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The Business Value of the Blockchain

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The business value of blockchain

The Business Value of the Blockchain

The Chart of the Week is a weekly Visual Capitalist feature on Fridays.

Blockchain can be an elusive concept. Its abstract nature leaves many wondering if this emerging technology is the global catalyst evangelists claim it to be.

But blockchain is more of a tool than a catalyst – not a one-size-fits-all, but a new foundation underpinning our everyday tasks. It offers industries a techno-driven facelift with its ability to increase productivity, ensure transparency, and reduce wasted time and paperwork.

Today’s graphic is inspired by a study from McKinsey. Their research combines industry-by-industry analysis, expert interviews, and more than 90 distinct use cases to make informed estimates about the projected business value of the blockchain.

Blockchain Adoption

Blockchain’s core advantages revolve around its lack of central hub. The transparency of a distributed ledger combined with the cryptographic security of an immutable data chain makes this technology the ideal vehicle for businesses to exchange and validate information. It’s not a single system, but a baseline technology which can be configured in different ways to suit different purposes and business models.

Blockchain is still immature, and there are kinks to be worked out before the technology can scale effectively. Even so, it brings tremendous short term value to reduce costs and drive operational efficiencies.

Blockchain Business Value

There are a few key areas where blockchain can add business value, even before broadscale adoption:

Cost Reduction

What if your business no longer had to pour profits into logistics, intermediaries, and an administrative paper trail? The blockchain can streamline supply chains, cutting out the middleman and banishing processes that slow efficiency and eat profits.

Revenue Creation

The blockchain breaks down administrative and collaborative barriers, making way for a innovative business strategies which simply weren’t feasible before the advent of distributed ledgers. With this new freedom, blockchain paves the way for new infrastructure and revenue models.

Consumer Impact

New business models provide the opportunity to meet previously overlooked needs of consumers and communities. In the medical field, where remote patient care and record-keeping may have been an issue in the past, blockchain advances provide ways to overcome those barriers using synchronised records and smart care devices on the network.

Blockchain Disruption

Blockchain is already making waves in financial services, government, and healthcare. Let’s take a glimpse at the way it could impact a few other industries:

Agriculture

Blockchain can transform the agricultural supply chain by streamlining the transition from farm to market, and quickly pinpointing sources in the event of food safety outbreaks. By reducing intermediaries, third world and small-scale farmers have an opportunity to join the supply chain.

Automotive

Companies can spread their operations to more effectively take advantage of economies of scale, by using blockchain to streamline the supply chain. Blockchain can also improve ride-sharing platforms, spurring on the transport revolution.

Insurance

Self-executing smart contracts and distributed databases can increase efficiency while reducing costs and risk of fraud.

Blockchain For All

The sheer scope of blockchain’s potential uses means there’s something for almost everyone, from startups to major players.

The broad spectrum of use cases across industries might be why blockchain and crypto-related firms have raised almost $3.9 billion in venture capital in so far this year — a 280% rise compared to last year. The rise comes in an increasing number of deals, as well as the burgeoning median value of each.

How can your business forge a future in blockchain?

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Bitcoin

Mapping the Major Bitcoin Forks

Bitcoin forks play a key role in Bitcoin’s evolution as a blockchain. While some have sparked controversy, most Bitcoin forks have been a sign of growth.

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Mapping the Major Bitcoin Forks

The emergence of Bitcoin took the world by storm through its simplicity and innovation. Yet, plenty of confusion remains around the term itself.

The Bitcoin blockchain—not to be confused with the bitcoin cryptocurrency—involves a vast global network of computers operating on the same distributed database to process massive volumes of data every second.

These transactions tell the network how to alter this distributed database in real-time, which makes it crucial for everyone to agree on how these changes should be applied. When the community can’t come to a mutual agreement on what changes, or when such rule changes should take effect, it results in a blockchain fork.

Today’s unique subway-style map by Bitcoin Magazine shows the dramatic and major forks that have occurred for Bitcoin. But what exactly is a Blockchain fork?

Types of Blockchain Forks

Forks are common practice in the software industry and happen for one of two reasons:

  • Split consensus within the community
    These forks are generally disregarded by the community because they are temporary, except in extreme cases. The longer of the two chains is used to continue building the blockchain.
  • Changes to the underlying rules of the blockchain
    A permanent fork which requires an upgrade to the current software in order to continue participating in the network.

There are four major types of forks that can occur:

1. Soft Forks

Soft forks are like gradual software upgrades—bug fixes, security checks, and new features—for those that upgrade right away.

These forks are “backwards compatible” with the older software; users who haven’t upgraded still have access to the network but may not be able to use all functionality in the current version.

2. Hard Forks

Hard forks are like a new OS release—upgrading is mandatory to continue using the software. Because of this, hard forks aren’t compatible with older versions of the network.

Hard forks are a permanent division of the blockchain. As long as enough people support both chains, however, they will both continue to exist.

The three types of hard forks are:

  • Planned
    Scheduled upgrades to the network, giving users a chance to prepare. These forks typically involve abandoning the old chain.
  • Contentious
    Caused by disagreements in the community, forming a new chain. This usually involves major changes to the code.
  • Spin-off Coins
    Changes to Bitcoin’s code that create new coins. Litecoin is an example of this—key changes included reducing mining time from 10 minutes to 2.5 minutes, and increasing the coin supply from 21 million to 84 million.

3. Codebase Forks

Codebase forks copy the Bitcoin code, allowing developers to make minor tweaks without having to develop the entire blockchain code from scratch. Codebase forks can create a new cryptocurrency or cause unintentional blockchain forks.

4. Blockchain Forks

Blockchain forks involve branching or splitting a blockchain’s whole transaction history. Outcomes range from “orphan” blocks to new cryptocurrencies.

Splitting off the Bitcoin network to form a new currency is much like a religious schism—while most of the characteristics and history are preserved, a fork causes the new network to develop a distinct identity.

Summarizing Major Bitcoin Forks

Descriptions of major forks that have occurred in the Bitcoin blockchain:

  • Bitcoin / Bitcoin Core
    The first iteration of Bitcoin was launched by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009. Future generations of Bitcoin (aka Bitcoin 0.1.0) were renamed Bitcoin Core, or Bitcore, as other blockchains and codebases formed.
  • BTC1
    A codebase fork of Bitcoin. Developers released a hard fork protocol called Segwit2x, with the intention of having all Bitcoin users eventually migrate to the Segwit2x protocol. However, it failed to gain traction and is now considered defunct.
  • Bitcoin ABC
    Also a codebase fork of Bitcoin, Bitcoin ABC was intentionally designed to be incompatible with all Bitcoin iterations at some point. ABC branched off to form Bitcoin Cash in 2017.
  • Bitcoin Gold, Bitcoin Diamond, Other Fork Coins
    After the successful yet contentious launch of Bitcoin Cash, other fork coins began to emerge. Unlike the disagreement surrounding Bitcoin Cash, most were simply regarded as a way to create new coins.

Some of the above forks were largely driven by ideology (BTC1), some because of mixed consensus on which direction to take a hard fork (Bitcoin ABC), while others were mainly profit-driven (Bitcoin Clashic)—or a mix of all three.

Where’s the Next Fork in the Road?

Forks are considered an inevitability in the blockchain community. Many believe that forks help ensure that everyone involved—developers, miners, and investors—all have a say when disagreements occur.

Bitcoin has seen its fair share of ups and downs. Crypto investors should be aware that Bitcoin, as both a protocol and a currency, is complex and always evolving. Even among experts, there is disagreement on what constitutes a soft or hard fork, and how certain geopolitical events have played a role in Bitcoin’s evolution.

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How Decentralized Finance Could Make Investing More Accessible

Under the current global financial system, billions of people do not have access to quality assets. Here’s how decentralized finance is changing that.

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Infographic: How Decentralized Finance Could Make Investing More Accessible

Did you know that a majority of the global population doesn’t have access to quality financial assets?

In advanced economies, we are lucky to have simple options to grow and protect our wealth. Banks are all over the place, markets are robust, and we can invest our money into assets like stocks or bonds at the drop of a hat.

In the United States, roughly 52% of people are invested in the stock market – but in a place like India, for example, this portion drops to a paltry 2%. How can we make it possible for people on the “outside” of the financial system to gain access?

Breaking Down Barriers

Today’s infographic comes to us from Abra, and it shows how decentralized finance could make investing a more universal phenomenon, especially for those that don’t have access to the modern financial system.

It lays out four key obstacles that prevent people in developing markets from investing in quality financial assets in the first place:

  1. The Geographic Lottery
    Where you live plays a massive role in determining your ability to build wealth. In advanced Western economies, the average person is much more likely to be invested in financial markets that can help compound wealth.
  2. Financial Literacy and Complexity
    Roughly 3.5 billion adults globally lack an understanding of basic financial concepts, which creates an impenetrable barrier to investing.
  3. Local Market Turmoil
    Even if a person is mentally prepared to invest, local market turmoil (hyperinflation, political crises, closed borders, etc.) can make it difficult to get access to stable assets.
  4. The Cost of Investing in Foreign Markets
    Foreign assets can be pricey. One share of Amazon is $1,800, which is realistically more money than many people around the world can afford.

In other words, there are billions of people globally that can’t take advantage of some of the most effective wealth-building tactics.

This is just one flaw in the current financial system, a paradigm that has created massive amounts of wealth but only for a specific and well-connected group of people.

Enter Decentralized Finance

Could decentralized finance be the alternative to open up access to financial markets?

By combining apps with blockchain technology – specifically through public blockchains such as Bitcoin or Ethereum – decentralized finance makes it possible to get around some of the barriers that are created by more traditional systems.

Here are some of the innovations that are making this possible:

Smart contracts could automate transactions and remove intermediaries, making investing cheaper, faster, and more accessible.

Fractional investing could allow partial or shared ownership of financial assets by using tokenization. This would make expensive stocks like Amazon ($1,800 per share) available to a much wider segment of the population.

Location independent investing is possible through smartphones. This would make it possible for people in remote parts of the developing world to invest, even without access to nearby financial institutions or local markets.

Like the internet with knowledge, decentralized finance could reshape the world by making financial access universal. Who’s ready?

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