In the past few years, the public perception of blockchain has shifted from being an esoteric, little-understood technology to nothing short of a revolution that may define the future of the internet. We have been seeing massive venture capital being pumped into blockchain startups for a while now and blockchain based startups are now finding footing even in Asia and in emerging economies across the world.
Research shows that blockchain and blockchain startups globally received around $1.3 billion in investment capital in 2018 (since May). However, blockchain now brings with it a “fear of missing out” and everyone from tech giants to Fortune 500 companies to country and state governments want to be seen as adopting blockchain technology in a big way. Let’s talk about how major companies and governments are implementing blockchain solutions and whether it will lead to a long-term technology transformation for these institutions.
How Major Companies and Governments are Adopting Blockchain Technology
Corporations are starting to wake up to the need to invest in blockchain. It’s expected that corporate spending on blockchain software will reach $2.1 billion in 2018, up from $945 million in 2017.
One of the major uses of blockchain technology is bringing down the costs of international payments and money transfers by replacing a third party intermediary with a decentralized, trustless system. It’s no wonder that Visa wants to get ahead in the blockchain game and use the new technology to change its business model and retain market leadership.
Visa has filed as many as 17 blockchain patents. One of its important patents (patent number 20170237554A) describes the foundation of a fast and secure way to store and transfer digital assets of substantial value. In December 2017, Visa launched its B2B Connect platform based on this patent. This platform aims to reduce the friction and high cost of high-value international transactions. It is currently in its testing phase. Visa clearly takes the potential of blockchain technology and its future very seriously and the hype around its blockchain strategy is backed by substance.
Walmart’s “Farm to Fork” blockchain project, launched in 2017, is a system that will help Walmart determine where the bad food came from once a product is recalled. This is expected to massively improve food safety standards, reduce food consumption related diseases, and reduce costs of waste.
Walmart now uses this blockchain to maintain the supply chain ledger for 30 products. “The process is simpler and more secure than the barcodes, scanners, paper forms, and individual databases Walmart usually uses. For every 1% reduction in food-borne diseases in the United States, that’s a saving to the U.S. economy of about $700 million,” said Frank Yiannas, head of food safety at Walmart. The blockchain system takes 2.2 seconds to trace the origin of sliced mangoes, verses 6 plus days using other systems.
Air France started examining the possibility of applying blockchain technology to optimize aircraft maintenance workflows in 2017. It believes that the main advantages of blockchain – resilience, traceability, integrity, and disintermediation – are well suited to the aviation supply chain.
However, when it comes to making a complete switch to blockchain based systems, Air France has a major obstacle in the way. Most airline data is still maintained on paper, so Air France will first have to move towards digitization of data before it can implement a blockchain system with any kind of efficacy.
The Estonian government has been one of the pioneers of blockchain implementation, starting as early as 2008 before the term blockchain was even coined. The E-Estonia program uses blockchain to integrate all Government services on one platform. The blockchain ledger protects sensitive data from the healthcare, judiciary, legislature, security, and commercial code registries from corruption and misuse.
They have also developed a blockchain-based security system called KSI which can function even under constant cyber attack. Estonia is a prime example of a proactive government that has persevered with blockchain implementation for a long time.
State of Delaware
The state of Delaware launched the Delaware Blockchain Initiative in 2016 which enables a more efficient governance structure for the 30,000 companies that are incorporated in the State. The government hopes that this will give the state a competitive edge and encourage more companies to be incorporated in Delaware.
However, the state has been slow to implement the initiative. This could be (at least partly) because the initiative would make agencies who make their living from company filings redundant. The government may be hesitant to implement this disruptive technology due to the potential job losses it could cause.
The European Union
Counterfeiting costs the European Union almost €60 billion every year. The EU Intellectual Property Office and the European Commission are working on a blockchain based solution to combat counterfeiting.
They are now in negotiations with a private company that can create blockchain based working products to deal with counterfeiting. It remains to be seen what the final solution will look like and how effectively it will deal with widespread counterfeiting of products all over the EU.
Blockchain Implementation by Corporates and Governments – Reality or Hype?
The major rush to announce blockchain projects to the media and jump on the blockchain bandwagon that was seen in the past two years has now cooled off significantly. According to Forrester Research Inc, a number of blockchain projects will be wound down this year, and many companies are scaling back on blockchain pilots that they were pushing aggressively just last year.
In 90% of the cases, blockchain experiments never become incorporated in the operations of the company. A survey of CIOs by Gartner Inc said that only 1% of them were implementing blockchain projects in their companies while 80% of CIOs said they had no interest in the technology. Other studies have shown different results, but similar sentiment… a majority of corporations surveyed say they don’t plan on using blockchain technology.
A major reason for this disconnect between hype and reality is that most companies had thought that it would be easy to find use cases for their blockchain projects. They are now realizing that introducing blockchain requires broad collaboration with many industry participants and scalable implementation could take 5 to 10 years instead of the 2 to 3-year horizon that had been expected.
The Future of Blockchain Implementation in Governments and Large Companies
While blockchain implementation among corporates and governments has seen a bit of caution throughout 2018, it seems to be a natural course correction after the exuberance and hype of the past couple of years.
Big tech players like IBM and Microsoft continue to invest heavily in blockchain software and have captured over 51% of the $700 million market for blockchain products. While there has been a tempering of enthusiasm when it comes to implementation of blockchain, and many companies are still testing the waters, it is widely believed by blockchain backers that there will be an upswing in blockchain projects next year and that the optimism of governments and companies will definitely return in good measure.
Featured Image: DepositPhotos/ sdecoret