The names Babe Ruth and Joe DiMaggio immediately identify the sport of baseball. Vitalik Buterin and the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto represent legendary names as well. These are the guys that get all the credit for creating cryptocurrencies. And there are the kings of crypto, Bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum (ETH). After soaring to over $800 billion in value during their heyday in 2017 and grabbing the attention of global investors, Bitcoin and Ethereum have become household brand names. Along the way, investors came to the belief that cryptocurrencies held the key to global economic disruption. Many knowledgeable sources see things differently. These folks argue that blockchain technology is the key disruptive force underlying crypto. Experts point out that blockchain technology can easily stand-alone without crypto.
What Makes Blockchain Technology So Important
Blockchain technology is where Serge Belamant comes into the picture. True, Serge is not exactly a household name like Bitcoin, Ethereum or Ripple. He doesn’t even receive the public recognition of techno stars like Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg. However, time will eventually show the contributions of Serge Belamant to be every bit as significant as Bezos or Zuckerberg.
The Digital Nuts And Bolts
Blockchain technology is often described as a ledger of records that are linked together and encrypted. Individual ledgers contain critical data including a time stamp and other transaction data.
Original blockchain technology was invented to help the financial services sector to increase transparency, the accuracy of data and security of institutions as well as customers. Global financial transactions amount to more than $100 trillion a year business.
Many existing systems today are aging and inefficient. If you have ever tried to transfer money internationally, you appreciate how dicey this can be. This is just one example of what blockchain technology has the capability of addressing.
But financial transactions are only a part of the role blockchain technology is likely to play in the future global economy. Through the application of things like smart contracts, costs, especially in labor-intensive businesses, can be reduced, while speed to market is improved.
Blockchain and smart contracts hold major promise here. This disruptive technology is also being added to businesses that have complex supply chains to manage. The examples go deep into efficient economic management.
Here is What Makes Serge Special
Simply stated, Serge Belamant is a founding patent holder of blockchain technologies. Serge was instrumental in developing blockchain applications through the use of smart cards. The smart cards contained microprocessors which functioned on or off-line.
Here are several key patents filed over the past 20 years leading up to the birth of blockchain technology. We have tried to translate the technical language used in patent applications into everyday English. Hopefully, we have had some success.
Method and Apparatus for Controlling a Gaming Operation
Patent number: 6234898
Date of Patent: May 22, 2001
The genius behind this patent was creating a system that allows video gaming to take place in hotel rooms and other non-secure locations, with secure betting and allocation of winnings.
The system is comprised of a smart card consisting of a secure processing and memory apparatus connected to a video display. The memory of the smart card stores software controlling the operation of the game and all data relating to gains or losses of the player.
Input signals generated by the player are processed within the secure processor and all operations which can influence the outcome of the game are carried out within the secure processor so that the system is not susceptible to tampering, even when used in a non-secure environment.
Verification of a Transactor’s Identity
Publication number: 20120123879
Publication date: May 17, 2012
Online and mobile financial transactions take place at nearly 150 million per second and account for over $100 trillion annually. Without the means of verifying the true identity of both parties, the world financial system could not operate. Legacy systems were slow, cumbersome and prone to human error.
Serge’s verification system changed this by assigning each prospective transactor and transactee an identity and account verifying facility to identify the prospective transactor and an account the prospective transactor has with a financial institution. To add a further layer of security, both sides are further verified by an independent entity.
Designation of Electronic Financial Transactions (DEFT)
Publication number: 20120143757
Publication date: June 7, 2012
This electronic financial system (DEFT) creates a means to identify information supplied by a prospective transactor based on his “circumstances”. We interpret this to include things beyond simple username and password to include location and other conditions relevant to the transaction.
DEFT also provides a means to implementing a predetermined response based on the designation of the identifier. The designation can be either “normal” or “duress”.
If a “normal” identifier is given then the transactor is allowed a normal suite of transactions. If a “duress” identifier is given then no transactions are permitted, the transactor account is frozen, and personnel are alerted to assist the transactor. Alternatively, limited transactions are permitted and the personnel alerted.
Secure Financial Transactions
Publication number: 20100088227
Publication date: April 8, 2010
With the advent of mobile banking, financial institutions the world over were faced with flimsy security with critical data that left them vulnerable to hacking and electronic theft. Here is how Serge contributed to enhancing security.
A primary account number (“PAN”) of a conventional credit or debit account with a bank or other financial institution is emulated or simulated, which incorporates, in encrypted form, the actual account number. Thus, an account number and an amount are encrypted and mapped into a string of digits which appears to be a valid PAN. The actual account number and the transaction amount are thus embedded in the simulated PAN.
Financial Transactions with a Varying Pin
Publication number: 20140074725
Publication date: March 13, 2014
This technical breakthrough allowed for a new twist on identity verification at older ATMs. In simple terms, a customer would verify their voice with a phone call. Once the biometric of the voice was confirmed, the person received a Variable PIN in order to make a transaction at an older ATM. The Variable PIN could only be used one-time and one-time only.
The Person Behind Blockchain Technology
Serge Belamant didn’t come to prominence through the traditional route of Stanford or MIT. Born in France and raised in South Africa, Serge has been described as a bright outgoing student who excelled and was awarded the prestigious Victor Ludorum in 1971.
He went on to attend Witwatersrand University studying engineering at first. In his second year, he chose to switch to computer science and applied mathematics. Serge transferred in his third year of studies to the University of South Africa (UNISA) where he studied information systems. Like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, Serge left college before finishing his degree.
Creating Basis Blockchain Technology: Not So Easy
As with many new startups selling breakthrough technology, blockchain was slow in building a customer base. The first years Serge Belamant spent trying to get banks to use his Universal Electronic Payment System (UEPS). Bound by tradition and regulation, banks are highly risk-averse and the early going proved challenging.
The breakthrough moment for came in 1995 when Visa hired Serge’s firm Net1 Technologies to invent a new application using his FTS/UEPS technology. Serge moved to the United States where he had access to everything he needed to complete the project.
The end result was called the Chip Offline Pre-authorized Card (COPAC). While completing the COPAC project for Visa, Serge successfully integrated his two innovating technologies together. By merging FTS and UEPS, Serge Belamant created the COPAC which is still a primary security feature for Visa against fraud, misuse of credit and verifying personal identification numbers.
Another big break for came in 1999 when Cash Payment Services (CPS) was purchased from the First National Bank of South Africa. CPS was a system that paid welfare grants within the RSA. The system was in need of modernization in paying out grants to more than 1 million South Africans, mainly in the rural areas of the country.
Serge’s company, Net1 Technologies was successful in implementing the UEPS which supplied security, speed, and interoperability within CPS. With this masterful piece of work, Serge Belamant was nicknamed the Henry Ford of IT by respected journalist Stafford Thomas.
Technology In His Blood
From the time he left school, executives at industry giant Matrix Engineering Inc. quickly recognized Serge’s potential. Working with finite element analysis software on IBM and Cyber computer systems, Serge created applications to analyze water levels in dams. The software enabled optimal water levels in dams to predict and prevent future droughts.
This was just the beginning. From here Serge continued developing intricate computer models for projects at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). His skills were also quickly noticed and he was placed in charge of the computer section for the Pretoria, Witwatersrand and Vereeniging road planning project. His magical methods with computers led to breakthroughs in statistical methods, digital mapping, creating graphic interfaces that enhanced road network analysis.
While working at Control Data on a Cybernet application support team he was named analyst of the year in 1980. He continued working at Control Data but as the Head analyst for their ESKOM division (national grid systems) and won analyst of the year in 1982.
He developed the first scientifically driven financial system while working at DATABANK with Control Data equipment. He is credited with creating the VIB network which was eventually bought by Volkskas.
With his career moving on an upward trajectory, Serge became a consultant at The Bancorp in Wilmington Delaware to deal with risk management and analysis. His work at Bancorp included creating a 10-step program that analyzed risk and tested the sustainability of a business. The accomplishments at Bancorp led to full membership to the RSA Computer Society.
A Career Breakthrough Takes Place
One of Serge Belamant’s biggest achievements happened when he was recruited by SASWITCH to lead their IT division. SASWITCH Limited was a company owned by the RSA banks. The company faced problems with real-time switching and the processing time of transactions within the RSA banking system. Here are just a few of the challenges facing Serge.
The switching system was operated on a Christian Rovsing computer system that did not have the capacity to switch over 100 transactions per second or transfer real-time switching to a standby computer if the system failed.
When world-wide sanctions were placed on the RSA in the mid-1980s, Christian Rovsing no longer did business in the RSA. The pull-out of Christian Rovsing was a tremendous blow to SASWITCH and RSA banks. At this point, their switching systems could no longer perform, be updated or maintained.
Serge Belamant was appointed to fix the problem of performance. His creative skills invented a new National ATM switch for RSA banks which ran on fault-tolerant hardware and parallel processing systems. Serge Belamant installed Stratus computers to help solve the problem. He was able to secure contracts with vendors in Europe to supply him with the hardware and computers that were needed.
The innovative techniques used by Serge Belamant while developing the new switch for SASWITCH were incredible. For instance, he pioneered with the idea of reversing the communications’ protocols used by each South Africa bank that was connected to the switch. The communications’ protocols varied from SNA to X.25 to ICL-CO3. Reversing these protocols allowed the banks to avoid writing new software programs.
The switch enabled the connection of all RSA banks. The breakthrough technology created by him led to SASWITCH becoming the second largest ATM switch in the world.
While still working at SASWITCH, Serge developed the first RSA Point-of-Sales (POS) system that ran on a network of X.25 interconnected workstations. Although over time this system was not installed by the RSA banks. The RSA banks dragged their feet in determining the value proposition of the new POS system. Another obstacle was trying to figure out the revenue split between banking partners.
Aiming High: Net1 Technologies
Subsequently, Serge left SASWITCH in 1989 and founded Net1 Technologies in October 1989. Today the company has over $400 million in business providing transaction processing and secure payment technologies in South Africa and the Republic of Korea. The company was built upon one of Serge’s first achievements, the Funds Transfer System (FTS).
Over the years Net1 Technologies continued to grow providing services in countries like Botswana, Burundi, Ghana, Iraq, Russia, and Namibia. The reputation of Serge Belamant and his blockchain technology grew alongside the growth of Net1 Technologies.
From 2003 to 2005, he concentrated on getting Net1 Technologies listed as a public company on the NASDAQ in New York. He achieved this in 2005 when he became the Chairman and CEO. Net1 Technologies would continue to grow and at its peak, the company had a market value of $2 billion.
This impressive milestone didn’t slow Serge Belamant from continuing to invent new blockchain technology. He was able to take his UEPS another step forward to invent the first electronic purse that could be used on or off-line using smart card technology.
In 2012, Net1 Technologies was awarded an RSA* government contract from South Africa Social Security Administration (SASSA) to pay all social grants in the RSA. In order to accomplish this feat of paying near 10 million beneficiaries on a monthly basis, there needed to be new technology created. Once again Serge Belamant and Net1 Technologies were up for the challenge.
To accomplish the feat of paying 10 million beneficiaries, Serge Belamant created several new innovative technologies. The technological breakthroughs include morphing, a variable PIN and the construction of a 1:N Biometric Comparison Engine.
Morphing was a unique invention. Morphing allows smart cards to function in UEPS when used with electronic money devices such as an ATM or POS system. By morphing the personality of the Europay, MasterCard, Visa (EMV) chip the smart cards and UEPS could operate around the world.
The process provided the SASSA with specific items needed for security. The items included offline processing, biometric card verification and access to variety of financial products. The technology enhanced card based financial items from loans to debit orders to credit to interest accumulation.
While these transactions were taking place within a system which was secured by multiple audit trails or blockchain applications. The transactional database created the information that was then dispersed transparently to customers and merchants.
The engine saved the RSA billions by eliminating illegal customers in the form of duplicates or ghosts. Since the engine was run on numerous interconnected PCs it could automatically change the configuration of the information if one PC in the chain failed. Thus, the engine could run continuously without downtown due to repairs or maintenance.
The new technology implemented by Net1 Technologies allowed SASSA to operate without incident for seven consecutive years.
What Is Serge Creating These Days
After leaving Net1 Technologies in 2017, Serge helped co-found Zilch Technology Limited along with his son, Philip. The company focuses on many of his inventions in the banking sector. He is active within the company inventing more blockchain technology that has furthered the cryptocurrency markets.
Serge Belamant holds his head above the crowd of application and software developers for his innovative brain that has taken blockchain technology to new heights. Without Serge Belamant and his earlier work on blockchain technology, the IT world as we know it would not be the same.
* RSA (Rivest–Shamir–Adleman) is an algorithm used by modern computers to encrypt and decrypt messages. It is an asymmetric cryptographic algorithm. Asymmetric means that there are two different keys. … It is also a key pair (public and private key) generator.