7 Interesting Ways to Use Blockchain Technology 4 1109

Thanks to increasing coverage in major news outlets around the world, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are having their moment in the sun. What used to be an arcane bit of futurism has suddenly gone mainstream.

But, blockchain technology, despite being the infrastructure that makes cryptocurrency transactions possible, hasn’t received quite the same level of attention–yet.

That’s about to change though, as many experts believe it has the potential to be the most disruptive new technology since the internet itself. Cryptocurrency is only one of many possible uses.

With this in mind, let’s look at some of the many interesting ways we can put blockchain technology to use.

E-commerce

Amazon may not be taking over the world, but they’re certainly taking over retail. While customers appreciate their rock bottom prices and rapid fire processing and delivery infrastructure, signs of discontent are on the horizon. Not only are brick and mortar shops going out of business, but Amazon wields such market dominance that they can strong arm individual sellers any time they wish.

What if there was a way to keep all the positives of online commerce while ditching the despotic corporate overlord? Open source software like Open Bazaar is showing us the way. By shifting transactions to the blockchain, the power rests entirely with individual buyers and sellers. Even better, your data is your own. There’s no need to worry about it being sold to the highest bidder or handed over to the US government.

Global Payments

The economies of the world are becoming more intertwined with each passing year (Brexit notwithstanding). The USA, South Korea, and others are seeing a rise in foreign workers and even greater increases are being floated as one of the solutions to the never ending immigration debate.

Since foreign workers typically come from lower GDP countries, they often send remittances back home. Putting such monetary transfers onto the blockchain would remove the fees, governmental regulation, and corporate incompetence that are bane of those working abroad.

Elections

The debate over the 2016 election in the USA rages on, with allegations of fraud coming from both sides of the political aisle. Regardless of one’s party affiliation, everyone can agree that if there’s a method to guarantee clean elections, it should be adopted as quickly as possible. And for those who live in nascent, struggling democracies, where every election comes with the specter of fraud and violence, it would be a civil service as valuable as electricity and clean water.

Organizations like Follow My Vote are using the blockchain to ensure that every vote cast is permanent. Thanks to the blockchain’s decentralized nature, it would be immeasurably difficult for hackers to break in and change the results. They would have to change every copy of the blockchain at the same time, a feat requiring a mind-boggling amount of resources, far more than it takes to hack a voting machine or forge a paper ballot.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding has built up incredible momentum in the last ten years, with Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Patreon leading the charge. But its true potential is only now being unlocked thanks to the blockchain.

By issuing their own crypto coin, creators can receive funding from anyone in the world without the burden of excessive fees or the hassle of corporate guidelines. The blockchain keeps an unalterable record of every investment, ensuring that no one will be left out when it comes to reward time. As an added bonus, if the creator finds success in their venture, their cryptocoin will increase in value, giving everyone who took part in the crowdfunding a bonus return.

Digital Identity

Identity theft has never been more common or more ruinous to the individual. In a wired world where authenticity matters above all else, it’s time we moved past the days of ID numbers and passwords.

And as the Equifax hack proved, there’s no reason to trust a corporation to protect your confidential information. It makes much more sense to encrypt such data on the blockchain where it can neither be altered by hackers nor mismanaged by a third party.

Gaming

While the gaming industry has evolved into a juggernaut rivaling movies and television, that doesn’t mean it’s immune to the transformative power of the blockchain. As reported at The Block Talk, there’s a booming market for digital objects within game worlds, but no reliable hub to trade these items in the real world.

The blockchain is perfectly suited to the task, serving as a platform for transactions allowing gamers to trade their items or sell them for currency. While this might seem trivial to non-gamers, this is no cottage industry. The so called virtual goods economy was worth $15 billion as of 2016.

Cloud Storage

The cloud seems like a miracle at first, until Google Docs mysteriously loses all of your data, or you forget your Apple iCloud password and are permanently locked out of your account. While both of these mega-corporations have backup servers to ensure your data is where it’s supposed to be, they’re necessarily limited by their budgets and the size of their server farms. Startups like Storj, on the other hand, are using the blockchain’s distributed storage and end to end encryption to keep your data safe and accessible.

While many are well versed in cryptocurrencies by now, they tend not to interact directly with blockchain technology, allowing third party sites to do it for them. As more uses for the blockchain break into the mainstream, can we envision a not-so-distant future in which Bitcoin is a mere footnote to the awesome power of the blockchain?

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Christina is a technology and business communicator who has worked with high profile ICOs and blockchain influencers to break industry news.

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Real Estate Doesn’t Need to Be So Complicated 11 2357

Because blockchain is basically data management, one industry it stands to improve a great deal is real estate. The process of buying and selling real estate is first and foremost a data transfer. There were $463.9 billion in large cap commercial real estate investments nationwide in 2017. All that money moves paper. Since land cannot actually be owned, the idea of land ownership must be exhaustively documented, organized, purchased and sold. The myriad processes that make up one transaction, namely title transfers, putting funds through escrow, and navigating an outdated MLS system, all stand to benefit from a technology upgrade.

Blockchain could quicken and simplify these processes by virtue of its transparent, untamperable and near instantaneous handling of data. “What if you could irrefutably determine who previously owned a property, record with absolute certainty who the new owner is after it sells and reference the blockchain at any time to verify all previous owners?” asks Mark Rutzen, Co-founder and CEO of Eondo Inc.  “Even the combination or splitting of parcels would be easy to record with blockchain technology,” he adds.

Moving into the future of real estate, particularly commercial real estate and investment, will soon mean embracing the block. Here are some of the ways blockchain is changing real estate.

Financing Developers and Investors

For anyone in real estate investment or development, the most glaring obstacle is getting the upfront capital when you find a good opportunity.

“Real estate investors and developers are turning to new technologies like blockchain smart contracts to find more liquidity at lower costs,” says Joseph Snyder, CEO at Lannister Holdings, an Arizona-based technology company working to create more blockchain lending and crowdfunding tools through their Lannister Development subsidiary.

Lannister is publicly traded and regulated by the SEC, which is uncommon for a blockchain company. But Snyder sees it as an inevitability in the long term. He anticipates a future where blockchain real estate regulation is the norm, and blockchain development like Lannister’s is part of mainstream business development and commerce.

“We wanted to be heavily regulated up front,” he says. “We believe regulation and financial compliance are coming down the pipe.” And, according to their website, they “see a future of security, transparency, and growth beyond the stale oligarchy of traditionalists.”

Systems like this give access to capital to smaller investors and developers who don’t have a lot of capital to work with up front. In theory, this could level the playing field.

Real Estate Professionals Worldwide Are Developing a Blockchain Future

Others are envisioning a near future where you could buy a house with a click on a shopping cart icon. If blockchain can clean up the real estate process enough, it could do more than just disrupt the industry. It could give it a total overhaul.

The P2P nature of blockchain enables faster sales and a higher volume of deals closed with fewer legal headaches and administrative fees. It also means a trustless economy and immediate processing of property values and other technical details, like zoning regulations or utility expenses.

Organizations like the International Blockchain Real Estate Association, or IBREA, are dedicated to incubating the many possibilities produced by the intersection of real estate and blockchain. Local chapters of IBREA hold meetups in 23 cities for its 5,000 members to come together as professionals and co-educators, with the goal of moving the real estate world into the blockchain age.

According to Ragnar Lifthrasir, founder of IBREA, “real estate technology is going more peer to peer.”

“I think what people are missing with blockchain and real estate is the data problem,” he adds. “We have so much data in real estate. So to really do blockchain real estate well you also have to have a good data system, which is distributed file storage, or IPFS.”

Real Estate Without Headaches

With some real world testing to work out the bugs, blockchain real estate could take us into a future where we can buy and sell property as easily as we do a cup of coffee. With data properly arranged and the transactions secure and transparent, there will be no need for the systems currently governing the industry—nor the room for error, delays and complications they open up at every step.

For anyone with aspirations in real estate development or investment, blockchain promises to open a lot of doors.

DApp Frameworks Will Improve the Blockchain — Here’s How 381 5887

Scalability has always been a problem for blockchains, and it’s the main reason blockchain technology hasn’t reached mainstream adoption. Whether in blockchain fintech—where comparisons of the Bitcoin blockchain’s 10 TPS to Visa’s 24,000 TPS abound—or in other sectors blockchain has touched, this is holding many otherwise promising companies back from delivering new, innovative kinds of value to the public. While larger and better-resourced companies have managed to overcome this problem through sidechaining and/or sharding, there is no substitute for the real thing. DApp scaling frameworks may be a foundation to build widespread solutions to this problem.

What are DApps?

DApps (decentralized apps) use blockchain technology to deliver peer-to-peer value through product offerings, services, or new forms of value. Built on blockchain technology, dApps use its decentralized, trustless, peer-to-peer structure to let users transact between each other without a centralized authority through an encrypted medium (such as NASGO’s platform that we’ve reported on previously).

While this is an otherwise revolutionary solution to the problem of over-centralization, it comes with its own set of baggage. Imagine if every transaction or purchase you made had to be confirmed by a network of other people before completing. This, the consensus protocol—on which Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other leading blockchains are built—is one of blockchain’s greatest strengths, but also one of its greatest weaknesses. For any  blockchain to work as intended, every node participating in it has to confirm every transaction that happens on it.

On the positive side, this massively increases transaction immutability, verifiability and transparency. Unfortunately, it also makes transaction per second (TPS) speed very low. Slow processes usually don’t scale. And without scalability, blockchain technology cannot reach mainstream usage. Right now, only about 8 million people globally use any form of cryptocurrency. To reach mainstream usage, 800 million people must consistently use it.

It sounds like a chicken-and-egg problem, but the blockchain space is already developing resources to overcome this issue. DApp scaling frameworks are one way. They are bundles of code inside blockchain protocols that let distributed apps distribute themselves in a semi-scaled way, letting a blockchain scale improve its TPS and allow more transactions than ever before. Unfortunately, not many developers have access to these, and the few that do have only built the earliest versions of this technology, which brings up the question: is this really a workable solution right now?

What We Have Now

DApps are hard interact with. They’re slow, confusing, and rely on 3rd-party software which only the most sophisticated consumers can readily use. Yet the chief issue here is speed—the key performance measurement of all distributed systems is scalability, and without it, dApps have no real business case or value proposition, let alone any realistic user acquisition strategy. Yet there are fixes for this problem, but little implementation and even less progress on their collective maturation. They exist in five categories, below:

1. Low-Level Optimizations

2. Parallel Blockchains (“sharding”)

3. Homogenous Vertical Scaling

4. Heterogeneous Vertical Scaling

5. Heterogeneous Interconnected Multichains

6. Multilayered dApp development toolboxes

There’s not much to be said for the solutions in the first category. Most of them—consensus algorithms, PoS migrations, parallel processing on transactions and code optimizations in the Ethereum Virtual Machine—are low-level and impermanent band-aids to the deeper problem.

The best of the solutions in the second, third, and fourth categories are at this stage still in the proof-of-concept phase, being built almost exclusively by and for Ethereum and Bitcoin, such as projects like Plasma and the Lightning Network. These are getting the most traction here only because they’re developing out of Bitcoin and Ethereum, but are nontheless still are very early-stage.

The idea behind Plasma is to take smart contracts, give them self-governing alongside self-execution properties to let the Ethereum root chain essentially create buds or “shards”—tiny sidechains each monitoring one aspect of a transaction instead of putting that combined pressure on the root chain—to distribute consensus, letting blockchains dramatically scale their TPS. Lightning Network deals more exclusively with payments—it’s a second-layer payment protocol next to the root blockchain, using a peer-to-peer system to let users make cryptocurrency micro-payments. Both platforms are examples of how some blockchain companies are using secondary and tertiary parallel blockchains to scale their TPS.

Concepts like Polkadot—scalable heterogeneous multichains—provide foundations for later functionality in the area of relay-chains, where the goal is to build validatable, globally connected, frequently-changing data structures on top of these frameworks.

Companies like MenloOne—multilayered dApp development toolboxes—create and deploy digital tools for dApp developers to use when they’re building. They include:

  • A layer for communication.
  • A layer for governance (given lack of server admins to ban malicious users in a decentralized network).
  • A local wallet for smooth transactions (no more MetaMask popups).
  • A core layer, a network of content nodes which cache mirror versions of blockchain data.

These incorporate fragmented systems to make dApp development easier for professionals.

Together, solutions in these categories are working to help top blockchains scale TPS to thousands per second.To become adopted by the mainstream public, these frameworks will need to use a variety of different tools to make transactions effortless for blockchains to process.


What do you think about the scalability of blockchains today? Is it a problem for you or are you unaffected? And, what do you most want to see happen in this area of blockchain technology in the near future? Post in the comments below to let us know!

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