Unless you have been living under a rock for the past year, you will have noticed that there is an incredible amount of buzz around cryptocurrencies, and in particular Bitcoin. A growing number of banks are experimenting with open ledger technology, investing in companies that play in this space and actually collaborating with one another on an international level. Whilst there can be no denying the buzz, when are we as consumers likely to see products and services built using blockchain technology hitting the mainstream?
Firstly, if you are not familiar with open ledger systems and you continue to wonder what the underlying blockchain technology is all about, an excellent article was recently published in the Economist, and it is a good starting point.
But back to the question – when will we start to see life as we know it transformed by this revolutionary new technology? The answer is…. not yet, but soon.
Bitcoin has been around for a number of years now and is growing in ubiquity. At Mapa Research we often report on innovations from USAA, the American Forces bank, due to their pioneering approach to digital technology. It is not surprising that they are piloting a scheme that allows customers to check their Bitcoin balance through their desktop site and mobile app. Similar initiatives are in train at other banks, including some from the UK.
Another sign of the ubiquitousness of Bitcoin is that the currency can be seen in forms that are already familiar to consumers. Bitcoin ATMs have existed in Finland from as early as 2013 and Israel’s Travelers Box was recently showing off their clever device at WebSummit in Dublin. These machines can already be found in airport departure lounges, allowing travellers to hand over their remaining currency and have it converted into Bitcoin (or sent directly to a wide range of other accounts they hold, such as PayPal, eBay, iTunes, etc).
However, the real power of the blockchain has yet to be unleashed – but we are getting closer. The recent Money 20/20 conference in Las Vegas delivered some fascinating glimpses into what the future may hold, most notably perhaps through Visa and DocuSign’s announcement of a proof-of-concept for a car leasing proposition that makes use of the blockchain and smart contracts. What is normally a lengthy and complicated process can be turned into something that takes just seconds.
A similarly complicated and painful journey that is a prime candidate for remodelling is of course the home buying process, from conveyancing through to the finance element. In London’s silicon roundabout there are at least a dozen start-ups all looking at how blockchain and smart contracts can be applied to this experience with a view to removing the various pain points.
All manner of processes are currently being considered for re-engineering, not just in financial services but in all aspects of our lives. For the time being, Mapa will continue to monitor markets around the world for new service launches that involves open ledger technology and await them with anticipation.