Blockchain in this 2019, is mainly applicability, maturity, and acceptance.
Since its introduction as a cryptocurrency platform, blockchain in the last few years has gained recognition as a technology that can be useful to enterprises to help solve business challenges. Going back a couple of years, 2017 witnessed the exuberance of price appreciation of cryptocurrency with Bitcoin hitting the $20,000 mark. But at the same time, several industries evaluated blockchain as a promising technology for enterprises too. 2018 witnessed a steady growth in blockchain notwithstanding the decline in cryptocurrency, technology teams tried it out by building several PoCs to test drive it for business applications, and we did see some successful pilots. Additionally, several industry consortiums reached maturity level and have defined clear goals, guidelines, and principles for a successful future. Governments have noticed the technology and evaluated its benefits in governance.
What can we expect to happen this year 2019? From the current pace of development, it is clear that we can expect to see the technology trending higher, with accelerated momentum and increased participation by enterprises, governments & regulators.
Below are a few areas in which blockchain technology will witness growth and improvement; throughout 2019 we can expect that each of these areas will have a positive impact on the adoption of the technology for business enterprise and government use cases.
1. Digital Transformation - Blockchain will be included as an important technology in the enterprise’s digital transformation journey. So far, the technology has been tried out to prove concepts in an isolated environment. This year 2019 will witness a more cohesive assembly of blockchain alongside technologies such as AI/ML, Data, and new age security mechanisms. Enterprise digital architecture, which is constantly changing, will have to factor in the network nature of the blockchain technology and have a more collaborative but secure integration with its partners in the industry ecosystem.
2. Cost v/s Revenue – Blockchain solutions can be classified into two: one as a synthetic solution and the other being disruptive in nature. A synthetic solution merely implements an existing business process on a blockchain platform. The primary goal, in this case, is cost optimization by improving efficiency, transparency, and traceability in the current process. Examples of synthetic solutions are Supply chain management, Food Traceability, and other such use cases, which improve efficiency, traceability and trust between network participants. Disruptive solutions on the other hand either introduce an altogether new business model, tokenizes physical things into digital assets, or adds another stream of income, leading to revenue growth for the enterprise or government. All along we have witnessed several popular synthetic solutions and a few not so popular disruptive ideas. But we can expect this scene to change this 2019, with more disruptive use of blockchain technology becoming evident.
3. Government – As governments across the world take interest in the technology, several administrations are focusing on blockchain for a range of public services including health records, land records, taxation, voting, and more. Governments of a long list of countries have launched blockchain projects in many of the areas mentioned, and as we go through 2019 many more countries will take inspiration from them to launch their own blockchain projects. The countries currently involved in blockchain projects will move into newer areas of public services. Take for example taxation, if governments are able to leverage blockchain innovatively for tax collection, there may be potential to increase government revenues, while improving efficiency and transparency, such an application will qualify as a disruptive solution. Besides this, central banks and governments of close to 20 countries have launched projects for their own digital currency loosely based on the cryptocurrency model, but more stable than volatile. More countries will join this bandwagon in 2019. But it is also true that more research and testing need to go into Blockchain for Governance and that will happen too.
4. Technology Trends – Blockchain is a maturing technology, and as it matures several enhancements will take place. Smart Contracts have become a very important component of the technology and most popular blockchain platforms offer it in one form or the other. But smart contracts are not free of issue and improvements are sorely needed. In the coming year, we could expect to see solutions to these by new smart contract languages make their presence felt and offer solutions to existing challenges. One of the concerns of enterprises has been information security & privacy in a blockchain environment. Zero Knowledge Proof (ZKP) probably has an answer to this challenge. ZKP is an old concept and some, in which one can prove that a fact is true without sharing that fact. It’s an age-old complex cryptographical concept which has the potential to solve privacy issues when applied to a blockchain based application. In this year 2019, we could expect to hear more on this topic and its application to enterprise application. The blockchain is the all-encompassing term for the underlying distributed ledger technology, we can expect to see a clear distinction between the two and specific uses of each in the enterprise. The three giant cloud providers currently have some offering for Blockchain as a Service, but there is also a rise of niche players specializing in Blockchain as a Service and can expect specialized services from these niche players.
Several BFSI use cases have made a mark in the last couple of years. From cross border payments & p2p transfers to syndicated loans in the banking space, the Insurance industry hasn’t been far behind. In 2018 however, supply chain management use case saw a large number of successful pilots carried out; this indicates that focus is gradually increasing in other domains/industries when compared to focus in financial services space.
This year 2019, we can expect to see several new use cases from industries other than the financial sector. Example, counterfeit management using blockchain, or counterfeit management of medicines, and then extend this to any product where loss of revenue and faith in the brand becomes a concern. This is a big problem and can be resolved by designing specific applications on the blockchain, we can expect to see some use cases in this space.
Digital ID management is another area, considering a breach of personal data – the Equifax data breach case – and GDPR norms that came into force earlier this year, it has become more important than ever before for individuals to take control of their identity information. Several platforms exist today for this purpose and 2019 will see these maturing and finding acceptance in the industry. IoT (Internet Of Things), is yet another set of technologies that will integrate with blockchain with their ability to contribute real-time transactional data to the overall solution built on a blockchain platform. Additionally, Identity management systems also need to cater to identifying devices in the ecosystem which will interact with applications systems and hence, it is important to have information flowing in from authenticated devices.
Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and in turn Blockchain are the future for transactions between parties regardless of their size or location. These technologies have the potential to eliminate (or vastly reduce) middlemen, fraud, lack of trust and a multitude of irregularities and inconsistencies that hamper everything from financial transactions to agreements between parties to voting, saving time and money on a global basis.” Jojo Pastors.
According to Jackie Murphy, an advisor of ephelants360 stated; " I am thrilled to bridge the gap between creatives and financiers through our discussions of the benefits of Blockchain and Crypto Currencies. While we’re still at an early stage of the evolution of Blockchain & Crypto, there are already clear signs to the advantages this technology brings. Mismanagement, high fees, and contracts that waste everyone’s time and money are common issues that our current banking industry cannot or will not address".
As most people would say- Cryptocurrency can easily offer these much-needed solutions. For instance, Smart Contracts offer patrons full access to a distributed ledger which in turn ensures transparency and accountability, simplifies the entire process, and saves time and money. Additionally, being able to transfer goods or currency via digital assets, cuts out onerous fees and the “float”, which will enable people globally to do business more efficiently and fairly, thereby creating countless opportunities for people who would never have them otherwise.
Conclusion – Blockchain will see progress this year 2019 and sustained growth going forward from there. As for governments and enterprises planning to use the technology, they need to be clear on their goal for using blockchain. Without a clear understanding of the expectation, there are chances that the benefits of the technology may not be derived, which in turn can produce hurdles for the technology.