The year 2018 is the year of blockchain applications with several ongoing use-cases coming to realization and the vendor landscape also gained more depth and a better structure after years of press and vendor hype, fueled equally by commercial self-interest and a genuine desire for innovation. Firms like Forrester predict that we will see more serious blockchain projects in 2018. Initiatives will increasingly be assessed against standard business benefit models, and those found not up to standards will not be given the go-ahead, or they'll be stopped if already underway.
To understand the direction of #blockchain technology in 2018 and beyond, we need to recognize the three tracks of blockchain technology:
-Pure R&D-Track: This track is focused on understanding what it means to develop a blockchain-based system. Ideally, working on real use cases; but the ultimate goal is investigation and learning, not necessarily delivery of a working system.
-Immediate Business Benefit- Track: This track covers two bases: One: learning how to work with this promising technology. Two: delivering an actual system that can be deployed in a real business context. Many of these projects are intra-company.
-Long-Term Transformational Potential- Track: This is the track of the visionaries, who recognize that to realize the true value of blockchain-based networks means reinventing entire processes and industries as well as how public-sector organizations function.
Blockchain Technology Trends in 2018
Opportunities for IT professionals with blockchain skills are increasing at an astronomical rate. Blockchain is considered one of the most in-demand skills today, with blockchain technologists taking second place in the top freelance skills list for the 2017’s third quarter, according to Upwork. The numbers of job postings that feature blockchain as a must-have skill have increased by 115 percent between 2016 and 2017 alone, according to Burning Glass Technologies, a job data analytics firm.
The driving forces for this high-demand are:
Cryptocurrencies: Part of why blockchain has become so important in the business world is the rise of cryptocurrencies like #Bitcoin. This makes the skill of particular interest to finance companies, such as banks and investment firms, as well as technology and consulting firms, and even application developers. With cryptocurrencies becoming a larger part of the market, large corporations are working to be able to accept or interact with currencies directly, increasing the need for blockchain technologists.
Smart Contracts: Blockchain has introduced a new paradigm for recording information. This has to do with the distributed ledger systems created with blockchain, an approach that increases efficiency and eliminates certain central administration requirements. Many industries are investigating the technology for its ability to support smart contracts, allowing specific actions to execute automatically as soon as agreed upon conditions are met. Simple definition of a smart contract: A complex set of software codes with components designed to automate execution and settlement, is the application layer necessary to make blockchain technology a reality.
Numerous major firms on Wall Street are looking to exponentially increase their experimentation with blockchain technologies in 2018, meaning trillions of dollars in institutional funds could be moving through the crypto space in the months ahead.
Powerhouse firms on Wall Street, like IBM, are helping companies create the infrastructure necessary for shifting operations to the blockchain. Microsoft, too, has deemed cryptotech as enterprise-grade, and thus the global software giant is creating middleware suites that will make it more attractive and easier than ever for Wall Street to embrace blockchain innovations.
Ongoing, reputable developments like this will surely instigate an avalanche of Wall Street blockchain use-cases in 2018 and beyond, undoubtedly giving the blockchain unprecedented prestige in the mainstream.
It’s ironic that the cybercriminals who perpetrated the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017 could hold a federal government to ransom and demand to be paid in Bitcoin. Bitcoin might be a crypto-currency, but it’s based on Blockchain, and if cybercriminals are confident that Bitcoin provides a safe mechanism for the payment of ransoms, it indicates just how secure the distributed ledger approach is. Blockchain has the potential to totally re-engineer cybersecurity, but the industry has yet to come to terms with it.
Blockchain will deliver on the promise of Internet of Things (IoT) in the year ahead. In the world of #IoT you’re generating millions of small transactions that are being collected from a distributed set of sensors. It’s not feasible to operate these systems using a centralized transactional model: it’s too slow, expensive, and exclusive. To extract the true value from IoT technology you have to be able to operate in real time. Once a sensor alert is received from a control system you must react to it, meter it, and bill for it instantly – all of which negates the viability of a centralized transactional authority. The cost of the transaction has to be near-zero or free, and the cost elements of a centralized model simply don’t support the potential business model in IoT.
In 2018, some interesting applications of Blockchain and IoT in the area of #cybersecurity will emerge. Significant attacks have recently been launched from low-cost IoT endpoints, and there’s very little incentive for manufacturers of these devices to incur the cost of a security stack, which leaves them extremely vulnerable. Blockchain can play a fundamental role in securing these environments.
In 2018, we will see the ‘zero trust’ security model re-emerging which means that, enterprise systems will vigorously authenticate whether users are indeed entitled access to specific sets of data, before making them available.
The Zero Trust Model (ZTM) simplifies how information security is conceptualized by assuming there are no longer “trusted” interfaces, applications, traffic, networks, or users. It takes the old model—“trust but verify”—and inverts it because recent breaches have proven that when an organization trusts, it doesn’t verify.
It requires that the following rules be followed:
So, essentially blockchain will become the implementer of the ‘zero trust’ policy.
Those who persist with their blockchain initiatives are not only aware sometimes painfully that the technology is still at a very early stage of development, but also understand that this isn't really about technology, but about business. This is what sets them apart from those who follow the siren call of tech industry promises without sufficient grasp of what a blockchain network is all about, both from a business and a technology perspective; the resulting vanity projects will invariably fail.
Credits Picture: Pixabay
Ahmed Banafa is an expert in new tech with appearances on ABC, NBC , CBS, FOX TV and radio stations. He served as a professor, academic advisor and coordinator at well-known American universities and colleges. His researches are featured on Forbes, MIT Technology Review, ComputerWorld and Techonomy. He published over 100 articles about the internet of things, blockchain, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and big data. His research papers are used in many patents, numerous thesis and conferences. He is also a guest speaker at international technology conferences. He is the recipient of several awards, including Distinguished Tenured Staff Award, Instructor of the year and Certificate of Honor from the City and County of San Francisco. Ahmed studied cyber security at Harvard University. He is the author of the book: Secure and Smart Internet of Things Using Blockchain and AI.