Where are we now?
A fundamental key to grasping any technology is its real-world application. Try explaining any abstract concept to most people and they may, on some level, understand, but when you give real-world examples- that is when the lightbulb usually switches on.
We do not mean this to be an exhaustive list, nor is it compiled in any order or preference. It is simply illustrative of the current market and where we feel it may head. There are many other great ideas and incredible companies we haven’t had the chance to include here. We love to hear other ideas, cases and comments so if you agree, disagree or have something we’ve missed please let us know!
Blockchain use-cases span a wide and varied range of industries from music piracy, voting and social networks to supply chains. It is by no means a panacea, however it can have relevant applications across a broad spectrum of industries. An important reminder to make before exploring some of these uses is the distinction between internal and external uses. In the future many companies may employ a blockchain without it being a central part of their offering, if they are an existing company the user experience may not even be significantly different if at all, backend use application and adoption is also vital, if not as public. On the other side some businesses will base their brand of their offering around blockchain. So not every application is outward facing. We find this can be a helpful reminder when trying to put use-cases into context.
Transfer of assets/financial applications.
- Crypto-currency– BTC is obviously the most well-known crypto currency, but many of these allow borderless transfers with low fees and no middlemen. The accessibility of these can help to create banking opportunities in areas where this was previously unfeasible. With the continuing development of layer 2 capabilities like the Lightning network to allow for micropayments, the belief is these processes will only improve in both their speed and also accessibility for those who currently find the technology unwieldy. There are a huge number of cryptos out there from Bitcoin, Ethereum, Monero, Maker, Zcash to the more amusing Dogecoin.
- Tokenization of other assets/collectibles– We are able to assign a token to a piece of art, a car, a pair of collectible sneakers etc. By doing this we can allow for a more seamless exchange of these items where the authenticity of each item is built into the tokenization process. An immutable history of a piece of art or a collectible adds a huge amount of value and confidence to a market. It is a fascinating part of the market that, in our opinion, still has some development to be done. Companies like Blockchain app factory are offering custom tokenization for galleries, collectors and individual pieces. This similarly feeds into our later point on identity management. You can think of it as, in essence, managing the identity of that piece of art.
- DEFI or Decentralized Finance– goes hand in hand with the very ethos of blockchain technology. There is an opportunity here to restructure a great deal of the current financial system. Lofty goals?-Yes. Is the ecosystem there yet?-No. However, this does not preclude great developments continuing in the sector and useful ones building the foundations for an exciting future. Decentralized exchanges are in operation such as: Airswap, IDEX and Forkdelta, showing what is already possible in what, we would argue, is a nascent industry. Augur and Maker to name but a few more are working on fascinating projects. Check out ConsenSys’ tremendous article here with a list of exciting DEFI projects. Peter McCormack also has some great episodes on his podcast- What Bitcoin Did
Trust-based database replacements/Supply-chains
- Land registry/titles– One application we are excited about would be transferring databases such as land titles to a blockchain. Imagine the tremendous effects this could bring for settling future land disputes. It has been discussed in reference to countries such as Haiti where the devastating effects of the earthquake reportedly destroyed many of their land records. Equally it would be useful in countries where land disputes have previously been settled by corruption or dishonesty. An immutable ledger in this case could be invaluable. Countries like the UK have been toying with the idea, and last year the HMLR (Her Majesty’s Land Registry) began experimenting with utilizing blockchain in their organization.
- Healthcare– The distribution of medicine is another example of where blockchains can add confidence and prevent counterfeiting. Tracking the supply chains can greatly reduce the number of fake medicines in distribution and give patients and doctors confidence that what the label says is accurate.
- Food supply chains– The IBM food chain is another great example of a blockchain being put to practical use. They are able to assure source, while increasing the safety, freshness and efficiency of the whole supply chain. This also highlights an internal and external use case- by implementing blockchain you are strengthening both your brand and your internal efficiency. You have cost savings and increased confidence.
- Alongside the IBM food chain you have other businesses building tremendous applications, often in other supply networks. Komgo allows for more efficient commodities trades, bringing all parties together to work from the same hymn sheet. It enhances the simplicity, transparency, efficiency and security of each trade. They employ a flexible solution that we think is really innovative and brilliant.
- New Social Networks– an application touted in different forms is the future of social media. You may be able to have your identity stored on a blockchain, rather than having multiple accounts with different details, representing security threats and opportunities for fraud. Alongside this, the networks themselves can be decentralized, removing for many the threat of data collection/breaches/sales without your permission. For example, on Steemit the content you create on a network can be turned into reward for you rather than then network. Diaspora is another decentralized network where the user owns their own data and control the privacy settings.
- Healthcare (again)– Imagine having one source of truth for your medical records, Drs can all access the same ledger and get a clear and complete view of your medical history. This can help to reduce a huge number of potentially avoidable medical risks and complications while also reducing costs from the often fragmented and segregated systems currently in place. Medicalchain is an interesting example of companies applying blockchain usage to healthcare.
- Voting– companies such as Inno.Vote are creating the possible future for voting systems. The nature of blockchains immutability and security, when implemented properly could represent a huge step forward in the protection of voting against fraud. The integrity of both the voting system and the identity matching of people can be protected by correct blockchain application.
- Entertainment– The entertainment industry is rife with issues often relating to ownership, identity and royalties. Companies like Resonate and Emanate are creating fantastic applications to help musicians retain ownership of their music and to be paid their dues appropriately. These apps represent a chance to remove the middlemen, improve the efficiency of royalty payments and help musicians control the distribution of their art by owning a share of the platform too.
What does this mean for jobs?
As you can see here, there is a huge range of applications for blockchains, these use cases range from ‘hypothetical’ to ‘already implemented’ and everything in between. We have only begun to touch on the subject, with other use-cases being left out here for now, such as audit-chains, gambling and gaming to name but a few. The ecosystem is still in its infancy, with an exciting amount of development and iteration to come. Operability, ease of integration, user experience and design will all continue to improve especially as ideas are continually refined and new ones emerge. While it is true there are many companies trying to put everything on a blockchain, even when there are no advantages to be gained, we think the ones mentioned above (and many more) represent real progress and discussion points for future development. They can increase trust, efficiency, security and fairness while reducing chances for fraud & unethical behaviour.
Every part of the industry will need excellent people. Developers will continue to be an integral part of the growth of the ecosystem – efficient and friendly design will be key and strong architecture will be the foundation for many of these businesses. Languages like C++, Solidity, Simplicity and Python are and will continue to be in demand. Marketing professionals with a firm grasp of the technology will be in demand as companies look to effectively communicate the benefits they bring in terms that are more universally understandable. Strong team leaders and management will be key to helping scale companies and departments at every level. If you are considering hiring in the sector, reach out to the team and we will be happy to help.
As always if you have any comments/thoughts/additions please feel free to leave them. We are always learning.