Blockchain adoption relies on greater accessibility
It would be safe to say that many businesses are still confused about blockchain. While an aim of the technology is to bring trust and simplicity to transactions, the infrastructure itself is still complex. Smaller or less technologically capable organisations can find the idea of using blockchain daunting, particularly if they expect to have to manage the systems themselves. Fortunately, they don’t have to.
Today, the as-a-service model is increasingly popular for businesses and consumers, and blockchain is no exception. Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) allows customers to leverage cloud based solutions for building, hosting, and using blockchain applications, without having to manage the infrastructure themselves. It goes without saying that this will encourage blockchain use… But what else is driving adoption? How can blockchain be more accessible for all businesses?
Bring on the blockchain
Despite debate over the viability of blockchain applications – largely due to the volatile cryptocurrency space – there are countless positive use cases from healthcare to energy.
As customers demand to know more about the products and services they buy, blockchain offers the means to make supply chains more transparent and, as a result, more trustworthy. The gradual transition towards a cashless society has obvious implications for blockchain as transactors seek to remove third parties and simplify the payment process. Hopefully this will carry over into the expansion of the Internet of Things and encourage confidence in connectivity. Efficient peer to peer (P2P) networks will be equally important for the sharing economy, which depends on reliable, secure user exchange.
Another major catalyst for blockchain is Web 3.0 – the next iteration of the internet. User control will be a key characteristic of future web usage as people become increasingly aware of the value of personal data. In order to protect data from third parties, Web 3.0 is likely to be a P2P environment. Blockchain decentralises transactions and removes middlemen, which makes it fundamental to the development of Web 3.0. Organisations like the Blockchain Access Foundation have been set up to ease the transition to a peer led internet.
It’s hoped that BaaS will further accelerate the adoption of distributed ledger technology by eliminating the need for in-house management. Tech companies are clearly moving in this direction: Microsoft’s Azure platform offers a BaaS module, IBM has created BaaS for private consortiums, Amazon has developed a blockchain cloud hosting service, and Oracle has released an enterprise edition of its Blockchain platform. It looks as if BaaS and other hosted blockchain platforms are here to stay, with a range of options available from different providers. The question is, will they be used?
From awareness to application
Perhaps the biggest barrier to the adoption of blockchain services is understanding. Although blockchain is geared towards simplicity, the technology is far from straightforward. BaaS may remove the need to develop and maintain blockchain applications from scratch, but before approaching a provider, businesses need to have a firm grasp of what they want to use them for and how they can improve their operations. The issue is that knowledge is confined to certain industries. There are online courses and training programmes available, but blockchain is still regarded with a level of suspicion. This can be partly attributed to cryptocurrencies, which are yet to convince the mass market. Uncertainty over regulation is also making it harder for businesses to know what to do.
Diversity in distributed ledgers
Much like any disruptive technology, blockchain has a diversity problem which further limits accessibility. For the most part, blockchain expertise is confined to the financial and technological industries and the affluent white men that dominate them. Services from Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle may bolster blockchain use, but they don’t solve this fundamental issue.
Tech education startup Maiden aims to make blockchain more accessible by teaching members of traditionally underrepresented groups about transactions, smart contracts, and other applications of the technology. Ultimately, if blockchain products are created by groups that genuinely represent society, they will impact more people and break down educational barriers.
Big businesses with tech expertise are making it possible for more organisations to benefit from blockchain with hosted platforms and BaaS. However, without more effort given to education and understanding, companies will continue to shy away from distributed ledger technology.
With the advent of Web 3.0, the sharing economy, the growth of the Internet of Things and the move to cashless, blockchain’s role as a digital watchdog cannot be overlooked. Because of this, companies across the scale have a responsibility to dispel confusion, seek diversity, and build blockchain for business.
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