When the mystical Satoshi Nakamoto implemented the first blockchain a decade ago, they probably didn’t imagine it would explode into the disruptive force it is today. Initially used to support the first cryptocurrency, bitcoin, various iterations of the blockchain are increasingly finding their way into industries outside of fintech, bringing unprecedented change to these industries.
The blockchain, a decentralized ledger that permanently records transactions on its network, has provided the building blocks for many of the disruptive trends we’ve seen in recent years. It has seen the rise of dozens of cryptocurrencies in addition to bitcoin, some of which have had a wild rally in 2017, including bitcoin itself.
We’ve also seen Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), the blockchain-based funding model, become more valuable than some traditional funding models. In 2017, ICO-backed startups raised over $3.2 billion in funding from token sales, surpassing amounts raised by early-stage VC funding.
But perhaps the most interesting applications of the blockchain have come from its use away from its parent industry, fintech. It’s been used in real estate, record management, asset tracking, and has shown a lot of promise in healthcare, identity management, and dozens of other traditional niches.
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Here are some of the most interesting implementations of the blockchain you’ll likely see this year.
Towards the end of last year, the first known blockchain-based real estate transaction was completed when TechCrunch co-founder, Michael Arrington, snapped up a Ukrainian apartment for about $60,000 via the Ethereum blockchain. The transaction was conducted entirely via smart contracts, a feature native to the Ethereum blockchain.
The sale represented one of the neatest implementations of the blockchain in the real world. Soon, blockchain-powered startups such as Ubitquity and Propy, the real estate company that brokered the Ukrainian transaction, will be helping everyday clients search for apartments, organize their storage lots, and close overseas property deals without ever visiting a bank or a lawyer.
There’s also been increased interest in the blockchain from both old and new media companies, primarily because of the potential to transform content distribution.
At the 2018 edition of the CES tech exhibition, Kodak announced plans to launch its own token, the KodakCoin, to help manage licensing and image rights for photographers. KodakCoin would run on a blockchain designed to keep track of image rights and compensate creators for their work.
Comcast is also perfecting its blockchain-powered ad network, enabling companies to buy ads on over-the-top (OTT) and broadcast TV via the blockchain.
In addition to Kodak and Comcast, a good number of startups are helping bring blockchain technologies into traditional media.
Medical and healthcare
The blockchain’s decentralized network also makes it a perfect fit for the healthcare industry, especially in the areas of supply chain management, record keeping, and asset tracking.
And it’s not only early-stage startups that are using the blockchain to tackle healthcare issues. Last year, IBM Watson and the US FDA signed an agreement to develop a blockchain-based system to keep track of patient data from medical records, genome testing, clinical trials, and other traditional sources of patient data.
It’s definitely going to be a fun and interesting year for the blockchain.