How blockchain will kill fake news (and four other predictions for 2020)

As blockchain gains credibility in the marketplace, it's being piloted for uses never before considered. But the nascent technology will need to mature, both technically and as a part of a more complete ecosystem, before seeing widespread adoption.

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When a business wants to transact with a bank or some other business on the network, they'll be pre-certified to do so, whether for wire transfers between businesses or cross-border exchanges.

One member of the Sovrin Foundation, Evernym, created a blockchain-based decentralized identity management application and partnered with IBM and Deloitte to roll out KYC applications for businesses. Evernym joined with Deloitte to deliver a one-tap, KYC-compliant onboarding experience for banks and fintech firms.

"I think Evernym is really well positioned there," Elefant said. "They have partnered with larger companies that can help do the implementation and get around this ecosystem. And they're starting to onboard banks. But it's early days. For blockchain to takeoff, you need widespread adoption and buy-in across ecosystems. That requires enterprises to change processes and change their behavior."

If a survey by Deloitte earlier this year is any indication, that behavior may soon  change. According to the survey, 77% of 1,386 senior business executives in a dozen countries indicated they'll lose their competitive advantage if they don't adopt blockchain.

Hybrid blockchains will dominate

As the hype around blockchain cools, non-technical challenges and interoperability hurdles have emerged. For one, permissioned blockchains, while great for B2B uses, don't connect with consumers who need an open ledger accessible by any mobile device via an API.

Enter hybrid blockchains, a combination of a private or permissioned blockchain and public blockchain.

In 2020, the battle between private and public blockchains will heat up and the debate will reach corporate executive teams; 80% of blockchain deployments will be hybrid, multi-cloud or both; meanwhile, non-technical issues will represent some of the biggest hurdles, according to Forrester Research.

For example, when a company rolls out a blockchain ledger, it will not likely integrate with existing corporate single sign-on capabilities. So, for a time – perhaps even permanently – a blockchain project will likely function on an exception basis, which leads to discussions around security and risk management.

Governance of a permissioned business blockchain is also a critical non-technical issue that can hamper deployments. Most often, determining how a distributed ledger will be managed falls to a single third party in charge of key considerations, such as who has access and who can invite new members onto the ledger.

That would allow consumers, for instance, to see how produce is grown on a farm and transported to grocery store shelves. Mastercard recently partnered with track-and-trace software provider Envisible to create a blockchain-based supply chain platform to help supermarkets trace the origin of seafood while enabling consumers to see the history of the catch.

When Facebook launches its Libra cryptocurrency in 2020, it will need a public-facing blockchain network for users who purchase items with the digital currency and a private blockchain network for the banks backing it.

"Multiple [blockchain] networks already exist for some of the most popular use cases (such as supply chain or trade finance), and proliferation will continue," Martha Bennett, a vice president of research at Forrester, said in a recent report. "Should you focus on getting these to interoperate, or would it be better to consider bringing public blockchains into the equation? We won't see any definitive answers in 2020, but expect plenty of debate and exploration."

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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