It was an inevitable development that was even showcased in some sci-fi films – in a way – but nearly nine years ago, Satoshi Nakamoto released his cryptocurrency and digital payment system, bitcoin. The key to its success was the verified transactions recorded in an online public ledger book known as a blockchain, which ensured that each virtual denomination of the bitcoin was unique so that no one could spend and re-spend the same coin.
The banking system gained popularity thanks to the fact that it’s decentralised, meaning that, unlike the world’s banks, one central authority can’t change the monetary policy. This is because Bitcoin is made up of a network of machines working together to mine bitcoin and process transactions.
Rise of Bitcoin
Source: Forbes, via Twitter
Bitcoin itself has been remarkably successful in the running to Fall 2017, as have other cryptocurrency alternates, reaching a record high of $5,000 in value on September 3 from less than $1,000 at the start of the year. But, over the ensuing three days after that record-high, they traded at as low as $4,000 – which was a 20% drop. This was credited to investors seeing the milestone as a chance to sell their investments.
Regardless of the drop, bitcoin has become a wildly popular service that many big companies have latched onto, offering their services in the cryptocurrency. Microsoft, Dell, Newegg, AirBaltic, UK Theatre Tickets Direct, and more all allow for bitcoin payments. There has even been an online casino opened where you can take your pick from a huge range of games: Bitcasino.io. The website, which was the first licensed bitcoin casino, offers table games, slots, and lotteries, all playable in cryptocurrency.
Rise of the blockchain
Source: Forbes, via Twitter
What bitcoin created was something far more valuable to the ever-evolving world of technology; not the use of virtual money but the use of blockchain. The blockchain is set to revolutionise the way that people do business and is easily one of the most important creations of recent times. Despite being around for nearly a decade, very few companies outside of financial services have utilised the technology but more and more are innovating under the new thinking that the blockchain brings with it.
The blockchain is a distributed database, allowing for independent verification of transactions between the network nodes. It then adds those transactions to a copy of their ledger as well as to the ledgers of the other nodes on the network. The verification and record of each transaction allows for each future transaction to have a full history behind it – appearing in the form of a series of numbers and letters (hash). If a discrepancy appears in any hash, the network will be able to flag it as a fake transaction.
Now the blockchain’s potential is being explored in-depth by a huge range of companies eager to extend into the system:
UProov time stamps your photos and videos and puts that key into their blockchain lodger, meaning that the integrity of your media is rock solid. Even if one tiny pixel is altered, it’ll be flagged as an adaptation as the key won’t match.
Colu has expanded from the Bitcoin blockchain to tokenize other assets in other industries, such as shares, official documents, and ownership of certain items like vouchers and tickets.
Everledger brings security to the diamond industry, providing records for diamonds from the mine to beyond, which will give verification to owners, the law, and insurance companies.
Genecoin, one of the more sci-fi-esque exploits, Genecoin keeps a lodger of your genome, sequencing your DNA and then uploading it to the network. This could speed up diagnosis and other medical processes immensely.
Ethereum also utilises a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, called ether, but it could also change the business world, making Ethereum a way for people to agree to terms and then be automatically enforced. It can store computer programs known as smart contracts on the blockchain, which can be used to manage almost any organisation.
Becoming far more streamlined and potentially more secure, blockchains are starting to enhance the business world as we know it in almost every sector. It might not be long before it’s influencing you and your work too.