If we could have only one takeaway from Einstein’s teachings it has to be that everything is relative. In other words, how something is perceived, depends on the specific frame of reference of the observer. The famous scientist defined this concept in relation to natural phenomena, but it can also be used in a more metaphorical sense.
We recognize this intuitively when it comes to time. Hours pass in the blink of an eye when you chase an important deadline. Minutes stretch into hours during a sleepless night. A decade can feel like an eternity when it comes to the crazy rollercoaster that has been the blockchain space…
The publication in 2009 of Satoshi Nakamoto’s seminal paper “Bitcoin: A peer-to-peer electronic cash system” heralded the arrival of one of today’s most promising emerging technologies – blockchain. But while the paper sparked excitement and curiosity among a niche group of technology enthusiasts, blockchain had a long way to go to showcase its worth to the rest of the world. It has been a long and difficult journey, but after 11 years of rapid development, as well as plenty of skepticism, controversy, and drama, it’s finally starting to feel that the blockchain has truly arrived on the scene.
This sentiment is becoming increasingly prevalent in the world of big business. Published in March of this year, Deloitte’s latest Global Blockchain Survey reveals that business leaders “no longer consider the technology groundbreaking and merely promising—they now see it as integral to organizational innovation”. For a technology whose viability has been so often questioned by businesses and industry bodies across the world such a shift in perception is an undeniable success and deserves to be celebrated. It sends a strong signal that while blockchain’s journey may not be finished, the tech is on the path to achieving widespread adoption.
Let’s take a look at the trends that seem poised to dictate big business’ interest in blockchain in the coming years.
Tokenization and digital assets
While blockchain’s ability to store assets digitally in the form of tokens has been among the most prominent applications of the technology, development in that area has been mostly driven by blockchain-focused outfits and projects. However, the potential of tokenization and digital assets has not gone unnoticed in the corporate world.
According to Deloitte’s 2020 Global Blockchain Survey, some 89% of respondents expressed belief that digital assets would be very or somewhat important to their industries in the next three years. Notably, 53% of respondents thought that digital assets would be very important.
This strong vote of confidence is not surprising, given the many benefits digital assets, tokenized assets, in particular, have to offer. Those benefits include: enabling frictionless trading of physical assets on secondary markets; making large assets, such as property, divisible, and increasing historical transparency. We explore the subject in much more detail in our latest e-book, “The complete guide to bringing digital assets to market”.
Another area attracting strong corporate interest is digital identity. Deloitte’s survey shows 90% of respondents saying that a global digital identity would be a very or somewhat important part of their blockchain strategy going forward. Business leaders primarily see financial transactions and data privacy/ownership as the likely areas where digital identity could have the biggest impact. However, the survey also cautions that while most business leaders agree on the importance of digital identity, tangible progress is yet to be made in this area.
Still, there have been some promising developments in this field. Most notably, Microsoft has been working in partnership with ConsenSys and Transmute to develop a blockchain-agnostic protocol for creating scalable decentralized identity (DID) networks, called Sidetree. Last year the US tech giant launched a preview of the Identity Overlay Network, a Sidetree-based DID running atop the Bitcoin blockchain. The company has continued to be active in the space throughout 2020.
One trend that has been growing steadily in recent years involves the continued creation of blockchain consortia. These joint organizations see a group of companies joining a blockchain network to achieve some common goals. Not only such memberships help companies to better utilize blockchain technology, but they also promote cooperation in groups of traditionally competing entities. This certainly helps blockchain’s chances to achieve widespread enterprise adoption.
Some of the most prominent blockchain consortia include Ethereum Enterprise Alliance, Hyperledger, R3, RippleNet, and Marco Polo, among others.
The COVID-19 effect
One factor that cannot be overlooked is the impact that the global pandemic of COVID-19 has had on blockchain initiatives and strategies across the enterprise sector. According to research firm Forrester, the pandemic has forced companies to put long-term and more experimental projects on hold. At the same time, however, the crisis has boosted the pursuit of practical blockchain solutions that bring tangible benefits in the short term. Forrester predicts that 30% of projects will make into production next year.
According to IBM Blockchain’s general manager, Allistair Rennie, the prediction is in line with data observed by IBM.
“Due to the increased strain that the pandemic put on supply chains, clients are finding there is a dire need to accelerate their digital transformation to emerge stronger than before,” Rennie told Cointelegraph in a recent interview. “We are seeing both expansions of existing blockchain projects and new ones. The most successful of these are the ones that are underpinned by solid business use cases and have a clearly defined value to add to the business.”
The fact that in these times of crisis businesses are turning to blockchain suggests that the technology has a bright future in the enterprise sector. And while the journey may be far from over, it’s encouraging that the technology has managed to pick up some company along the way.