Blockchain implementation: slow but real

Earlier this month, Citigroup boss Mike Corbat, who oversees one of the world’s biggest banks, adopted a cautious tone when asked about blockchain technology path to mainstream adoption. Corbat was quoted as saying that, “the expectations and the pace of implementation far exceed…what’s there.”

The mainstream media jumped on Corbat’s comments and, not for the first time, took them as an opportunity to criticise the blockchain movement. These headlines misrepresent Corbat’s overall sentiments. Corbat went on to discuss the network effect of new technologies such as blockchain and confirmed that he has “high expectations” for the technology “in the immediate to long term.”

Awareness of blockchain technology spiked in late-2017 as people recognised it as the technology which underpinned the cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. This surge in interest and the buoyant token market saw a number of wild proclamations and predictions. Vague, dramatic statements, from “Blockchain will save the world” to “Blockchain is the answer to all of your problems”, were and remain unrealistic and so unclear they are effectively meaningless.

Blockchain does, however, have tremendous value and the breadth of applications we encounter on a daily basis is staggering. When compiling a list of industries which might benefit from exploring the implementation of a blockchain solution, I off the top of my head, went for: recruitment; life sciences; construction; real estate; retail; insurance; finance; betting and gaming; aviation; and shipping. This list is non-exhaustive, but I hope you take my point – there is no single blockchain application, there are many.

Blockchain, as with other emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, quantum computing and Internet of Things technology, are the sorts of technologies for which we overestimate the short-term benefits, while failing to predict the long-term gains. These emerging technologies will not change the world overnight, but their impact will be real. It is those at the coalface – the entrepreneurs and the technology departments who identify problems and utilise technology solutions to solve them – who will drive this process. Increasingly, large corporates and governments are liberating senior figures within their ranks to explore emerging technologies, creating a start-up culture even within incumbents. These incumbents, along with small, nimble start-ups, are the ones who will be able to really capitalise on emerging technology.

Despite the mainstream media’s willingness to criticise this technology, I am pleased to report that we continue to work with innovative governments and forward-thinking corporates to develop forward-looking technology strategies. These strategies place blockchain solutions alongside artificial intelligence, data analytics and internet of things technology as a central pillar of their future growth and positioning.