want to expand and they have lots of ideas about it.
R Point is Japan’s Number One Reward program and is rolled out and available at 700k stores. 1 trillion + points issued from 2002. When Bitcoin was developed, through Bitcoin, Internet gained values and the value could have been exchanged amongst people and that is the world we created, according to Executive Director Hisada.
Rakuten has Tech Global hubs and it covers 8 countries and 10 Development Centers. He mentions that the engineering market is very tough and so they can’t just find engineers in Japan hence for the need for global centres. One of their Centres are in India with more than 500 engineers; in the US over 200 engineers as in the same in Singapore and to maintain and develop new services.
In relation to statistics 77% are male 23% are female and 59% are non Japanese and 41% are Japanese. Majority of their employees are from overseas in their Japanese office. They have TV conferences around the clock, morning in the US, then Singapore then European teams in the evening.
In 2009 Bitcoin was born, and Rakuten started in 2014 with Bitnet which is a bit coin payment system. In 2014 they started capital investments into the company and the economic system of Bitcoin was a major impact.
Rakuten felt like they needed to catch up and hence the creation of Bitnet. Then in 2015, Rakuten engaged with Buy.com which was bought by Rakuten and re-labeled as Rakuten in USA and one of the payment scenes as bitcoin. So around 2015, Rakuten accepted bitcoin and realised there is a market to buy with bitcoin.
In 2015, they wanted to fully integrate Bitnet and at the same time, established the Rakuten Blockchain Lab. Rakuten is aware that there are a lot of blockchain startups that are developing their own levels of block chain and selling it to their services or engaged in consulting and may be advising how to utilise blockchain and why does it have to be blockchain?
Why can’t we make do with other technologies? Rakuten often discusses this. They have 70 existing services. How can they effectively utilise blockchain to use services. This technology cannot be wrapped up in one world and labor intensive to explain technology.
As a technologist Director Hisada understands the challenges of communicating this to other technologists let alone the public. When he talks about disruptive technology he looks back and says people always ask, why can’t you do with existing technology? Is this stable enough? He acknowledges that blockchain is not fully mature, but then even with that he affirms we can’t just sit in the side lines. We enter a dilemma and hence we must go into blockchain and do research hence the need for the Rakuten Blockchain Lab.
If there is no team, Rakuten can not focus and hence by utilising blockchain and into their products they are further their research and development work.
The Rakuten Blockchain lab is not limited to Japan, but expands to Belfast and Bangalore. If they have a team in the US, it is difficult because of time differences and hence the two locations. The Rakuten Blockchain Platform Services is meant to be open for people to utilise APIs and is not limited to businesses. It involves existing engineers and he encourages that all can be trained through a short period of time and develop services into the blockchain.
- Enterprise Blockchain Plat fore secure, high availability, cloud based platform to develop solutions with advantage of the benefits of blockchain
- Cryptocurrency services: buying and selling through integration and particularly exchanges and the public blockchain
- Key Custody Services: offering platform to develop Cryptographic keys and their management
These three major projects are trialled and utilised to see whether it could be used internally. The Technology stack of Rakuten Blockchain Platform includes API, Node, Docker, Kubernetes, Helm, RabbitNQ, MultiChain, Kong , NGINX. In order to be off chain Director Hisada offers not just blockchain platforms but also security and is at an enterprise level so they could also utilise for their own services.
Their platform services including private and public chains. Director Hisada explains their product overview which includes, identity, wallet, asset management, monthly API, Asset Management, transactions. He speaks of how Rakuten can handle numerous wallets and transactions and also signatures.
In terms of layer of blockchains there are two themes, one that is multichain that is developed through bitcoin. Depending on the transaction, they use multichain. For instance, if you want a smart contract, they could use hyperleger and has both depending on what the customer wants.
A blockchain platform. How could Rakuten use for all their services?
They have been considering how can the platform support other services. They think it could be used for external consortium and that is what they are doing and would like to continue to do.
What about use case of the Rakuten Blockchain lab?
Rakuten has been running many POC, Rakuten Energy Trading System which runs for credit which is the certification program for carbon offset. This is the open ledger system for not only Rakuten running on Rakuten Blockchain Platform. It is being used and is open and is available for consortium collaboration.
There is a unique R- Star initiative. Let’s say you have a colleague who assists you at work, you give you them a word of appreciation. You can also give them a coin to buy a cup of coffee in the company.
This use case is currently being trialled and is rather popular so far. Director Hisada also believes AI and document has greater potential.
In August 2018, Rakuten decided to join the trading floor of cryptocurrencies and currently working on the development and expecting to make an announcement in April 2019. The major service would be for wallet functions. This is not just about a simple trading platform, Rakuten wants to link with other services so all can benefit from the multi-services.
Director Hisada hopes that people are aware of what Rakuten are doing and leaves the audience wondering what will be launched in April 2019.
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Written by Helen Tung
Emergent Tech Advisor/ MINERVA fellow- Space Applications & GNSS, EU – Japan Centre
Creative Convenor, EU-Japan NewSpace2060 Illustrated Haiku Competition 2019
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