Blockchain technology seems to warrant our attention. Once seemingly confined to cryptocurrency, today blockchain is relevant to entities across many industries. It is even enabling some longstanding competitors to collaborate for mutual benefit. With applications that seem endless and enriching, blockchain may require consideration by companies and potential regulatory oversight by governments.
So, what is blockchain? In its simplest form, it's a way of storing and sharing digital information without an intermediary. Once the data is recorded, it can't be changed, and users can access it anonymously. The most well-known use of blockchain is probably bitcoin, a digital currency. However, there are many other uses for blockchain, such as tracking loyalty points and allowing people to pay for purchases using virtual wallets.
For Deloitte's 2019 Global Blockchain Survey, Deloitte's independent research team interviewed 1,386 senior executives from companies that use or may consider using blockchain, and employees from 31 companies that facilitate blockchain use. Fifty-six percent of survey respondents believe that blockchain is no longer a theoretical concept, but a technology that companies should consider using to keep pace with their competitors.
Houston innovating with blockchain
As an InnovationMap article notes, multiple Houston companies are embracing blockchain. Iownit.us has developed a platform for digital private securities, providing an easier ongoing connection between companies and their investors. Data Gumbo is using blockchain to create smart contracts between businesses in the energy industry. Social Chain allows individuals (rather than social networks) to earn money when their personal data is sold to marketers. Another Houston company, Topl, has six platforms to provide supply chain information — e.g., in agriculture, tracking food products from farm to shelves. Houston innovators have formed the Houston Blockchain Alliance, a blockchain networking group that meets regularly to discuss opportunities.
Now that the focus is no longer on if blockchain will work, but how, business leaders are faced with the challenge of incorporating it into their business models. Deloitte's 2019 Global Blockchain Survey states, "executives should no longer ask a single question about blockchain but, rather, a broad set of questions reflecting the role blockchain can play within their organizations." These questions address topics ranging from how blockchain is expected to change industries to what the organizations' "blockchain blind spots" are.
Collaborating with competitors
Blockchain is usually not organized and run by a single entity. For optimal effectiveness when using blockchain, some companies may opt to join a consortium, which as the InnovationMap article states, allows companies to come "together with others in [their] horizontal or vertical ecosystem, in common purpose." Consortia members must agree on their goals, governance, funding, intellectual property ownership, and more. Despite these challenges, 92 percent of survey respondents are either already consortium members or plan to join one within the next year.
The future of blockchain appears bright. This technology is no longer a vision, but a reality — one that companies and countries should consider implementing as technology becomes more and more relevant across industries and around the world.
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