In the last decade, blockchain and distributed ledger technology has had an immense impact on a multitude of industries, with 84% of organizations experimenting with the technology, with more than half (52%) of blockchain projects in the research and development phase, according to the PwC Global Blockchain Survey.
The industries making important strides forward with blockchain include financial services, manufacturing, energy and utilities, health care, as well as government sectors, but the potential of the technology is limitless. Ultimately, any business that is looking to simplify the processing method of large volumes of transactions while ensuring the verifiability of these transactions — stands to benefit from the use of blockchain technology.
So, what does the next decade hold for blockchain, and what barriers are there to overcome in order to see true mainstream adoption?
Cryptocurrencies: The next-generation portfolio diversifier
Blockchain technology has often been mistakenly associated with Bitcoin’s volatility. While blockchain is indeed the underlying technology powering Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, it has little to do with its peaks and troughs.
Bitcoin and cryptocurrency price volatility is primarily driven by investors’ perceptions of the security of their holdings along with the prospects for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to become a reliable portfolio diversifier as institutional adoption increases.
In the last year alone, gold has risen by 10%, while Bitcoin has soared by over 180% against the United States dollar. The U.S. Federal Reserve’s recent slashing of interest rates for the first time since the financial crisis signals a return to monetary and fiscal stimulus in the form of quantitative easing, which could negatively impact confidence in fiat currencies. If this ends up being the case, we could soon witness capital flight that could result in a decline in the performance of the U.S. dollar, should there be a significant loss of trust in central banks.
One-year crypto performance. Source: coin360.com
Cryptocurrencies, on the other hand, have proven to be one of the top-performing assets since the start of the year, outperforming other, more traditional asset classes, such as stocks, commodities and real estate. While it might not be prudent to put all of one’s eggs in a single basket, the case for including digital assets as a long-term portfolio diversifier is stronger than ever, but it remains to be seen how cryptocurrencies will perform during times of extreme macroeconomic or market stress.
Facebook see, Google do? The business case for blockchain
When Facebook says “Jump!” users ask “How high?” However, it is not enough for companies to hop onto the blockchain bandwagon without further investigation into the viability of blockchain and whether it is the right solution for a business.
The applicability of blockchain very much depends on whether a business fulfills a number of criteria, including whether multiple parties share and update data; if the business has a customer database, whereby there is a verification requirement; third-party intermediaries adding complexity that blockchain could potentially remove; whether interactions are time-sensitive; and if transactions interact.
Blockchain stands to see far greater adoption when organizations’ and institutions’ approaches and application methods of decentralized ledger technology become more targeted, as opposed to adopting a one-size-fits-all framework. This allows companies to mitigate the risks associated with integrating blockchain into their businesses unnecessarily.
New kid on the block(chain): The Internet of Things (IoT)
The increasing spread of internet connectivity to things in our everyday lives — such as smart thermostat Nest, Philips Hue smart bulbs, wearables like Garmin smart watches — means that there is a vast amount of data being collected that could benefit from being stored in a secure and verifiable manner.
This is where blockchain comes into play. With the overall number of connected devices projected to grow to 29 billion by 2022 (18 billion of which will be IoT-related), there is an increasingly urgent need to safeguard the sheer volume of data that will be collected by them. Blockchain eliminates single-point failure with its distributed network of computers, as well as potential inefficiencies as a result of overburdened centralized systems. Blockchain’s additional layer of security also means that personal data — including the data collected by implantable cardiac devices (!) — is far less vulnerable to being hacked.
The future of fundraising: From ICOs to STOs to IEOs
July 31 marks the sixth anniversary of the introduction of the first ever initial coin offering (ICO) in the blockchain space, with J.R. Willett launching Mastercoin (now Omni). As the industry matures, the nature of fundraising in the space has changed. We’ve witnessed a shift away from ICOs, with security token offerings (STOs) launching in public markets and a further progression toward initial exchange offerings (IEOs) in 2019.
While ICOs require reduced upfront capital and have lower barriers of entry for investors, they were plagued by fraudulent token sales and scams, which ultimately scared investors off. This was followed by a significant shift toward regulatory compliance, which is essential if these fundraising practices — and blockchain in general — is to see widespread adoption. Unlike ICOs, security tokens issued during an STO are supported by an underlying asset that reflects a monetary value, which offers investors greater transparency.
Oversight by various regulatory bodies — such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority — can provide some measure of protection. On the flip side, these same regulatory guidelines mean that participation in STOs is limited to institutional investors. So, what might the future of fundraising look like in the blockchain space moving forward?
IEOs — i.e., token sales conducted directly via an exchange, with issuers paying a listing fee — are the newest form of fundraising. While they are slightly less regulated than STOs, Know You Customer and other checks are mandatory, with exchanges ensuring due diligence before a token is listed. Also, as all transactions take place via an exchange, this method of fundraising is seen as being more secure compared with ICOs, whose project websites may lack the necessary security measures.
As blockchain technology transitions from being reserved for the high-tech elite to a technology that can be applied to the masses, we will undoubtedly witness a shift in perception on a global scale. As the market matures and the technology follows suit, we will see real-world applications across industries, redefining the way we do business.
The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.