We’ve Taken Another Step Towards Blockchain Usability 3 2376

Widespread blockchain adoption. It didn’t happen in 2018, but it still feels like we’re right on the cusp.

One of the biggest obstacles blockchain is still trying to overcome is accessibility. For all its great potential, we won’t see far reaching implementation until people can use it easily. How can blockchain take a form that’s approachable to the general, non-coding public?

For now, much of the world, including small business leaders who form the backbone of many nations’ economies, still doesn’t know what they’re missing.

Who Needs Blockchain?

Let’s say you own a small to midsize enterprise with a strong digital presence, but you’re tired of the problems associated with traditional internet. You can’t reach potential clients in China, content regulations are different in Europe, and payment across borders is cumbersome.

You’d prefer to have your data management distributed and open source instead of locked up in some centralized server that hopefully won’t crash. Switching to a blockchain system would solve all these problems, but you don’t have the revenues to hire a team of blockchain devs who can transfer your digital presence to dApps.

You’re not alone. World Bank estimates over 90 percent of the world’s private companies are not large enterprises, but SMEs like yours. These modest enterprises are responsible for over half of the world’s GDP and employment, and they’re particularly important in emerging markets where they create 4 out of 5 new jobs.

Making blockchain technology accessible for global SMEs is a necessary push in achieving widespread adoption. To do this, setting up on blockchain needs to be as easy as using Squarespace, WordPress, or GoDaddy.

Ethereum Provides a Platform, but User-Friendly Implementation Has Remained Elusive

For all the ICOs launched in the past couple of years, only a handful have devoted themselves to this particular problem. After an encounter with Vitalik Buterin five years ago, retired fintech engineer Joe Lubin realized that blockchain “has the potential to shatter the silos of power and re-balance the information asymmetries that disadvantage so many.” He developed ConsenSys, a support system for devs and entrepreneurs to build on Buterin’s Ethereum platform.

Ethereum is perhaps the first and certainly the biggest platform for such developments. But ConseSys isn’t quite aimed at the everyday user. While it pushes blockchain’s potential forward, it will take more to bridge the gap for the general populous.

Bringing Blockchain’s Potential to the Everyday User

Eric Tippetts takes things a step further with NASGO. Aiming to be the ‘GoDaddy of blockchain,’ NASGO offers toolkits geared towards artists, influencers, humanitarian organizations, independent businesspeople and SMEs. It’s a “decentralized hosting environment”, according to Tippetts.

It gets around regional internet censorship and “allows content to be seen in every part of the world, opening up blocked boundaries for communication and collaboration.” And it makes things intentionally user-friendly so clients don’t need to show up with previous skills in tech, finance or coding.

Putting Down Roots in Asia’s Emerging Markets

Just last month, NASGO took a step forward into the spotlight by partnering with BitForex, one of the top ten digital asset trading platforms in the world. The partnership went live after a signing ceremony in Nha Trang, Vietnam on January 11th, and Singapore-based BitForex began offering NASGO tokens (NSG) for exchange a week later.

Tippetts is ambitious, calling this only the first among many indexes that will begin listing NASGO over the course of 2019. NASGO already has more partnerships in China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Palau. These countries are looking at ways to expand their revenue base while embracing blockchain’s increased transparency and the protection it provides against fraud. As emerging economies, these countries also stand to gain by enriching their private sectors, which are made up primarily of SMEs, with empowering blockchain knowledge.

“Of all we are accomplishing, our most important mission for 2019 is to drive complete utilization of blockchain,” says Tippetts. “We are creating the infrastructure and widespread adoption that will allow the blockchain to achieve its highest potential in driving revenue for organizations all over the world.”

Usability is the Key to Blockchain’s Future, and the Reclamation of Our Data

With ConsenSys, NASGO and BitForex pushing the agenda of blockchain usability into 2019, the ‘new internet’ could be right around the corner. If history is any indicator, it’s only a matter of the 100th monkey catching on before we finally see the blockchain blow up that was prophesied throughout last year.

When we eventually cross that cusp, we can finally hope to have control of our data and transactions. We’ll be able to conduct small scale business and creative work more freely. And the world of banks and governments will have some adapting to do.

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I grew up in the Silicon valley under the technological mentorship of Steve Wozniak. I'm a proud member of the Choctaw Nation, I've lived, worked and traveled all over the world, and I now write in the Pacific Northwest.


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Real Estate Doesn’t Need to Be So Complicated 11 2518

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 6415

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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