2017 was the banner year for Bitcoin and it’s underlying technology: Blockchain. Investment, public fervor, and product/services maturation were all contributing factors to the firestorm of attention & notoriety that the crypto community felt in the latter stages of last year. For good reason though – bitcoin’s price increased roughly 1,700% in 12 months, and VC investment in blockchain projects almost reached $100M in that same period. (Note: We have already reached 40% of last year’s totals in the first 2 months of 2018.)
Blockchain tech products & services are seeping into every nook and cranny of our daily lives. From media to real estate, from research to human rights, everywhere in between the status quo infrastructure is being disrupted by the radical brilliance of decentralized P2P ledger networks. As Harvard Business Review puts it: “Blockchain is a foundational technology: It has the potential to create new foundations for our economic and social systems. But while the impact will be enormous, it will take decades for blockchain to seep into our economic and social infrastructure. The process of adoption will be gradual and steady, not sudden, as waves of technological and institutional change gain momentum.”
In the coming paragraphs, we are going to highlight some of the interesting real world use cases of blockchain tech that not only have caught our attention, because most of these examples are firsts of their kind, but also the fact that if these projects are successful it will most likely lead to the validation of the greater proof of concept of “Blockchain tech” and lead to more investment & entrepreneurship in each subsequent sector. Above, HBR does a great job to authenticate the immense potential of blockchain, but also rein’s in the recent “over hyping” of quick ROI. Below, we want to play between the lines of substance and potential as well. This is not a “top 5” list or by any means to be taken as exhaustive, but a sampling.
The traditional media ecosystem of institutional broadcasting partners in TV, Radio, and Print has seen it’s monopolization of information eviscerated to next to nothing after being disrupted to it’s very foundations by the Internet. The titanic shift in how content is consumed, shared, and ultimately stored thanks to the Internet coupled with Blockchain tech could completely disrupt the Media landscape once again.
Comcast Ventures Managing Director Gil Beyda agrees the the tech is intriguing, especially as a disruptive driver of lower distribution costs: “As a result of that, we had a lot of intermediaries and aggregators appear,” he says. “We think blockchain has a lot of opportunities to evolve those models.” via Variety. Here are some of the innovative ways Blockchain is being used in the “new” media ecosystem.
- First film being released on the Blockchain – http://www.nopostagefilm.com/
- Licensed & redistribution of files – https://littlstar.com/
- Special Effects rendering – https://home.otoy.com/
- Content creator funding & distribution – https://singulardtv.com/
- Web Publishing – https://www.po.et/
- Asset Management – https://www.accenture.com/us-en/success-warner-bros-digital-asset-management
- Music Rights & Compensation – http://www.mediachain.io/
REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT
Investment in housing has been a boon to any and every economy since the beginning of the financial world over the past few hundred years. As the Motley Fool puts it: “Real estate can be an extremely rewarding investment. Not only can real estate investments generate income streams that beat most dividend-paying stocks, but they also can appreciate in value over time. However, buying and renting out individual properties isn’t practical for many people, and can be a rather risky venture.” Until now…
“Wasn’t practical and risky venture” are now apparently old news with the announcement of the world’s first tokenized building. Brickblock.io is listing a “tokenized real estate asset on our smart contract platform.”
How it works:
- Invest – Buy Property shares using Ethereum
- Receive PoA tokens – PoA tokens represent all the benefits of legal property ownership
- Earn passive income – Receive rental income proportional to your tokens
“As a bonus to celebrate this milestone, investors will receive 100% of their investment in Brickblock tokens (BBK). Example: if you invest 1000 euros in the building, you will receive 1000 euros worth of BBK (at a value of $0.60 USD per token).” via BrickBlock
18 months ago in July 2016, IBM & Xinyuan partnered to develop its new blockchain-powered real estate finance technology platform via Forbes. “Xinyuan expects that the platform will be able to support various types of applications, including consumer finance, investment and financing, and industrial finance, by connecting investment and financing institutions, credit bureaus and merchants. The platform connects homeowners with broad channels for financing opportunities while enjoying the safety, transparency and convenience afforded by IBM’s blockchain technology. And it’s supported by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. On its own, that development could be huge. Xinyuan’s blockchain technology will be used by the Shenzhen local financial regulatory information system to help control China’s massive person-to-person (P2P) lending market.”
BLOCKCHAIN AS A SERVICE (BaaS)
IBM appears to be a, if not THE central figure in the blockchain revolution. “IBM ranked at Juniper Research survey’s top spot which was aimed at investments in blockchain technology. Microsoft was placed second. IBM attained the market share of 43% among the companies that are actively investing in distributed ledger technologies or considering investing in these innovative technologies.” via CCN.
In a new blockchain product, IBM lets start-ups and developers build their own distributed ledger projects in order to introduce additional Blockchain use no matter how big or small businesses are. As IBM states: “With the new IBM Blockchain Platform Starter Plan, you can quickly learn, build and try out your blockchain network in an environment designed for development and testing. When you’re ready to go into production, get the level of infrastructure and security your business requires by migrating to an Enterprise Plan.”
Below is their quick three-step guide to help you learn how to take an idea about blockchain to an actual blockchain solution using their service:
- Why blockchain? Start with your use case.
- Who do I work on blockchain with? Determine who to work with to address the use case.
- How do I build a blockchain?
“The new plan is perfect for pilot projects and early stage development work for those who want to build solutions on the IBM blockchain platform which currently has over 250 active blockchain networks,” Marie Wieck, general manager of IBM Blockchain, told CNBC.
Since quite possibly the worst human tragedy of lost information, the burning of the Library of Alexandria, civilization as a whole has had an increasingly difficult time compiling, storing, and upkeep of information because of the sheer volume of it being created more and more as the days go by. Our digital infrastructure has not kept up with demand, especially concerning academic and research knowledge. Most of humanity’s “science” is locked up behind paywalls, impossibly old mechanisms, and actually prevents hinders that spread of important information.
In steps ARTiFACTS. As their website states, “ARTiFACTS provides a simple, user-friendly platform, purpose built for academic and scientific research that leverages blockchain technology. Researchers can record a permanent, valid, and immutable chain of records in real-time, from the earliest stages of research for all scientific and scholarly artifacts, including citing/attribution transactions.”
- Comprehensive Indexing
- All artifacts linked and searchable
- Proof of origin established immutably and IP manageable by creator
- Source-of-Truth data set will provide foundation for new set of meaningful analytics
- Attribution/citation can happen at any point, providing more timely recognition of scholarly impact, particularly for new fields of study or for early researchers
Their goal is quite ambitious, as it will rely on all parties involved, but that may be the key to disrupting the industry – a synergistic rework of the entire system of researchers, institutions, funders & publishers. “Today’s system acts to narrow knowledge and limits attribution to only citations to a published article a process that takes years from research to attribution. Citations are the currency of research. Yet, only a small percentage of the universe of ‘transactions’ around this currency are captured, typically years after they happen.”
“While today’s digital scholarship merely creates linkages among an artificially narrowed subset of indexed publications long after discoveries are made, ARTiFACTS focuses on capturing and linking knowledge and attribution from initial ideation throughout the research process to informal and formal dissemination. By using the ARTiFACTS platform, researchers will be able to immutably prove ownership and existence of novel work, expand access to their scientific and academic research artifacts, provide and receive ‘real-time’ attribution for novel work and more comprehensively and rapidly build and demonstrate their body of scholarly contributions.
HUMAN RIGHTS AND / OR SOCIAL CAUSES
Forced labor is, and will continue to be – until it is eliminated entirely, a very real reminder that some places in the world are indeed dystopic in nature and we as a society have not evolved as much as we say we. This problem has brought about many cadres, organizations/NGOs, and “solutions” from all over the world to try and tackle. Some have been successful, but the irate elephant in the room is that this is still happening in 2018. According to the International Labor Organization, nearly 25 million people work in forced-labor conditions worldwide, with 47 percent of them in the Asia-Pacific region.
Another partnership has formed to try and use new blockchain tech to try different ways of mitigating forced labor. “Coca-Cola, the US State Department and a trio of crypto organizations (Bitfury Group, Blockchain Trust Accelerator and Emercoin) have launched a pilot project that will use blockchain to enforce worker rights. The initiative would use blockchain’s distributed ledger technology to create a secure, decentralized registry for workers and their contracts. They’d not only have the sort of identification that isn’t always guaranteed, but a trail of evidence in case employers abuse their power or don’t honor their end of a bargain.” via Engadget.
Reuters reports that: “Blockchain Trust Accelerator (BTA), a non-profit organization involved in the project. BTA is a global platform for harnessing blockchain to deliver social impact. The State Department said it will provide expertise on labor protection. The Bitfury Group, a U.S. tech company, will build the blockchain platform for this project, while Emercoin will provide blockchain services as well.”
The pilot already has its limits. Blockchain can persuade companies and governments to respect work contracts, but it can’t make them respect those contracts. However, this would be a welcome upgrade in transparency, communication, and compilation of just the knowledge alone.
So, what does the future hold? Well if there is any indication of growth via the numbers of patents issued for a technology, than China, leading the pack as it filed the most in 2017, and IBM are killing the game. And if prevailing logic continues, it could be assumed that China as a whole & IBM in the US are poised to not only be leaders in the space, but could become THE authorities in the coming years and decades. Time will tell, but one thing is for certain – Blockchain tech isn’t going anywhere and will become as ubiquitous in society as the Internet is today.