Like any nascent technology, blockchain is full of promise but has a long way to go before making waves in the mass markets. Whether or not you are personally bullish on the future of blockchain (and cryptocurrencies), investing your *time* in understanding how the technology works is a generally interesting process that can help you better navigate the noise.
Personally, I try to focus on understanding business applications where creating decentralized systems and transparent public ledgers actually drive value and make lots of sense. Where does it actually make sense to implement a blockchain system?
That question is up for you to decide.
The good and the bad part about the current state of the ecosystem is that more and more makers (engineers, designers, etc.) are building interesting applications of blockchain. While not every project is great, there are tons of opportunities to explore.
While many of us are buzzing over the idea of Blockchains “killing off” the big banks (which I am not so sure will happen), we forget that a large segment of the world’s population still does not have access to modern financial services. These people cannot get loans (to start businesses, get houses, etc.), use banks, or make investments.
There is a massive opportunity for Bitcoin to empower citizens of third world countries with a powerful currency that can be used to send money internationally with no fees.
On the maker side, you can also start accepting Bitcoin on your website using Stripe’s Bitcoin API.
Incumbents are betting on blockchain technologies too. “Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is the fifth most active corporate blockchain investor, with involvement in four companies focused on the distributed-ledger technology since 2012.” Visa’s B2B Connect, a partnership with Chain, is a pilot platform that offeres financial institutions a quick and easy way to process “B2B” payments globally. Ripple is a massive player in the space making it easier for enterprises to enable blockchain solutions.
We live in a truly global economy, where international supply chains directly (and indirectly) affect every product (price, availability, quality) that we have come to depend on each and every day. But how much do you really know about the products when they ultimately arrive at your place?
Who all touched your chair before you purchased it?
The freight and logistics industries have been operating the same way for decades — and to save you the research, it is complicated.
Using an application of a blockchain, like Shipchain is, we could implement a public ledger that permanently documents every transaction that occurs. This will reduce the need for manual human input (which often leads to mistakes) and make the entire chain more efficient. This public verification adds an entire layer of accountability that can be better tracked and monitored by regulators. And in a space where regulation accounts for billions and billions of costs every year, this could be a complete game changer.
“Governments and private companies are looking at the digital ledgers as a way to organize land title records and reduce fraud.” — Fast Company
Real estate is currently an extremely operational and paperwork intensive industry, with dozens of procedures, middlemen, and steps throughout the process. Think of land deeds, oil-and-gas rights, mortgage documents…the list goes on and on. This labor intensive process has tons of room for human error and inefficiency.
Companies like ChromaWay and REALISTO are leveraging blockchain technologies to make real estate more efficient, transparent, and accessible. Currently, serious real estate investing is only available to accredited investors (aka people with lots of money). REALISTO jumps through those hurdles by giving access to tokens tokens (authorized by smart contracts) that back up each investment. Effectively, they are making real estate investing open to more people. Chromaway is making the entire home buying process more efficient — from start to finish (right now in Sweden).
Insurance, globally, is designed on a system of “trust management.” Currently, there is a network of trust brokers who, essentially, operate and manage the entire system. Blockchain could either replace or empower these employees with the ability to be more transparent and efficient, while making far fewer errors.
“This will be toughest on the portions of the industry that are the least differentiated, where consumers often decide based on price: auto, life, and homeowner’s insurance.” — Harvard Business Review
One of the biggest problems with giving money to charity is that you never truly know where your money is going. You may think you are doing the world a favor by donating money to fund treatment research, but the reality that you are funding a corrupt organization, using your money for bad.
Public ledgers, like the ones Bitgive and Alice have created, could enable us to track donations more effectively so that we could see where our money is actually going. This sort of radical transparency would truly improve the way people think about giving to charity today and remove much of the inefficiency and corruption that has plagued the space.
“things move slowly until they don’t.”