The Business Value of the Blockchain
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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’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:
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.
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.
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 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:
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.
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.
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?
Exploring the Practical Applications of Blockchain Technology
Blockchain technology is no longer a fringe innovation. Here’s how it is being used in increasingly practical ways, from elections to entertainment.
In a few short years, blockchain technology has been steadily gaining traction in traditional business applications around the world.
So much so, that blockchain-focused venture capital fundraising tripled to $3 billion between the years 2017 and 2018.
Four Practical Uses for Blockchain Tech
Today’s graphic from Noah Coin highlights four major sectors where blockchain technology is being used to innovate and enhance important business processes.
In an increasingly digital world, which industries are being transformed by blockchain?
One of the primary benefits of blockchain technology is its immutability─the unchangeable nature of the “ledger” of data posted to the network.
This critical feature can provide widespread benefits across a variety of industries around the world. Let’s dive into some key examples.
Major Practical Applications of Blockchain
1. Financial Services
Recent numbers show that the asset management industry could cut costs by $2.7 billion every year by moving to blockchain tech. Practical applications of blockchain in the financial services industry include client screening and onboarding, recordkeeping, data privacy and security, and trade processing.
Similarly, the insurance industry is fraught with errors and costly mistakes. The FBI estimates that over $40 billion a year is lost through fraud across all non-health insurance industries.
- RiskBlock, a proof-of-insurance product, helps insurers save time and money through automated processes, and it helps insured individuals validate their insurance claims securely and quickly.
2. Smart Contracts
Blockchain and smart contract technologies function well in instances where legal contracts are required to maintain ownership rights and data privacy laws. These customizable, self-executing smart contracts on the blockchain can be easily managed by all parties.
Issues with ownership rights and royalties are commonplace within the entertainment industry. To navigate these issues, blockchain technology offers an unchangeable, traceable, real-time distribution and reporting network for all involved.
- Ujomusic is one such application that is helping artists track their royalties worldwide.
3. Digital IDs
According to the World Bank, over 1.1 billion people worldwide still have no way to prove their identity. At the same time, companies and financial institutions in both traditional and digital markets are being required to follow more stringent know-your-customer (KYC) initiatives.
Despite this, many providers are still not sufficiently meeting these standards; to further complicate things, regulations vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
- Companies like IBM, Microsoft, and Cisco are migrating to the blockchain to securely and privately verify users.
4. Blockchain Internet of Things (IoT)
Gartner predicts that 20.4 billion IoT-connected devices will be active by the end of 2020, with some estimates showing the IoT market will reach $3 trillion annually by 2026.
Blockchain-enabled IoT devices would operate faster and more securely for both users and businesses─enabling less centralized control over the financial industry, internet usage, and ownership rights.
- Helium uses a decentralized machine network to simplify connecting anything to the internet through a blockchain, wireless network, and open-source software.
A Blockchain-enabled Future
Blockchain technology promises to be the next major tidal wave of innovation. While still in its infancy, practical blockchain applications are becoming more mainstream.
As blockchain adoption spreads, it can become a driving force for promoting equitable societies, solving complex economic issues, and transforming how we live and work every day.
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.
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:
Scheduled upgrades to the network, giving users a chance to prepare. These forks typically involve abandoning the old chain.
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.
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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