Developer Showcase Series: David Conroy, National Association of REALTORS

We’re back to our Developer Showcase blog series, which serves to highlight the work and motivations of developers, users and researchers collaborating on Hyperledger’s incubated projects. Next up is David Conroy, an R&D Lab Engineer at the Center for REALTOR Technology, as part of the National Association of REALTORS. Let’s see what he has to say!

What advice would you offer other technologists or developers interested in getting started working on blockchain? 

Before getting started working in blockchain, I strongly recommend taking the time to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the many different types of blockchain technologies available today. A great way to accomplish this is to take a look at all of the fantastic open source tools out there that already exist for blockchain development. Understanding the basics prior to beginning the development process can be critical to the success of your future applications. My two favorite development tools currently are Hyperledger Composer (https://github.com/hyperledger/composer), and the Truffle Framework (http://truffleframework.com/). If you are looking for online resources for blockchain education, The Linux Foundation has released a self-paced primer on distributed ledgers that is incredibly thorough and also free of charge.

David Conroy, National Association of REALTORS


Give a bit of background on what you’re working on, and let us know what was it that made you want to get into blockchain?

I work for CRT Labs, a research group operated by the National Association of REALTORS®. Our lab focuses on emerging technologies that could potentially affect real estate. Personally, I have been interested in blockchain since I began learning and writing about Bitcoin in 2013. Since then as the technology has matured, it became increasingly apparent that my personal interests were quickly aligning with my professional ones. This is due to the massive implications that blockchain poses for the real estate industry.  In addition to payment and escrow, blockchains could potentially provide the mechanisms for establishing identity, enforcing of contracts, and improving the overall quality of property records.

What project in Hyperledger are you working on? Any new developments to share? Can you sum up your experience with Hyperledger?

At NAR, we are building a Hyperledger Fabric based system that will allow us to more effectively understand how our association interacts with its 1.3 million members. This project will allow us to tie together all of the various educational courses taken, committees served on, and events attended by our members despite the fact that this activity is occurring at over 1,400 local associations nationwide. Our legacy systems lack the functionality to provide a complete, accurate, and verifiable report that shows the complete picture of a members activity within our association. Now with the assistance of blockchain that granularity of reporting is something we are able to provide. This data can then be used to better provide services, aid in leadership development, and allow for increased recognition of our highly involved members. We took advantage of the Hyperledger Composer tool to define our business network and get our initial proof of concepts running quickly.

In addition to the work I’ve done at NAR, I have also entered into multiple blockchain-related programming competitions in my spare time to keep current on latest development trends. Most recently, I was a part of a team that took first place in IBM’s Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence Global Hackathon. Alongside the cash prize, the top finish came with a opportunity to present at IBM’s Think 2018 Conference. The submission was a Hyperledger-based, IBM Watson-powered parking reservation marketplace called The Spot Exchange.

In addition to the for-profit business models, I’ve also looked at Blockchain for social good. For the past few months, I have been working on a project that uses blockchain and artificial intelligence for social good. Specifically – providing identity, education, and family reunification services for Refugee Resettlement. For more information please visit ProjectSafeHarbor.com.

Locally, I serve as co-chair of the two Chicago-based blockchain meetups, Hyperledger Chicago & Chicago Blockchain in Real Estate.

What’s the one issue or problem you hope blockchain can solve?

One area where I believe blockchains have an enormous potential is improving the state of our current systems for establishing our digital identities. Consumers today are unrealistically expected to securely manage login information across hundreds of different websites. Unfortunately, this burden leads to poor password hygiene from many users, while slowly turning popular websites into an ever-growing target for hackers looking for large amounts of personal information. Two projects that I am following very closely that look to solve some of these issues in a decentralized and self-sovereign manner are Hyperledger Indy, and the Ethereum project uPort.