Blockchain today: when the hype fades, the real work begins
It’s been over a decade since Bitcoin entered the scene, and as attention for the cryptocurrency grew, so did the interest blockchain - the underlying technology that makes it possible. Previously, we discussed the basics of blockchain but here, we take a closer look at the hype surrounding the revolutionary technology. What’s been going on with blockchain now that the fever-pitched buzz has turned into a low thunderous rumble?
Technology hypes always fade away before adoption
You can’t discuss technology hypes without mentioning the Gartner Hype Cycle. It was developed by tech research firm Gartner to provide a strategic approach for assessing risk and making decisions when it comes to new technologies. The Hype Cycle represents the stages a technology goes through on its way to adoption. It starts with a steep incline of interest, followed by a trough of disinterest, and then it gradually recovers towards a stable plateau as the new technology actually becomes implemented.
Blockchain technology has followed this pattern diligently. As crypto took off and exploded into a frenzy during the ICO craze of 2017, any project with the word ‘blockchain’ in it immediately secured press coverage and had an easier task obtaining funding from investors looking for the next big thing. There have been countless reports by the likes of BCG, PWC, EY and Accenture about the fundamentals of blockchain, how the technology could be used one day, how prepared corporations were to embrace the tech and its role in shaping the future in a more esoteric sense.
Then, as many ICO projects failed to deliver results, altcoins underperformed and Bitcoin became less volatile after it’s all time high late 2017, the mainstream interest in blockchain started to fade. Deep in the “trough of disillusionment” as per the Hype Cycle, astute questions were asked by entrepreneurs and investors alike: does this project really need blockchain? Does it harness the power of the technology or can the same be achieved with a simple database?
This change of attitude towards blockchain was needed to stop viewing the technology as a panacea for the world’s issues, but rather as one of the available tools to solve a few very specific problems. Granted, those problems span across industries and applications, but the world has now reached an understanding that blockchain is not the answer to every single problem.
Where is blockchain now?
As Gartner would suggest, blockchain is now on a steady path towards implementation solving real-world problems. In other words, now that the hype is over and we’ve taken the time to understand what blockchain can and cannot do, the technology is now finally finding its way to adoption. So, besides cryptocurrencies, what are some of the uses of blockchain today?
Pharmaceutical giants Pfizer, McKesson, Genentech, Gilead and AmerisourceBergen have teamed up to create MediLedger, which uses blockchain to track and trace compliance regulations and build a secure open network for the drug supply chain.
The initiative helps pharmaceutical companies comply with new regulations that require them to apply a unique identifier on each unit sold and pass the serial number information between trading partners.
Bumble Bee Foods
In partnership with SAP, Bumble Bee Foods uses blockchain to trace the journey of yellowfin tuna from the ocean to the table. Consumers can access information about the size of the catch, point of capture and the fishing community that caught it. It also provides insights that help verify authenticity, freshness, safety, fair trade fishing certification and sustainability.
Australian start-up operates The Gateway, a platform that distributes funds data for the wealth management industry using blockchain. It provides significant operating efficiencies as it lowers the risks, costs and complexities associated with the sharing of data – improving investor outcomes.
A number of major financial institutions have already signed on to the platform and with the recent acquisition by Iress, BC Gateways is set to increase its coverage of the global distribution of financial data.
Shipping Giant Maersk uses blockchain in TradeLens, a system for tracking customs documentation on goods that are distributed internationally. Anyone involved in the supply chain can keep track of the shipment and look up the details pertaining to that shipment by accessing the permissioned ledger. According to Maersk, 10 million shipping events are registered in the system every week.
These are just some of the projects where blockchain is finally being used to effect real change. As you can see, the hype is over and that is probably a good thing. Blockchain is here to stay and it will change our lives eventually. It won’t be with the fanfare everyone expected before 2018, but when it comes to deep transformation that really goes to the heart of how societies operate, rigour, realism and persuasion through action are more impactful than promises and showmanship.
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