2019 was the year that many people predicted blockchain would move beyond cryptocurrencies and finally come into its own. 12 months later and the bang turned out to be little more than a fizzle. Many news stories started to surface, with experts questioning whether blockchain was dead.
In November of 2019, Bloomberg wrote a doom-and-gloom article questioning if the technology was on its way out. In addition to the opinions of several industry experts, they listed the fact that investments in blockchain were on pace to reach $1.6 billion in 2019—down from the $4.1 billion they pulled in 2018.
Is this the final nail in the coffin for blockchain? It’s too early to tell, as several major tech companies are still betting big with this yet to be fully harnessed technology:
FAANG to the Rescue?
Amazon Web Services democratized blockchain technology with its subscription-based blockchain-as-a-service (BaaS) platform. They’re not alone in this effort. Many other FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google) companies are also playing in this space. Microsoft is now offering its Azure Blockchain Service. Even China’s Alibaba is betting big with its Alibaba Blockchain-as-a-Service service offerings.
While these platforms are geared more towards enterprise-level organizations, many internet startups can take advantage of scalable BaaS technology without a significant investment. We are beginning to see real use cases for the technology beyond payments and cryptocurrencies. Look to how blockchain will be used in:
One of the biggest problems with the food industry is inefficient tracking, which can lead to foodborne illness outbreaks such as E. coli—which seem to regularly pop up in the news. Walmart was one of the first companies to use blockchain to help ensure the safety of the leafy green vegetables that they sell. It allows them to immediately trace back each product to its origin, a helpful way of immediately recalling potentially tainted food products.
The enforcement of intellectual property rights in the digital world has become a significant challenge. It’s been estimated that the average company loses upwards of $102 million annually due to IP infringement. Software isn’t the only thing that’s at risk. Music, writing, and even photography rights are becoming harder to enforce.
Blockchain can be used to provide a verifiable record of who owns and/or created the IP. This can help businesses immediately prove ownership without expensive legal fees and months or even years of waiting for a favorable outcome.
Microsoft recently launched a blockchain for digital rights and royalties. Its first use case is to help ensure Xbox game developers, creators, and publisher partners get fairly paid. The service works like this:
- Publishers sign up for the blockchain platform and agree to the T&C via a smart contract.
- When consumers purchase their content (in this case, a video game), the transaction is recorded on the blockchain.
- As per the smart contract, the royalties paid out are decided and distributed.
- Both publishers and distributors have immediate access to all data to verify transactions independently.
Blockchain technology is already helping solve several challenges for the real estate industry:
Land Titles and Deed Records – Unless properly stored and conserved, paper deeds tend to get damaged over time. Due to their very nature, they can also be forged or manipulated. Blockchain allows the tracking of these documents on an immutable ledger, which can be shared across multiple parties for independent verification.
Asset Management – Blockchain technology provides real-time data that benefits real estate investment fund managers in many ways. Tokenized assets can help increase liquidity and allow for the fractionalized ownership of properties. Even voting rights can be distributed and pre-programmed for a specific class of token holders.
The smart contracts employed by the real estate industry can also dramatically speed up real estate transactions. Currently, most transactions, such as buying a house, can take several months due to the amount of bureaucracy and middlemen that are involved.
Blockchain can help eliminate the middlemen, including their hefty fees. If anyone wants to learn more about a property, they can take advantage of the transparency offered by the blockchain to get the required information.
Will Blockchain Gain a Foothold in 2020?
2020 could be the start of the true rise of blockchain. There are hundreds of use cases out there that can benefit from the value that blockchain offers. As more and more BaaS providers spring up, it stands to reason that many of them will focus on a highly specific niche, thereby offering innovation and value to those who use it.