It’s a combination of things. On the one hand, there’s a lot of money flowing into the sector, thanks to public and private initial coin offerings. (ICOs, as they’re called, are an unregulated way for companies to offer investors cryptocurrency rather than traditional shares of stock.) On the other hand, more companies are starting to experiment with how they might use blockchain for their business. In fact, 40 percent of respondents in a recent Deloitte survey were willing to invest at least $5 million on blockchain projects this year. Some companies are using them to experiment with shipping projects; others are using them for advertising networks. Then there’s the giant that’s about to step into the room. This spring, Facebook announced it’s setting up a blockchain team led by David Marcus, who previously ran Facebook Messenger, and Kevin Weil, who was previously Instagram’s product chief. Facebook also moved Evan Cheng from director of engineering at Facebook to director of engineering for the company’s burgeoning blockchain division.
Bitcoin (BTC) is known as the first open-source, peer-to-peer, digital cryptocurrency that was developed and released by a group of unknown independent programmers named Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. Cryptocoin doesn’t have any centralized server used for its issuing, transactions and storing, as it uses a distributed network public database technology named blockchain, which requires an electronic signature and is supported by a proof-of-work protocol to provide the security and legitimacy of money transactions. The issuing of Bitcoin is done by users with mining capabilities and is limited to 21 million coins. Currently, Bitcoin’s market cap surpasses $138 billion and this is the most popular kind of digital currency. Buying and selling cryptocurrency is available through special Bitcoin exchange platforms or ATMs.
Today, in exchange for their personal data people can use social media platforms like Facebook for free. In future, users will have the ability to manage and sell the data their online activity generates. Because it can be easily distributed in small fractional amounts, Bitcoin — or something like it — will most likely be the currency that gets used for this type of transaction.
Supply Chain Management: When combined with properly validated business practices, blockchain provides an auditable method to document supply chains. For example, it has been used to ensure conflict-free diamonds,2 protect against counterfeiting manufacturing in IoT,3 and reliably track a product’s materials and manufacturing from source to delivery to promote ethical practices.4
Bitcoin has both advantages and disadvantages. Advantages include the ability to choose your own fees, easily accept payment from people who do not have credit cards, and send payment without tying your personal information to the transaction. Disadvantages include that it is a very new form of currency, acceptance of it is still limited, and the anonymity of transactions means you do not know with whom you're dealing.
Blockchain is a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) that was invented to support the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. Bitcoin was motivated by an extreme rejection of government-guaranteed money and bank-controlled payments. The developer of Bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto envisioned people spending money without friction, intermediaries, regulation or the need to know or trust other parties.
Perhaps one of the best real-world examples of blockchain in action is the partnership between Ripple (CCY: XRP-USD) and banking giants American Express (NYSE:AXP) and Banco Santander (NYSE:SAN). It was announced in mid-November that American Express users would be able to send non-card payments to U.K. Santander accounts over AmEx's FX International Payment network and have those transactions processed over Ripple's blockchain. The allure of this partnership is Ripple's instantly settling cross-border payments, as well as the expectation of small transaction fees.
Blockchain can also, depending on the circumstance, be very energy dependent, and therefore costly. When transactions are being verified (which we're going to talk about in the next section), it's possible that a lot of electricity can be used. This is the case in point with bitcoin, which is why so few cryptocurrency miners actually find that validating transactions on bitcoin's blockchain is worthwhile (and profitable).
Nakamoto is estimated to have mined one million bitcoins before disappearing in 2010, when he handed the network alert key and control of the code repository over to Gavin Andresen. Andresen later became lead developer at the Bitcoin Foundation. Andresen then sought to decentralize control. This left opportunity for controversy to develop over the future development path of bitcoin.