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7 Blockchain Predictions for 2019

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Blockchain has progressed considerably as an emerging technology during 2018. Many of 2017’s PoCs have become deployed commercial solutions as standards have begun to solidify, and with more organizations beginning to explore the potential of distributed ledger architecture and smart contracting.

We are still at the very beginning of the lifecycle of this particular technology, and nowhere close to seeing its full potential yet. But as the year comes to an end, what might 2019 bring in terms of distributed ledger maturity and trends? Here are my seven predictions for blockchain in 2019.

The use case landscape shakes out

Blockchain has a clear goodness-of-fit spectrum, as I have written about in a previous blog, and to date, that spectrum has often been tested at the low end with mixed results. Blockchain has clear strengths in a number of well-defined use cases, most notably supply chain and parts management, multiparty shipping and logistics tasks, remittances, securities clearance, and more. As 2019 dawns, we will begin to see providers focus less on exploring the use case spectrum and more on building more capability into those use cases that have been proven to be blockchain-relevant.

Use cases become playbooks

The secondary benefit of a more focused approach on the part of blockchain service providers is the swift emergence of proven playbooks for specific blockchain applications. Already, providers are beginning to slash the number of discussed use cases as it becomes obvious that cold-chain pharma, farm-to-fork agricultural provenance, and airplane parts sourcing and documentation, for example, are functionally multiple iterations of the same basic design with domain knowledge added per the specific deployment.

Interoperability fades as a limiting factor

Blockchain has presented something of a Betamax/VHS (or Blu-Ray/HD-DVD, for younger readers) quandary to date, with multiple standards each offering a unique source of value but on a mutually exclusive basis. But more providers are beginning to focus on hybrid blockchain solutions and platform interoperability, and the announcement in late October that Hyperledger Fabric will be able to execute smart contracts written for Ethereum certainly signals that we are entering the next phase of the market, in which multiple market leaders will need to play responsibly in the sandbox for this technology to take deep root.

Throughput speeds improve – but DB-like operation at-speed/at-scale is more likely in 2020

Blockchain’s primary drawback up to this point is that it can operate at speed, or at scale, but not both. That is slowly changing, with more blockchain accelerators emerging in the marketplace (Microsoft’s CoCo being just one example), and greater attention being paid to purpose-built platforms (like Symbiont Assembly) that are architected for at-speed/at-scale operation. Sharding and layer-2 protocols, both under exploration by Ethereum, show promise for keeping the core value of a distributed ledger system and adding the ability to accelerate transaction throughput to near-database speeds.

Quantum computing comes in from the cold

QC has been the hobgoblin looming over blockchain in the media for years, almost always framed as a technology that sits in opposition to blockchain – either as a security threat or a technology that will make the distributed ledger concept obsolete. But, like most technologies, it will emerge from the threatening media gloom to take its place at the solution table, in the form of a blockchain acceleration and security-improving offering. Quantum computing is still some way off from making a material difference in the IT landscape, but 2019 will bring a dose of sanity in removing the oppositional rhetoric from its emerging presence.

Automation, AI & IoT combine with blockchain for next-gen digital transformation

Blockchain is often discussed as if immutability and transaction security are its primary value proposition. But smart contracting and autonomous action within a DLT environment are at least as important in terms of overall value to the enterprise – and these are capabilities enriched and informed by other emerging technologies, including IoT, artificial intelligence, and cognitive automation. Increasingly, these four technologies are combining to form the basis of next-generation digital transformation for organizations seeking results beyond the limited promise of the initial wave of early transformational work (circa 2014-2017).

Convergence sets the stage for a viable long-term replacement for ERP

What these combined technologies are capable of reaches beyond the ‘four walls’ of the transformational enterprise; they enable whole supply chains to work together as extended ERP fabrics, and to incorporate financial, regulatory, and technology entities surrounding the production and distribution cycle. The discussions around these possibilities are just beginning as 2018 draws to a close, but we expect 2019 to bring more blueprinting and ecosystem construction conversations.

One final, overarching perspective for blockchain and DLT in general: we are progressing past the point of questioning whether these technologies have a role to play in the broader business IT ecosystem. When deployed against the right business challenges, on the right architecture for the task, with the right partner, blockchain is capable of remarkable improvements – and becomes a more strategic technology when considered as a transformational component alongside IoT, AI and automation. The future isn’t built exclusively on blockchain, but it is increasingly a part of the future of business transaction management.

Comments to this post:

  • David, Very insightful analysis. Confirms my belief that 2019 will be the "Year of the Platform"- platforms that aren't strictly blockchain, but that are a combination of technologies like those you mentioned that play nicely together. White-labeled platform solutions are going to become available at lower and lower price points as adoption continues. "The future of business transaction management" is being designed today!

    Jan 13, 2019, by Linda Goetze

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