By: Tiana Laurence, Co-founder & CMO of Factom
We have all heard the buzz word “blockchain,” but for the most part, it was more talk and proof-of-concepts than real working technology. But, don’t write it off yet, 2017 will be the tipping point where we will see widespread commercial use.
The convergence of blockchain platform evolution, the scope of industry and sector needs, and the arrival of capable infrastructure/hardware. This goes beyond typical developments found in tech solutions; by introducing permanence, transparency, and accuracy on an easy-to-use platform, the only hurdles to integration remain scalability and platform — issues that look to be tackled in the next 12 months. In fact, in 2017, all of the designs and models that have been ramping up for nearly a decade will take major leaps forward, particularly in the following areas:
Securing the Internet of Things
As more and more devices — not just smartphones, but things like refrigerators, TVs, and other household appliances become connected, the Internet of Things introduces a global digital ecosystem into our lives. We become vulnerable through this global network of unprotected devices. We saw this recently during the DDoS attack on Dyn – a large DNS provider. The hackers leveraged 100,000 compromised IoT devices and caused havoc on many popular websites like Twitter, Amazon, Spotify, and Airbnb. However, smart connectivity in business, infrastructure, and government operations allows cities to run more efficiently. Because governments see the need to modernize infrastructure and protect it, they are investing heavily in “smart city” infrastructure. The US Department of Energy and Customs and Border Patrol have put in a call to cutting-edge cyber security experts to see how best to address IoT vulnerability and are exploring blockchain specifically. The US is not alone, projects like this are popping up all over the word.
In the past two decades, many industries have evolved from using traditional paper to digital records. Not only does this free up practical things like facility space, but it also enables expedited search and analytics using metadata, enabling quick and easy access to records. Reliance on digital data introduces two risks: guaranteeing the accuracy of recording data, and enabling easy sharing across a network. In 2016, blockchain was proven to replicate and strengthen the traditional paper record models. Hybrid systems, like those used to create IDs are now nearly impossible to forge thanks to the permanence and security of blockchain. There are several governments in talks now to begin using this technology. We could see the first blockchain backed government issued birth certificates in 2017.
A Stronger Platform
Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DOAs) are here to stay. The most prominent example was initiated on the Ethereum blockchain, an open-sourced blockchain with a built-in programming language. It was a flop, but one the community learned a valuable lesson from. Ethereum and Hyperledger have both been working hard to refine their respective “smart contracts” and “chaincode.” We will see successful projects create the new generation of how to organize and govern companies online.
New Industry Standards
Cryptography is still a nascent industry; standards and regulations continue to evolve as more organizations work together to create universal guidelines. These upcoming regulations will allow blockchain to be used for government and business applications. Hyperledger is a leader in the crypto space, partnering with industry leaders to improve the technology and making it scalable on an enterprise level. These partnerships are critical for the blockchain, since its ability to keep audited permanent records can serve many purposes in government and business databases. The next step forward is to bridge the gap between small-scale usage and consistent enterprise rollout.
New Product Launches
Blockchain technology has matured since breaking into the public consciousness with the Economist cover story in 2015. Many startups have been working on beta and pre-launch builds since then, with nearly 2000 new blockchain companies forming overnight. In 2017, many of these will finally go to market in Singapore, Dubai, and London where the regulatory bodies welcome innovation and compete to be the financial mecca of the world. This isn’t just about Fintech and smart cities; it is a race for relevance in a world shifting to borderless and financially fluid global citizens.
For each technological paradigm shift, there is always a watershed moment, a point in time when the technology matures from a proof-of-concept into a platform for mainstream integration. With nearly a decade of development, blockchain technology has gone from idea to workable concept to implementing this technology quickly – and not it has the strength to carry everything from smart cities to government data to enterprise-level databases. The blockchain’s time has truly come. 2017 will see the convergence of industry needs and blockchain capabilities, and the result will be a more fantastic, more transformative, and more secure digital society. The only thing we have left to wonder is what’s next?