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Blockchain in 2019: 4 trends to watch
Let’s do a reality check: What blockchain trends should you be watching in the months ahead?
3. Blockchain tests broaden and involve more business functions
Alison McCauley, CEO of Unblocked Future, notes that early attempts by corporations to experiment with blockchain or run pilot programs have encountered some obstacles. She expects that we’re entering a phase where early adopters will learn from initial challenges and adapt.
“Many corporate pilots are stalling. This is due to both technical constraints and the human factor: the challenge of changing the way a person works, or how partners interact,” McCauley says. “However, smart organizations across every industry will kick their learning and experimentation into high gear for the balance of the year and into next.”
McCauley notes that learning and understanding blockchain and what use cases might be appropriate will require getting your hands dirty, and soon. Just how you do that may need to evolve.
One key way McCauley thinks organizations can do this: Don’t limit blockchain exploration and learning solely to IT.
“The most impactful use cases are not going to be identified by technologists alone,” McCauley says. “I see forward-thinking organizations raising blockchain literacy across the company so that they can get subject matter and process experts to help them understand where the technology will really make a difference now, not just ten years from now.”
Indeed, Deloitte’s Prabhu points out that cross-departmental or organization-wide experiments are also likely to have a greater ROI or impact – which will help bolster the case to move from a pilot or proof-of-concept to a larger, longer-term initiative.
“The highest ROI for blockchain is for solutions that transcend organizational and company boundaries,” Prabhu says. “The biggest challenge within enterprises is to break through organizational silos to design, implement, and operate innovative blockchain solutions.”
Outside the enterprise walls, “Companies will also be developing a better understanding at the business level of how to pull together consortia and ecosystems more broadly, establish standards, and otherwise gain cooperation among the companies and groups needed to make a blockchain useful,” says Red Hat technology evangelist Gordon Haff. “There are also nascent projects around secure and federated digital identity using blockchain, but it’s early days for those.”
4. Critical evaluation of scalability and performance
All the buzz around blockchain sometimes drowns out the reality that the underlying platforms and technologies themselves are still developing.
Prabhu expects to see growing interest and urgency around scalability and performance as enterprises identify potential use cases and begin to do more thorough evaluations of different platforms and vendors. The enterprise adoption needle won’t move if companies don’t think the technology is ready for prime-time.
“Research advancements on blockchain platform scalability and throughput performance improvements remain critical to the advancement of blockchain technology,” Prabhu says. He expects breakthroughs in scalability and performance to begin coming to fruition in two to three years.
Yang from Lucidity calls scalability “the number-one hurdle blockchain has to overcome in order for developers to build apps that solve real-world business challenges.” He notes that a public blockchain might only process 15-20 transactions per second, for example, and that most industries will require much greater rates.
The good news, according to Yang, is that scaling solutions such as sidechains are already showing promise.
“As we move toward 2019, these solutions will become more and more sophisticated,” Yang says. He adds that solving the scalability problem brings with it another challenge: “How do we scale blockchain technology while maintaining its decentralization?”
Which all points to a final bonus trend: IT leaders doing discovery and experimentation with blockchain will have plenty to keep tabs on as the marketplace evolves.
“Enterprise CIOs will need to keep their pulse on the simultaneous continued competitive evolution of open source platforms and proprietary solutions,” Prabhu says.
[ Can you explain blockchain to non-techies? Read our related story, How to explain blockchain in plain English. ]