5 Broken Systems that the Blockchain can Fix 4 668

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5We’ve all heard the expression “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But lately that seems to apply less and less to many of our existing systems. From banking and education, to advertising and politics; wide scale reparations are needed. But how do we go about fixing these defective models? Enter the blockchain.

What’s been labeled the most revolutionary technology since the internet, many of us are still struggling to understand how it works, let alone get our heads around how far reaching its implications may be.

But just like AOL and email were to the internet, cryptocurrency is just the first in one of blockchain’s many uses. “Blockchain has legitimate potential to change the world,” wrote Drew Prindle at Digital Trends, and it seems, he could be right. Here are at least five broken systems that the blockchain can potentially fix.

The Supply Chain

The supply chain is full of gaping cracks and black holes industrywide. Product markups, missing merchandise, currency conversions, inaccurate recording keeping, or failure to comply with agreed-upon terms can all be fixed with blockchain technology. As a public ledger available to all, updating in real time without human interaction, there’s no longer the opportunity for occurances to go undocumented or unaccounted for.

By operating with an “if/then” logic, (if you provide 100 kilos of bananas, then I will transfer X funds into your account), smart contracts can enforce the terms without human interaction or manipulation. Once a transaction is made it is irreversible. Not only does blockchain have the potential to wipe out corruption and increase accountability, it can cut out the middlemen, making for cheaper products for the end user.

Cybersecurity

There have been plenty of headlines about hacking scandals and fraud. Research by Ernst & Young found that some 10 percent of all ICO funding had been stolen. The problem is not with the technology itself, however, but with the secondary software built to store cryptocurrency, including wallets, exchanges, and custodial services.

Andrew Hinkes, adjunct professor at NYU Law School and practicing attorney with a focus on blockchain, explains, “Generally speaking, blockchains create an audit trail of all activity by its participants, which simplifies access control and monitoring.

Blockchains can also be used for hardware and software version control and sourcing, which can simplify version control and updating issues. Using a public blockchain with proof of work consensus can remove the foibles of human mistake or manipulation.”

Online Advertising

Most of us hate advertising online. In fact, some 40 percent of all Millennials use adblockers when surfing the net. But beyond annoying pop-ups, the severity of the problem in the advertising industry is starting to come to light. A German court recently ruled that Facebook’s use of personal data and privacy settings was illegal. The Center for Humane Technology has been established in an attempt to protect people’s privacy and curb their tech addition.

Using the blockchain could soon put an end to these problems, as it democratizes data due to its transparency and decentralization. No one company is able to own or sell your personal data anymore. This means that not only are people allowed to manage their own data but they can monetize it as well, thanks to blockchain’s ability to record micro fragments and create new value opportunities.

Monetization of even the smallest amounts of data becomes possible, from the number of steps you’re taking daily recorded in your Fitbit, to how many times you click a certain ad. More and more companies are allowing consumers to authorize their data use, and monetize it by dealing directly with the companies who want to buy it. Advertisers get the data they need and consumers are rewarded for it, while having control over who uses it and how.

The Underbanked

The financial system has many problems, beyond high transaction fees, conversion rates, and transfer delays, many people are not being granted access. Larry Boyer, Certified Business Economist and President of Success Rockets comments, “One of the most promising uses for pure currencies is to help people who don’t have access to the traditional banking system. In the US, that is the rural and urban poor and developing countries.”

The unbanked can also engage in global commerce thanks to cryptocurrency. Currently, for example, it’s not profitable for the traditional banking system to service customers below a certain threshold. But with cryptocurrency, a poor farmer in Kenya or Colombia can prove creditworthiness by having the cryptocurrency in their wallet. This will open up the entire market for companies and allow more and more people access to goods and services.

Elections

We may never know what really happened in the 2016 elections, but with accusations of fraud being hurled from one side to the other, imagine if we could put an end to voter fraud once and for all? And in developing countries where rigged elections and violent protests are often par for the course, blockchain’s immutability can guarantee clean elections.

Companies like Follow My Vote make sure that all votes are permanent and impossible to tamper with. Thanks to the decentralization of the blockchain, it would be practically impossible for hackers to break in and skew the results. Since every block in the chain is linked, they would need to simultaneously change the entire blockchain, a virtually impossible feat.

The blockchain is set to revolutionize many areas of our lives for the better. And if we can put it to good use fixing just one broken system in our society, we’ll be on the right path to making amends for our current failings.

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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 11 705

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 379 1476

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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