Blockchain the - immutable, encrypted, decentralized - ledger has a potential of making every centralized process, activity, and organization fully autonomous. This means we can eliminate intermediaries, authorities, and churn. Thus, streamlining every business, governance and non-profit activity. While all this sounds amazing it is yet a far-off dream and we still struggling to make real-world moves. Amidst all the developments revolving around blockchain, there is a lot of confusion about the future of this tech. To bring some clarity we interviewed 8 industry experts and here is what they say about the possible blockchain technology future:
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Possible Blockchain Applications in the Future:
1. Eliminating Trusted Third Parties:
Blockchain as a technology has the potential to fundamentally affect a wide variety of processes and technologies. At its core, the Blockchain is a system for eliminating the need for trust in transactions. While that may sound like a simple proposition, many of the largest institutions in the world exist today to operate as trusted third parties, for example, SWIFT and the Depository Trust Clearing Company. Corporate opportunities abound for companies that can create applied blockchain technologies targeting specific transactions, for example, the mortgage industry.
The current landscape of mortgages requires an intricate web of title searches, title insurance, and countless minor transaction fees that are necessary to keep the system running. These systems exist because, historically, the transfer of land has been a process that requires a tremendous amount of trust in dated records. However, the Blockchain would address all of these concerns, and a specific property’s ledger can contain a verifiable and validated history of transactions, minimizing the need for institutions to provide risk mitigation and trust services, rather the transaction can exist in its own right. The result would be closing mortgages for a fraction of the cost, in a fraction of the time, with substantial higher degrees of trust.
2. Blockchain Will Protect Self-Driving Cars:
Many people look at Blockchain as nothing more than a digital ledger system and some people even see it is synonymous with Bitcoin. But the true potential of Blockchain as an encrypted database structure is revolutionary, exciting, and as of yet unrealized. For example, cyber-security has been the fly in the ointment for widespread innovation in many industries including driverless vehicles.
Since the early days of the internet, our ability to push boundaries has always moved much faster than our ability to protect ourselves from spyware, viruses, and hackers – but Blockchain could be the end of that. Many people consider the technology for autonomous vehicles not only to be perfected in test runs but also ready for the marketplace. However, legislation won’t allow driverless cars in any real way just yet, and one big reason is cyber-security.
These concerns aren’t unwarranted. After all, even modern vehicles that are on the road now have been intercepted remotely by hackers. And while changing your radio station is one thing, driving your car into a ditch is quite another. In the past automakers have never been able to guarantee full security against cyber-attacks in their driverless cars, but with Blockchain, they can. This decentralized method of distribution would make every driverless car on the road essentially untouchable. Now that Blockchain is here, it’s hard to imagine a future of driverless cars that doesn’t rely on it.
3. Blockchain in 2018 - beyond Bitcoin:
The explosive growth of Bitcoin in 2017 promoted the reliability and benefits of the underlying technology used by this cyber currency, the blockchain. In 2017, blockchain became the second most popular search word on Gartner's website, and distributed ledger technology will continue to gain significance across many industries.
Deloitte predicts that blockchain projects are going to exceed cloud computing and IoT in venture capital investment. Countries with official blockchain strategies, like Malta, will end up leading regional markets and the global industry in general.
Blockchain will help to address several modern-day security concerns, including issues with contracts, identity, and fraud management. Blockchain-based lists will allow online retailers and financial organizations to conveniently vet their customers and fight against fraudulent activities.
The Blockchain terminology will also evolve over time. Industry leaders will emphasize on providing functional or architectural descriptions instead of relying on the term “blockchain.” The Australian Securities Exchange, for example, avoided the word when announcing its deployment of a “distributed ledger technology” for clearing and settlement earlier this year, focusing on its functionality, rather than looking for popularity.
While the hype around the word “blockchain” will subside in the coming year, we’ll see major blockchain-inspired applications in healthcare, financial, insurance, and e-commerce sectors. Blockchain will become the default technology wherever there is a need to ensure the integrity of data.
4. Ensuring a Secure Internet of the Future:
The most important feature of blockchain is that it provides unsurpassed security in an unsecured Internet where phishing, malware, DDOS, spam and hacks put in danger the way business is done globally.
One of the main benefits that blockchain provides over other ledger software is that it is based on cryptography and is programmed to be immutable, one cannot go back to a certain point on the blockchain and change information. For the 10 years of blockchain's existence, it has never been hacked.
Another crucial benefit of blockchain is it's distributed across multiple networks, making it extremely hard to bring down in a case of authoritarian government or illegal business practices. For example, a real estate purchased documented with a blockchain 'smart contract' cannot be deleted or hidden by any authority, making the owner protected from malpractices.
Lastly, blockchain is a great tool to use to store vast amounts of important documentation in industries such as healthcare, logistics, copyright and many more. Blockchain removes the need for a middleman when it comes to legalizing contracts. Smart contract platforms are still being perfected when it comes to user-friendliness and are expected to see wide usage in the next 5 years.
5. Blockchain for Digital Advertising:
Digital advertising faces challenges such as domain fraud, bot traffic, lack of transparency and lengthy payment models. The issue is that incentives are not aligned, causing both advertisers and publishers to feel they are on the losing side of the deal. The blockchain is the solution to bring transparency to the supply chain because it inherently brings trust to a trustless environment.
By reducing the number of bad players in the supply chain it enables the good companies to thrive. Most important, publishers can collect a higher percentage of the total ad dollars entering the ecosystem and will do so at the time of impression delivery. The blockchain is still in its infancy, but the underlying technology is here to stay and all ad tech companies should be looking at how it can help to improve their business.
6. The Effect of Streaming Money on Business:
We have become so accustomed to the bi-weekly or monthly pay period that we take this as a given in business and as employees. Yet 2018 marks the year when this is no longer a required norm. One very exciting quality of blockchain technology is micro-payments. Another is smart contracts. These can be combined in interesting ways, one of which is to create streaming money. Although this was predicted years ago by Andreas Antonopolis the reality is just coming to fruition now.
Bitcoin originally had fees so low that this was nearly possible but network clogging caused micro-payments to go away. This year we are seeing the lightning network and Raiden network gaining steam. These both bring back fast micro-payments.
With a simple smart contract, an employee can be paid in real time while they are working. And this means actually working. Programs can easily track keystrokes, see that they are not messing around on facebook, and measure productivity. Then pay, in real time as they are working. No pay for smoke breaks. No pay for that 5 minutes at the water cooler.
This is an advantage both for the business and the employee. Incentives are aligned and better employees will be paid better. Want to earn a little extra, stay late and fill your account in real time. Many businesses, such as mine, already use services like Upwork. These services track remote employees work in real time. It is not a stretch to duplicate this and just change the payment system. Imagine the changes in the business. It is profound.
7. Blockchain and the Future Job Prospects:
Many experts have recently noted that the demand for those who possess practical blockchain implementation knowledge has far outpaced supply, effectively making it a sort of “holy grail” for tech recruiters.
IBM’s Vice President of Blockchain Technologies, Jerry Cuomo, spoke to the matter by stating:
“Is there a talent bubble? Yes. We haven’t even seen it yet. . . There is an entirely new way for businesses to interact — it is awesome and as this takes root it will be revolutionary.”
He expounded on this by explaining that top talent in the blockchain community can garner salaries of over $250,000 while adding:
“It is on the high side of what a really talented consultant or software engineer can earn. . . Demand is exceeding supply, so we are seeing shortages. It is up there with the cloud and artificial intelligence as a really hot area.”
While $250,000 is a hefty payday, the median income for blockchain developers isn’t exactly meager. This specific type of developer typically generates about $130,000 per year, compared to the $105,000 paid to general developers.
Big Potential: But is it ready for prime-time?
While all this sounds amazing there are many limitations involved in the fuller utilization of blockchain. Jeff Stollman, a technology futurist shared his thoughts on the current limitations of the much-hyped tech. He has been designing blockchain solutions for clients for over three years and has four patents pending in the blockchain area. Here is what he said:
“Blockchain's potential in the enterprise is immense, but major blockchain applications for the enterprise are still years off. There are two reasons for this. First, blockchain technology itself is insufficiently mature to support transactions volumes necessary to support most enterprise-scale applications. Second, enterprise applications that will be used across an industry sector require the establishment of governance rules that will take years to negotiate.
Regarding technology, the only enterprise blockchain applications that are currently operational are small-scale, single-owner applications such as Everledger's blockchain that tracks the ownership of certified, cut diamonds. Every ledger owns and manages its blockchain which tracks over 1.6 million diamonds. But diamonds don't trade at a high frequency. Most are held for years. Large payments systems such as VISA currently process payments at a rate that would allow the entire population of Everledger-tracked diamonds to be handled in just over 1 minute (~24 thousand transactions per second). Among popular blockchains, Bitcoin processes only 7 transactions per second and Ethereum handles only 20 tps. There is not a hard limit to blockchain processing speed. But new innovations are needed to support the high throughput and confidentiality requirements of such enterprise applications. For example, BigChainDB, which is not a true blockchain, but offers many of its desirable features, claims to be able to process 1 million transactions per second.
Regarding governance, most enterprise applications will operate on dedicated, private blockchains. And these will not be single-owner applications such as Everledger. Ownership will be shared by a group of competitors. Banks are working together to devise new payment systems. And logistics companies and banks are working together to develop a trade-finance solution. These enterprises will eschew the public blockchains such as Bitcoin and Ethereum in order to achieve their needed throughput and to better control confidentiality. (Today's transactions on Bitcoin and Ethereum are private only because there is insufficient variation in their transactions to allow big-data analytics to identify transacting parties. This is not true of most enterprise transactions.)
Because these blockchains are private, the members will need to agree on the governance rules under which they will operate. This is a process like the negotiation of international standards which typically takes years. This is because different actors seek to advance their particular spin on the standard. And blockchain governance typically involves achieving consensus on a large number of standards: membership, access control, what data are on-chain and what data are stored off-chain, procedures for verifying and validating transactions, blockchain ownership, blockchain management, etc.
In time, there is sufficient benefit to blockchain transactions that both the technological and governance hurdles will be overcome. But significant progress will be needed on both fronts before enterprise blockchain applications attain widespread use.”
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