Blockchain set to converge with other trends in 2018

Via convergence and regulated investment blockchain may reach maturity in 2018

One year ago, the blockchain industry was transitioning from underground tech favourite to mainstream solution of the future. As the months passed, blockchain technology fulfilled many expectations, making it a banner year for the emerging database platform. On one hand, many people were still confused by the general nature of blockchain; on the other hand, the very fact that many people in a wide range of business roles have even heard of blockchain demonstrated just how far it had come.

But 2017 was more than just blockchain becoming a buzzword for the IT industry. The blockchain industry made a significant number of real-world strides forward during the last calendar year. Consider the following notable milestones:

Voting: In Estonia, blockchain software was tested as an immutable and unhackable voting platform. While the trial run wasn’t ready for real results yet, it demonstrated the trust a national government has in the technology’s capabilities.

Investing: Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) became a significant investment option in 2017. Using the Ethereum blockchain as its foundation, ICOs allow investors around the world to buy digital coins in a similar way as securities are traded. The difference? Investments are liquid nearly instantaneously—making it a quick turnaround for both fundraisers and investors.

Official records: With interest from the US government, blockchain startups have been engaged in looking at solutions for establishing and archiving official records across different industries. The application’s possibilities include centralising things such as DMV records, insurance records, and medical records.

With such significant strides in 2017, where does that leave things looking ahead to 2018? The upcoming year may be most noted as the time when blockchains went from the tech industry’s shiny new toy to a mature and accepted—and important—technology landmark. In particular, look for major leaps forward in two following areas.

Convergence of technology

Blockchains aren’t the only hot technology grabbing the spotlight in 2017. Two other notable technologies also rose to prominence during the year. First, the internet of things (IoT) emerged from a novelty into normalcy. Not a specific device platform, IoT refers to the idea of a connected world, from the smartphones in everyone’s pocket to connected technology in vehicles (which have even been known to control cars) to smart refrigerators connected to online grocery orders. Second, artificial intelligence refers less to sci-fi robots turning on humanity and in reality, focuses on machine learning. Simple examples of this can be Amazon’s predictive product displays based on previous purchases or even Siri learning your daily routines and patterns.

What does this have to do with blockchain technology? As individual pieces, these technologies aren’t necessarily connected. However, when combined, IoT, AI, and blockchain technology represent the future of our interconnected society. A generic example is as follows: an IoT device represents a connected way to help out your daily life. That device is controlled by an AI that learns your habits and patterns. That accumulated data must be stored and accessed securely, which can be done with blockchain technology: immutably, permanently, and transparently.

All three of these technologies are moving to the point of convergence, and 2018 should be the first year these webs start intertwining.

Regulated investment

2017 was the wild west of investing with the reemergence of ICOs enabled through the Ethereum platform and others. ICOs faced an unclear path for government compliance in 2017. Their unique properties that make them look like securities, commodities, or sometimes currency made them difficult to put into a regulatory box. Many ICO fundraisers choose to ignore the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and fundraise without abiding by any of the rules facing stocks and standard securities. This changed midway through the year when the SEC announced that it would start oversight of ICOs and even shut down noncompliant and fraudulent ICOs.

However, ICOs are continuing to gain traction as accepted paths to investment, and if companies want to fundraise to massive levels via ICO, they will have to start abiding by SEC regulations. As this is new territory for the industry, it means slowing down and simply taking 2018 to learn the best path forward to ensure regulation. By establishing a time-tested protocol, more and more companies will be able to have SEC-compliant ICOs, and thus breaking open the field for investment opportunities. In addition to pure technological advancements, the use of blockchain technology to power a new generation of investments will further move it into the mainstream.

The year of maturity

Every technology has to hit a maturation point, and at some point after a hot new buzzword and emerging technology, the tech exists merely for people to use, develop, and build further. The blockchain industry is nearly there. In 2017, it began integrating into mainstream applications in significant ways, from government sectors to powering investments. Now that the proverbial door has been kicked in, the focus is on making blockchain usage efficient, standardised, and repeatable. Those are the goals for any technology when it comes to maturity and acceptance, and for blockchain tech, that appears to be right around the corner.

This story, "Blockchain set to converge with other trends in 2018" was originally published by IDG Connect.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

Bing’s AI chatbot came to work for me. I had to fire it.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon