Bitcoin prices and which governments banning and allowing cryptocurrencies are a few topics currently dominating the news headlines. But we should and will look at cryptocurrencies a lot differently; instead of mere investment classes, they will be seen as one of the foundational components of our technology infrastructure.
This is a big claim, but when you reduce the nature of what cryptocurrencies consist of, you start to see how the underlying technology is so extremely useful - a game changer in their own right.
In a nutshell, cryptocurrency technology allows multiple participants to communicate and transact on a platform that is free from any central authority, while also being sure that there is a tamper-proof and programmable source of truth (like a computerized arbitrator) that can interact with sources of value and external data points.
Essentially, we can now trust blockchains to act as trustworthy and programmable fabric between people on opposite sides of the world.
This is a big jump forward. To get an idea of how this is changing the face of business, here are the notable ways the new paradigm of transactions is impacting certain industries.
The financial system is full of securities which basically give the holder of the security the right to the underlying asset it represents. In this way, value can be transferred easily without a new sale of e.g. property being negotiated at each transferral.
On a simple level, money used to work like this, where a dollar for example entitled the holder to a certain amount of gold held by the U.S. government. Nowadays these securities, which can also be thought of as tokens, can be found for many assets from grain to oil. However, problems with international transferral of these tokens makes a lot of tokenization use cases impossible.
Blockchains are the ideal repository for such securities. They are immutable and programmable and accessed anywhere with an internet connection. In the future, expect to see a much wider range of intangible assets traded openly on the market.
Companies to watch: Harbor.com are fast making waves in this space, but other traditional companies like Morgan Kelly are securitizing everything.
Imagine a grain shipment worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Being a perishable product, the state that grain arrives in is a complete determinant of its actual value. That's a big risk for the buyer, but what if they could protect their investment?
A smart contract is made which the buyer funds as escrow. If sensors in the grain shipment detect adverse heat or moisture conditions, the buyer is automatically refunded. This is just one of the ways blockchains as Tue foundational layer of cryptocurrencies is disrupting the industry.
Companies to watch: OriginTrail, WaltonChain, Omnichain, and Eximchain are most notable.
Similar to supply chain, insurance payouts are based on pretty strictly defined criteria. Using the grain farmer example again, imagine he insured his crop against extreme frost. If his farm sees such conditions sensors or a third party adjucator triggers the smart contract to pay out his premium and cover his losses.
Companies to watch: Most established insurance companies are already working on blockchain solutions. As well as this, pure blockchain startups like Vernam are tackling the issue.
If your business or personal life needs a lot of online data storage, the existing players like DropBox can charge a lot. But with the transparency, privacy, and security of a block chain makes peer-to-peer exchanges of money for storage space possible. Expect big reductions in data storage prices as more people rent out the space on their hard drives.
Companies to watch: Golem is the standout offering in this space along with Storj and Siacoin.
This is a very similar issue to the use case of storage. Users dedicate computing resources to other users for a fee. Then both parties are guaranteed service/payment, privacy, and transparency through smart contracts and blockchains.
Companies to watch: Golem also operate in this domain, while iExec and blockcloud also compete.
The hotel industry is fraught with involuntary room cancellations and shady pricing on one side and customers bailing on reservations or causing damage to property on the other, with fake reviews making matters even worse. Several platforms are making reviews, payments, and deposits blockchain based for the benefit of all involved.
Companies to watch: LockChain is the standout here.
Touts and scalpers are a serious and seemingly intractable problem. Artists hate this see their fans fork over 800% of the cover price for a ticket from a reseller. This is impossible to solve without block chain, whereby tickets can be resold but the anonymous nature of the ticketing blockchain prevents it from being sold at greater than 10% markup.
Companies to watch: Guts.tickets is the biggest ICO in this domain so far.
Sensors, ag trading, and transparency initiatives are very important to farming at the moment, with animal welfare and traceability being the big keywords. A blockchain system that ensures transparency is a no-brainer for the market.
Companies to watch: OriginTrail is the most notable with regards to traceability.
Science has a replicability problem. When most experiments are reproduced, they give a different result than the original.
To combat this, a shared and immutable decentralised database is required. Sound familiar? That's what a blockchain is.
Companies to watch: CyberVein is using a quasi-blockchain data structure called a tangle to make this kind of interaction possible.
Qualifications and certification
Have you ever had to wait around for your ex-employer or alma mater to verify your references with a new prospective employer? This is cumbersome and far from fraud-proof. However, with a blockchain you can be sure where certain data came from and verify it independently.
Companies to watch: Consensys
Moving forward to a crypto future
Decentralized consensus, trust, tamper-proof - all the components of ideal marketplace dynamics are designed into blockchain. Cryptocurrencies are acting as the vehicle to revolutionize the systems & processes our world relies on.
Cryptocurrencies are here to stay.
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