Over the past 18 months, we have witnessed a significant shift in the state of the financial markets. Cryptocurrencies, once a niche fascination, have exploded in value. At the start of 2017, digital currencies held collective market cap of less than a $20 billion. They entered 2018 with a head-turning $850 billion market cap – one of the most impressive year-over-year expansions we’ve ever witnessed.
Experts such as Tim Draper, the billionaire investor, have boldly predicted that the price of Bitcoin will soar to $250,000 in four years. Meanwhile, crypto startups are gaining traction like never before.
However, while cryptocurrencies and their impressive prices attract most of the mainstream headlines, there is a growing awareness from industry experts and central governments that its underlying technology, the blockchain, is the foundation and biggest game changer of all.
The Value of Blockchain
As The New York Times recently wrote, “The Bitcoin bubble may ultimately turn out to be a distraction from the true significance of the blockchain.”
In January, JP Morgan Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon, offered what was, for him, high praise of the technology when he described it as “real.” Putting it more romantically, Mckinsey and Co. describe the blockchain as the technology which could “revolutionize the world economy.”
On March 9th, the president of China’s central bank, Zhou Xiaochuan, supported blockchain technology in his comments to the National People’s Congress. They closely aligned with statements from U.S. officials at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In an official statement on cryptocurrency and blockchain, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton noted, “The technology on which cryptocurrencies and ICOs are based may prove to be disruptive, transformative and efficiency enhancing. I am confident that developers in fintech will help facilitate capital formation and provide promising investment opportunities for institutional and Main Street investors alike.”
That’s not to say that blockchain technology is ready to disrupt the world right now. It’s still a relatively new technology which requires continued development and maturation to be presentable as a commercial enterprise solution.
For instance, research and consulting firm Deloitte, identified blockchain connectivity as a necessary and essential tech trend for this year. In a detailed report on the issue, Deloitte wrote, “With the proliferation of platforms and protocols in the marketplace today, no single solution has emerged as the clear winner.”
In short, while blockchain technology is extremely competent, its disparate and disconnected networks don’t make for easy enterprise solutions just yet. Fortunately, progress is being made.
Enabling Blockchain’s to Communicate With Each Other
Several initiatives are already underway to connect blockchains or adapt their functionality for businesses.
Qtum, a Singapore-based blockchain initiative, connects Ethereum’s smart contracts and Bitcoin’s blockchain, bringing together the two most prominent blockchain technologies available today.
Bitcoin, the preeminent and most valuable cryptocurrency, is the leading candidate for broad implementation, and Ethereum is a long-time favorite of enterprise initiatives.
Using a proof-of-stake verification method, Qtum creates a system that’s adaptable and usable for broad business solutions.
Because Qtum offers ready-made tools, companies can use its platform to integrate blockchain protocols, smart contracts and other features into their current business workflow. As a platform which doesn’t require programming skills, Qtum is an enterprise-level blockchain platform that allows for effective workflows and connectivity.
With job postings in the cryptocurrency space on the rise, a lack of blockchain developers to fill these roles could prove to be a significant holdup for blockchain advancement and proliferation. Platforms like Qtum could be a boon to the industry.
Another emerging platform is the ‘Overledger’ platform by Quant. It’s positioning itself as the ‘blockchain operating system of the future’ and is the first blockchain operating system facilitating the development of multi-chain applications.
First and foremost, the platform aims to facilitate human-to-human and machine-to-machine trust, enabling them to transact with one another safely and securely. In addition, the Overledger platform plans to address many of the primary limitations of current blockchain technology that are limiting its true potential.
One more example of this is the Hyperledger Quilt which is one of the Hyperledger projects hosted by The Linux Foundation. It is a Java implementation of the Interledger protocol (a protocol for making transactions across ledgers). The platform acts as a business blockchain tool that offers interoperability between ledger systems
The purpose of the platform is to act as a connected ledger that makes it easier, cheaper, and faster to transfer value to users on different ledgers or networks.
Other platforms like TenX are striving to connect blockchains by making the value derived from the various blockchains accessible on other chains as well.
TenX uses a debit card payment system to make blockchain assets instantly spendable. By making things like digital currency or decentralized rewards more usable, TenX is improving the blockchain’s ability to function across different platforms.
Enterprise integration will require close integration and reliable communication between the best and most capable blockchains.
Changing the World With Blockchain
The blockchain has broad use-cases for nearly every industry.
In the finance industry, the blockchain provides a more secure, stable, and speedy payment system that can radically upend the current operation models. Selected as the ‘Global Bank of the Year’ in 2017, Santander recently launched an international payment service based on Ripple’s xCurrent.
The opportunities don’t end there. From supply chain management to e-commerce, the possibilities are seemingly endless. In South Korea, you can now use cryptocurrency as a currency to buy products in over 6,000 stores.
Perhaps even more excitingly is the news that Newegg Inc, the e-commerce website that is currently rivaling Amazon for sales in the technical equipment and electronics industry, has recently expanded its payment options to accept Bitcoin from its customers in Canada.
However, the lack of communication between different blockchains still acts as a bottleneck that is slowing the growth of the industry. For significant progress to be made that allows blockchain technology to reach its full potential, the many different blockchains will need to easily be able to connect to and communicate with one another.
This is a high priority development, and platforms are already working to make it a reality.
Qtum is bringing together the two most prominent blockchains, Bitcoin and Ethereum, while TenX is making blockchain assets usable in the real world. It’s a step in the right direction, and it’s the process that will result in the blockchain achieving its real value proposition.
Revolutionizing the entire world economy would change the world as we know it. And the most exciting part is, blockchains could actually pull this off. But first of all, they will need to be able to communicate and connect.