“Bitcoin” was the top-searched word on Google in 2017. Everybody (literally!) wanted to understand what this sensational alternate currency meant and how they could gobble a slice of the bitcoin pie. Bitcoin’s growth was sensational- from $1,000 on January 1, 2017 to nearly $14,000 now.
Blockchain technology will impact all walks of life
But, it was the technology behind bitcoins- blockchain- that created tidal waves in the digital ocean. The decentralized distributed ledger system that allows to monitor and record bitcoin transactions every second, kept people on their toes and found zillion use cases- from healthcare, finance, human resources, manufacturing, to insurance. While skeptics might call bitcoins a “bubble”, there are very few critics of blockchain technology. “It’s hard not to be fascinated by something so transformative" says Carolyn Wilkin, Senior Deputy Governor of Bank of Canada.
2018 will see containment and regulation of bitcoins and innovation and democratization in blockchain. Here’s a glimpse of how blockchain will invade all walks of life:
Initial Coin Offerings (ICO) have been able to raise $1.2 million (by August, 2017) and already surpassed conventional venture capital. ICOs work on the principle of offering tokens to general public in return for their investment in a venture. These tokens, like IOUs, can be used to make purchases when the company launches.
Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) will be the preferred method to raise venture capital
By contrast, venture capitalists demand concrete business plans and share in equity to shell out funds at hefty rates of interests, and that too to only certain types of startups. “I think there will always be need of trusted voices in the investment community, but what the ICO markets are showing is that the world has incredible demand for future-looking projects!,”says Adam Draper, Founder and Managing Director of Boost VC and a second-generation venture capitalist.
Digital Media Aggregation
ICO-issued tokens will offer an alternative monetising model to combat media curation platforms such as YouTube and Wikipedia. It’s a known fact that media contributors to these channels are rarely compensated or credited for their contributions. While the publishing channel makes money off their efforts, identities who help build the network, don’t get a share of the revenue.
Smart tokens can help create a mutually beneficial communities where publishers can incentivize curators for contributing premium content and they in turn get an additional source of revenue that are not dependent on advertisers. For content creators, this means, the larger their contribution, the greater will be their token bank as well as their share in the venture’s profits. Online content economy will become more transparent and rewarding.
Synereo, a blockchain company, has launched a new start-up, WildSpark, where consumers reward content contributors and creators with Synereo’s cryptocurrency, AMP. Thereafter, a unique link with the content will be created and the creator can share the link on his blog, social media, or website. If the creator’s crypto rewards reach a particular benchmark, he is awarded with a certain percentage of the accumulated currency. Since all contributions are stored in the blockchain, all participants can view them at all times.
Decentralized Public Records
Every record in a blockchain exists in an encoded form on multiple servers simultaneously. Once a record is uploaded to a “block” in the “chain,” it cannot be modified or deleted without all participants granting permission to do so (shared governance protocol). This makes blockchain data management as secure as Fort Knox! Hence to compromise a record, a hacker would have to intercept into all computers which is virtually impossible. Governments trust the technology so much that they have started maintaining public records on blockchains.
Traditional land registry process Vs. Blockchain based land titles
For instance, the health records of all the people in the Republic of Estonia are maintained using Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI) technology. Signatures are converted into random digital values called hashtags that are stored in a “block” and shared on a private network of government servers. These hashtags can be used to extract and view information but as soon as a change is made, a new hashtag is generated. All changes are reflected on all servers and data compromise can be prevented almost 100%.
Machine Learning and IoT
"There is a growing agreement among technology companies that blockchain is essential to unlocking the potential of the Internet of Things” says Don Tapscott, an authority in the digital world and a vocal believer in blockchain technology.
Ridesharing, home sharing, wastewater utilization, solar power aggregation are just some examples of how world resources can be shared better using connected devices, decentralized distribution, smart contracts and machine intelligence. IoT-powered devices on a blockchain will be more energy-efficient as consumers will pay per use and store only necessary data on the chain.
Blockchain in connected devices will conserve energy and enhance security of data and network
Aid Aggregation and Disbursement
Blockchain technology is also helping in soliciting and fair distribution of international aid. Cross-border payments via cryptocurrencies are faster and cheaper. Smart contracts feature will release funds only when conditions are met. United Nations, World Bank and UNICEF are jumping into the fray this year to take advantage of the immutable nature of transactions in blockchains.
UN’s World Food Program has used the technology for proper disbursement of aid in the Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan. Using smart contracts and biometric eye scanning, discounted or free food is given away at the camp stores only to people who match the requirements stored in the blocks.
Swaziland’s Positive Women Foundation uses blockchain for transferring funds from the UK to relief areas. Blockchain ensures the transfers are cheap and funds are withdrawn and utilized only for their intended purpose.
These are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a host of other ways in which blockchain will be used in 2018 for the common good, social equality, security, and sustainable living. The possibilities are endless!