Ponzi schemes. Beware of anyone making promises that you can easily make incredibly high returns by getting in on the "ground floor" of a new phenomenon, especially if that person promises you little to no risk. You should also be on the lookout for any "investment opportunity" that does not have minimum investor qualifications, or that has complicated fee structures or strategies.
Truth be told, blockchain has been around for almost a decade thanks to bitcoin, but it's only now beginning to garner a lot of attention. Most businesses that are testing blockchain technology are doing so in a very limited capacity (i.e., demos or small-scale projects). No one is entirely certain if blockchain can handle being scaled as so many of its developers have suggested.
Many blockchain networks operate as public databases, meaning that anyone with an internet connection can view a list of the network’s transaction history. Although users can access details about transactions, they cannot access identifying information about the users making those transactions. It is a common misperception that blockchain networks like bitcoin are anonymous, when in fact they are only confidential. That is, when a user makes public transactions, their unique code called a public key, is recorded on the blockchain, rather than their personal information. Although a person’s identity is still linked to their blockchain address, this prevents hackers from obtaining a user’s personal information, as can occur when a bank is hacked.
With many practical applications for the technology already being implemented and explored, blockchain is finally making a name for itself at age twenty-seven, in no small part because of bitcoin and cryptocurrency. As a buzzword on the tongue of every investor in the nation, blockchain stands to make business and government operations more accurate, efficient, and secure.
Health care providers can leverage blockchain to securely store their patients’ medical records. When a medical record is generated and signed, it can be written into the blockchain, which provides patients with the proof and confidence that the record cannot be changed. These personal health records could be encoded and stored on the blockchain with a private key, so that they are only accessible by certain individuals, thereby ensuring privacy
Bitcoin (BTC) is a consensus network that enables a new payment system and a completely digital currency. Powered by its users, it is a peer to peer payment network that requires no central authority to operate. On October 31st, 2008, an individual or group of individuals operating under the pseudonym "Satoshi Nakamoto" published the Bitcoin Whitepaper and described it as: "a purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash would allow online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution."
In addition to lining the pockets of miners, mining serves a second and vital purpose: It is the only way to release new cryptocurrency into circulation. In other words, miners are basically "minting" currency. For example, in February of 2019, there were a little over 17.5 million Bitcoin in circulation. Aside from the coins minted via the genesis block (the very first block created by Bitcoin founder Satoshi Nakamoto himself), every single one of those Bitcoin came into being because of miners. In the absence of miners, Bitcoin would still exist and be usable, but there would never be any additional Bitcoin. There will come a time when Bitcoin mining ends; per the Bitcoin Protocol, the number of Bitcoin will be capped at 21 million. (Related reading: What Happens to Bitcoin After All 21 Million are Mined?)
Cryptocurrency exchanges will buy and sell bitcoin on your behalf. There are hundreds currently operating, with varying degrees of liquidity and security, and new ones continue to emerge while others end up closing down. As with wallets, it is advisable to do some research before choosing – you may be lucky enough to have several reputable exchanges to choose from, or your access may be limited to one or two, depending on your geographical area.
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission has issued four "Customer Advisories" for bitcoin and related investments. A July 2018 warning emphasized that trading in any cryptocurrency is often speculative, and there is a risk of theft from hacking, and fraud. A February 2018 advisory warned against investing into "IRS approved" virtual currency individual retirement accounts. A December 2017 advisory warned that virtual currencies are risky because:
You also have private blockchains. These are often used for more niche purposes like a business managing data or interacting with its customers. For example, Northern Trust, the financial services firm created one with IBM that it’s been testing for more than a year to store data such as biometric information and other records. In June, it also won a patent for storing meeting notes on the blockchain.
Accept bitcoins as payment. A number of businesses and services now accept bitcoins as payment. If you do any online services, you can also accept bitcoins as payment. Accepting payment in bitcoins can be beneficial if you're a small business or independent professional (like a dentist), because it does not cost money to accept bitcoins as payment. You can also avoid chargebacks, or consumer disputes with their credit card issuer that lose you money, because bitcoin transactions are irreversible.
Given the size of the sums involved, even the few days that the money is in transit can carry significant costs and risks for banks. Santander, a European bank, put the potential savings at $20 billion a year. Capgemini, a French consultancy, estimates that consumers could save up to $16 billion in banking and insurance fees each year through blockchain-based applications.
Exchanges, however, are a different story. Perhaps the most notable Bitcoin exchange hack was the Tokyo-based MtGox hack in 2014, where 850,000 bitcoins with a value of over $350 million suddenly disappeared from the platform. This doesn’t mean that Bitcoin itself was hacked; it just means that the exchange platform was hacked. Imagine a bank in Iowa is robbed: the USD didn’t get robbed, the bank did.
Say John buys a lemonade from Sandy’s lemonade stand. On John’s copy of the blockchain, he marks that transaction down: “John bought Lemonade from Sandy, $2.” His copy gets spread around town to all the lemonade stands and lemonade buyers, who add this transaction to their own copies. By the time John has finished drinking that lemonade, everyone’s blockchain ledger shows that he bought his lemonade from Sandy for $2.
One of the solutions offered by Deloitte is the inclusion of a QR-code in a receipt. The QR-code is set to contain all the relevant information regarding the purchase: item, serial number, date of purchase and so on. With it, the QR-code also holds instructions on how to find a ‘warranty bot’ on Facebook Messenger. The user can then send a picture of the receipt to that bot, the engine unwraps the QR-code and stores all the product information on the Blockchain.
Professional services network Deloitte recently surveyed 1,000 companies across seven countries about integrating blockchain into their business operations. Their survey found that 34% already had a blockchain system in production today, while another 41% expected to deploy a blockchain application within the next 12 months. In addition, nearly 40% of the surveyed companies reported they would invest $5 million or more in blockchain in the coming year. Here are some of the most popular applications of blockchain being explored today.
Peer to peer Bitcoin lending websites with listings from various borrowers are another option. Bitbond is such a peer-to-peer lending site. Borrowers publish funding requests and you can contribute to their loan. You can fund small portions of many loans and thereby diversify default risk. Bitcoin loans usually work the same way as fiat currency loans. The borrower gets a certain amount of money over a specified time and repays the money with interest. There are two things you need to be aware of when you lend Bitcoins. The site needs to be trustworthy and the borrower needs to be trustworthy. When the site assesses the creditworthiness of their applicants the information given about borrowers can be more credible.