Signals #6 – Blockchain

Challenge

  • Handling transactions requires trust. Banks, lawyers and other intermediaries provide a level of trust. But they also introduce friction and fees.

Opportunity

  • Blockchain allows unknown parties to do business directly with abundant trust.

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Tools

Pros

  • Removes middlemen. Everyone can see and verify the information regarding a transaction.
  • Increased transparency. Data is fully visible in the distributed ledgers.
  • Decentralized. No single point of failure. Data is replicated across the network.
  • Immutable and secure. At least in theory. Data written in the ledgers cannot be altered afterwards. It’s hard (but not impossible) to get control of a blockchain network and interfere with the process.

Cons

  • High energy consumption. For Bitcoin alone, annual power consumption equals Chile. Annual carbon footprint equals New Zealand.
  • Slow transactions lead to a scalability problem on public blockchains. Private blockchains perform better.
  • 51% attacks. Gaining majority control of a blockchain network enables controlling all of the transactions. Which in turn compromises security.
  • Bad reputation. Lack of standards; cryptocurrencies are often associated with scams and hackers; blockchain has a relatively low amount of case studies with proven ROI.

Cases

  • Walmart reduced the time to track the origin of a product from 7 days to a few seconds.
  • TradeLens claims to reduce global trade friction worth of $1.8 trillion USD with their blockchain-based platform.
  • SCG reduced procurement processing time by 50% and costs by 70%.
  • we.trade simplifies and speeds up trade by eliminating fraud and trust issues.
  • Renault uses blockchain to track and certify compliance of vehicle components.
  • MediLedger reduces the time to verify returned drugs from 48 hours to a few seconds.

Forecast

  • Blockchain will not reach larger adoption until 2030.
  • 54% of leaders still think blockchain is overhyped. 88% believe that it’s not a game-changer, but will get mainstream adoption at some point. 55% include it the top 5 strategic priorities.

Resources

Takeaways

  • Assess carefully whether blockchain is what you really need. The odds are you need a more common database solution.
  • If blockchain really is relevant for you, try joining an existing network first before building custom solutions.
  • Blockchain is not mature enough to reach mass-adoption yet. Pilot projects exist in many industries, but use cases are niche and specific. ROI is often unclear.