In the last few years, multiple transformations in the service and product industries linked to information technologies have taken place – all at a frantic pace as the web 3.0 evolved, matured, and found its place in the market. However, when considering the one that has the potential to be the most disruptive, blockchain is definitely in the spotlight. Nevertheless, since its announcement, there’s been ups and downs and it hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype.
Many factors make the world question if blockchain will effectively be part of our daily lives. Yet, at the same time, there’s already enough proof that the technology is more than Bitcoin and it can actually have a positive impact across different sectors. But don’t let us preach to you about it, let us show you what’s coming next.
Way beyond Bitcoin…
The popularization of blockchain happened mainly due to the use case of digital assets, commonly known as cryptocurrencies. In the aftermath of the 2008 crisis, Bitcoin was created in a totally decentralized approach without requiring governance from any formal entity. In an almost utopian yet controversial way, it poses as a mechanism for transferring and saving “value” in a fully digital and distributed format. Nonetheless, there’s a myriad of other applications aiming at changing the world:
- Insurtech has stepped up the game and is using blockchain to reduce fraudulent claims and ease a process that typically takes up a lot of time and energy (checking evidence and making reinsurance more efficient). Lemonade is the reference startup (which has become the best IPO in 2020), but several other startups are disrupting the space with P2P Insurance (such as Teambrella or, once again, Lemonade) and Claim Management & Risk Assessment (Tierion is improving claims processes while Cropt is supporting insurers with satellite data to confirm the actual damage presented by farmers, and machine learning algorithms to predict the yield of crops and the risk associated).
- Supply chains have been drawing a lot of attention with blockchain solutions being deployed to keep track of the goods’ route and also optimize logistics. We don’t have to go far for this one. Both Auchan and Lidl Portugal announced they’ll be tracing the origins of all food with blockchain as a quality control measure to meet the growing demands of today’s consumers. As for some of the hottest startups, it’s worth highlighting:Everledger, Provenance and TE-Food.
- In the civic domain, a lot is going on. Startups like WalliD, which is turning to blockchain to privately store users’ ID documents in a digital wallet and design a global protocol for digital ID transactions, and Civic, which has the same principles but applies them to the management of digital currencies, are exclusively focused on identity. Plus, if we take a collective standpoint, there are many other compelling initiatives such as Follow My Vote, which is fighting to bring more transparency to polls and put an end to election fraud, or, speaking of transparent voting, TAIKAI, born in our MVP program as a blockchain-based platform for hackathons, which is fostering open innovation by connecting tech enthusiasts to companies that have challenges and are desperate to solve them.
- Regarding security, decentralized storage platforms are picking up steam. Nowadays, data is seen by many as more valuable than money, so hackers are sort of modern pirates. To avoid being looted, or in other words, to prevent breaches and better safeguard data, decentralized storage platforms such as the ones that are being built by SIA, Storj or FileCoin (based on IPFS) look like a good option because, instead of having all files stored at the same place, they’re broken apart and scattered across multiple nodes on a network, making it impossible to read the entire content from one fraction.
Blockchain can be set up to operate for a variety of purposes, and its community is committed to expanding the technology’s level of influence. Judging by its success and increased use, I would say it seems that blockchain is poised to rule the digital world soon.
But will it be ubiquitous?
To be fair, no. Blockchain is not the silver bullet for everything and it does have its limitations that are at the center of all the skepticism. To name a few:
- Immutability. Data cannot be altered or removed from the moment it is on the blockchain. This means that once there, it will stay there forever. So, if by any reason, you want to remove or update something (input error, GDPR right to be forgotten, etc.) you may find yourself stuck in a dead-end;
- Trust. When it is on the blockchain you can trust it, right? Well… not really. You can trust that it hasn’t been tampered with but no one can say anything about the data source (whether it is reliable or not). Third-party services known as oracles are trying to address this issue;
- Security. In a simplified definition, smart contracts are pieces of code that automate the execution of an agreed action given a set of triggers/conditions. These contracts are still vulnerable to attacks even though a lot of research has been done in the last couple of years to increase the quality of the system.