While the bitcoin boom never quite exploded as many expected in 2018, the technology proved viable, and perhaps more importantly, became widely understood and accepted as an alternative currency. The turbulence in the market made large traditional investments a risky venture for many, large amounts of media attention over occasional huge gains cemented blockchain in the public imagination, and so, moving into 2019, financial industries are looking to leverage both the technology and the public awareness in future products.
A new image for Blockchain?
One of the main developments we’re likely to see in the near future is more on the PR side than any profound technological advance. Blockchain technology has developed a certain image due to association with bitcoin and similar technologies – an image of being faddish and prone to market and technological instabilities. One of the major aims for blockchain companies is to move public perception away from cryptocurrencies and to promote their wider applications and benefits. One possibility is that the term “blockchain” itself will be phased out in favour of something less loaded: it’s a situation where the hype bears little relation to the actual wider application of the technology.
Identifying precise applications
Finding the best use for the large potential that blockchain technology offers is another hurdle that companies will be striving to overcome in 2019. Blockchain has sometimes been held up as something of a technological cure-all, but with solid and practical application, and clear and pragmatic solutions to specific development problems, blockchain is far more likely to find wider uptake than it does at the moment. When the advantage blockchain offers in solving common problems becomes clear, its uptake will inevitably increase – and so the race to be the first to offer a pragmatic solution, and monetize the technology behind it, is hitting up.
Opportunities for independents
That race for pole position in the market won’t necessarily be won by a current major player either. As with many online developments, much of the progress with blockchain technology has been driven by small, independent developers concentrating on novel approaches and highly targeted solutions. In some ways blockchain is a much more fertile territory for independent development than other areas; because the financial risk is widely dispersed, the overall risk for individual organisations stays relatively small, and particularly after the rise and fall of the bitcoin bubble investors are reticent about funding large investments. It’s a trend that’s likely to continue – at least until the next bubble comes along.
Inevitably, the final prediction for blockchain technology in the near future relates to how it ties in with online developments in general. How blockchain can integrate with other emerging technologies, such as the Internet of Things, AI development, cloud computing, and machine learning will play a big part in how it’s used in the future.
As these other technologies mature and become accepted and widespread, expect to see innovative ways to integrate blockchain into their use. In many ways it’s a natural synergy – all these technologies make use of distributed information technology – and as each becomes more mainstream, and manufacturers market their devices around their use, so other uses of similar technology will become more widely accepted. Blockchain will be a part of that, and the process is already underway.
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