What is The Blockchain Anyway? 0 110

Everyone’s familiar with cryptocurrency by now. Bitcoin and Ethereum are starting to become part of our everyday vocabulary. And so is the word “blockchain.” Everyone’s heard of it, but exactly what is the blockchain anyway and how will it impact our lives?

The blockchain is a revolutionary technology that’s being described by many as “the new internet.” Its implications have repercussions on many (if not, all) industries and areas, thanks to several of its unique qualities.

Think of The Blockchain As a Spreadsheet

Rather like turning on a lightswitch or zapping through your television, you don’t necessarily need to know how the blockchain works to understand it. But, perhaps one of the easiest ways is by thinking of it as a spreadsheet. Let’s see:

It started with Microsoft Excel.

You created a new spreadsheet and then emailed it to your colleague, who then emailed it to the next collaborator. They would edit, update and send it back. Great.

Except that you could end up with countless versions of the same document and never know which one was the latest. Lots of emails, lots of confusion, plenty of room for improvement.

Enter Google Docs.

Google Docs allows many people to work on the same spreadsheet at the same time. This does away with the email chains and the countless updated versions. But what it doesn’t do is allow for widespread, simultaneous distribution.

That’s where the blockchain comes in.

Everyone can have access to the spreadsheet at once, whenever they want to; providing the ultimate in transparency and a few more things besides.

The Blockchain is Incorruptible

Co-Author of the Blockchain Revolution, Don Tapscott, describes the blockchain as “an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions, but virtually everything of value.” While the blockchain is first and foremost associated with cryptocurrency, its real power lies in its technology. All of the blockchain’s records are immutable because they are shared over all participating parties’ computers.

Consider the implications of this for one moment. If the blockchain was used to record events and transactions in the supply chain, corruption would be impossible. If the blockchain were applied to elections, forging votes would be a think of the past.

The Blockchain is Decentralized

We hear the word “decentralized” associated with the blockchain a lot. But what exactly are the implications of that? The fact that no data is located in any single location, or owned by any single person is another reason that its records are tamper-proof. If any changes are made at any point in the ledger, they happen across the entire network in real time, just like crypto transactions.

According to Block Geeks, “Decentralization means the network operates on a user-to-user (or peer-to-peer) basis. The forms of mass collaboration this makes possible are just beginning to be investigated.” The blockchain, then, could have a huge impact on many areas, from the sharing economy to identity management.

How is The Blockchain Currently Being Used?

The blockchain is currently being used in many industries and will start to leave its stamp on more and more. Take legal documents, for example. If these could all be managed with blockchain, we would no longer need hard copy passports, birth certificates, or anything else; everything could be digitized.

When it comes to banking, the decentralized nature of the blockchain would mean that your money would never be in one account only. Your finances would be safe should one institution go bankrupt, because the records would be distributed over many participating parties.

Sooner or later, most businesses will rely on the blockchain to make their transactions more efficient and secure. There will no no further concerns about data breaches or loss of information, and every record will be public. Blockchain technology is set to be as disruptive to businesses around the world as the internet, allowing us to achieve speed, efficiency and transparency. Are you ready?

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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 1 383

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 4 338

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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