Blockchain technology — the digital, decentralised and publicly available ledger of transactions secured using cryptography — has opened up a plethora of possibilities for business and beyond, particularly in financial and media services.
While presenting India's annual Budget earlier this month, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said his government would look to experiment with leveraging blockchain technology in the payments space.
However, India will also eliminate the use of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the field where blockchain technology is most prominently used. Several companies around the world are working on projects to bring cryptocurrencies to the mainstream by finding a role for them in digital payments.
Among blockchain's most attractive features include the security and accountablity if offers. It's these particular facets that have made government entities, enterprises and startups sit up and take notice.
As 2018 progresses, here are some of the top trends in blockchain you can expect to see:
1) Blockchain will finally go from pilot to production
If EY executive Paul Brody is to be believed, then 2018 will finally see blockchain move from the pilot phase to the production phase.
“As pilots and proof-of-concepts mature, while many will be abandoned, others will advance towards production systems," Brody, principal and global innovation leader (blockchain technology) at EY, was quoted as saying by The Enterprisers Project.
He also said that this process will make sure that the hyped blockchains fail and the ones that truly add value will succeed, making it easy for technology leaders in various organisations to identify the right partnerships.
Ajeet Khurana, head of The Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Committee of India (BACC) — an independent body — said that companies and people who have stayed away from the technology will start experimenting and this means that the failure rate will go up, but more innovations will see the light of the day.
He also said that investor dollars will flow into blockchain-based startups more than ever before with the financial sector taking the lead.
He added, however, that though many new use cases and startups would emerge, bitcoin will continue to remain the only prevalent blockchain application.
2) Birth of zero knowledge proofs
Going by Brody's predictions, 2018 will see the birth of zero knowledge proofs. But what are they?
It is a common belief that blockchain tech will be used to perform transactions (could mean information sharing as well) between parties, be it corporate or governmental organisations.
Brody says that contrary to the general expectation that large corporates will create their own chain and force suppliers and customers to join, the future is more likely to bring in a scenario where a public and shared chain has to be used.
“Suppliers and customers can’t and won’t join the private blockchain for every one of their business partners. The long-term future of the blockchain depends on the ability of companies to conduct private business over a public, shared infrastructure,” Brody was quoted as saying. It is in such a scenario, Brody says, that zero knowledge proofs will come in handy.
According to the innovation leader, the proofs are basically a mathematical operation used in the form of a cryptographic tool to help verify another party in a transaction and the validity of the first party without the need to share any public or private keys.
“Zero knowledge proofs are just starting to show working models in 2018. They will allow blockchains to have key elements of security and privacy without giving up the redundancy and immutability that comes from synchronizing the full transaction information across the network,” Brody was quoted as saying.
He also said that all companies will look to scale this model in 2018.
3) Legal dilemma on the cards
Blockchain might be the most secure technology, but its decentralised nature means that courts worldwide will have a tough time determining their control over them.
Will smart contracts solve the problem? They can perhaps serve the purpose until there is a dispute. According to Brody, the dispute cannot be settled by a court and the resolution might hinge on the fact that one party is more popular in the chain than the other despite the aggrieved party having a genuine claim.
“This will be a new challenge that should be addressed in 2018,” Brody was quoted as saying.
4) Media companies will use blockchain more than ever
Blockchain technology has attracted massive interest in the media community because of its use cases for content creators and publishers, guaranteeing rights of use, payments etc.
The other facet is the demand for accuracy of news and privacy of news consumers.
The technology so far has not been used to protect news consumers but experts believe that the groundwork is done and large media companies will deploy blockchain-based solutions in 2018.
While large media companies are yet to jump on the blockchain bandwagon, broadcasting giant Comcast is one of the first to announce a platform — to be launched this year — that will allow marketers to buy ads using a blockchain.
According to a report on Distributed magazine, you can expect a consortium of large legacy media firms that will connect stakeholders to subject matter experts.
5) Logistics tracking and brand tokenisation
Brody told The Enterprisers Project that seeing blockchain only in the light of databases is just like treating an adult like a child.
Blockchain has many other uses that involves tracking assets, raising money using tokens etc.
“There are still far too many blockchain systems that seem to treat this amazing new technology as a nifty kind of digital notary or distributed database service,” Brody was quoted as saying.
Kartik V Hegadekatti, a blockchain advocate and a divisional commercial manager in South Western Railways, said that companies could use blockchain to raise money using brand tokenisation.
Brand Tokenisation tries to utilise a company's brand image as a tangible asset by offering a cryptocurrency.
Hegadekatti also said that the Railways can track freight trains using the technology.