Blockchain is an increasingly key technology for enterprises that require trustless transactions and secure record keeping. Enterprises can track transactions with greater confidence and security, and blockchain adoption – completely distinct from the cryptocurrency hype or doom – is steadily gaining in enterprise environments.
However, while the technical benefits of the blockchain technology are widely acknowledged, enterprises looking to make budget decisions and start test projects or full implementations should know where this technology is headed, what tools are needed and what challenges can be expected. I talked with Emmanuel Thiriez, founder of Amalto and Platform 6, with over 15 years of implementation and operation of enterprise applications for clients in various industries, to find out what someone “in the trenches” is seeing. Thiriez’s company has an impressive list of clients (Chevron, GE, Iron Mountain, Suez, Superior Propane, Thales) with B2B applications powered by Platform 6, a blockchain development platform.
Thiriez cautioned against overestimating the impact of blockchain in your organization “immediately,” but he is extremely bullish on the mid- and long-term prospects.
Overall, there’s every indication that enterprise adoption will continue to grow in 2019. According to Thiriez, the following 5 trends are key to blockchain success. He also brought up one highly visible blockchain project in 2019 to follow.
1. Decentralization of apps, not just of the ledger
Implementing blockchain to ensure the trustability and immutability of records is only part of the story. 2019 will see more decentralization of apps themselves. Too many applications using a blockchain ledger rely on a centralized application that represents a single point of failure and also a vulnerability that could allow tampering with the data – before it gets written to the ledger.
The same approach needs to be applied to the application’s logic, which must be decentralized with no single point of control. Each trading partner or member of the ecosystem runs their own app. Building such applications is no easy feat, but it is a required step to ensure wide blockchain adoption for business usage.
2. Off-chain components are important for enterprise class apps
Building enterprise apps is a complex project. Enterprise apps are often designed to operate in a global business or government environment, and need to display, manipulate, and store large amounts of complex data and to support automation of business processes with that data.
Applying blockchain technology is important. However, the blockchain ledger is only a small part of the overall enterprise app. Many off-chain components are also needed – user management, workflows, systems integration, user interface, APIs, security, event mediation, and many more.
In 2019, more and more only applications that are designed and architected beyond the blockchain ledger and its smart contracts will make the cut.
3. Recognizing the importance of non-technology issues
As is often the case with bleeding edge technologies, there are many non-technology issues to deal with. Ecosystem management, industry-specific practices, legal issues that have little to do with blockchain per se but everything to do with whether a blockchain implementation is successful or not.
This issue is highlighted by Forrester Principal analyst Martha Bennett, who states in her “Predictions 2019” blog post:
I often use the phrase, “blockchains are 80% business, 20% technology.” If anything, that 80% is on the low side, and we’ll continue to see projects held up or even fail because companies’ focus is on the 20%.
When implementing blockchain projects, companies that pay attention to these non-technology issues in 2019 will have greater success rates.
4. Blockchain and the Internet of Things
The convergence between blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT) is picking up steam. IoT adoption is significantly increasing the number of devices and sensors that gather data, and many parties are typically involved in a business transaction based on that data.
Blockchain enables safe record-keeping through an immutable ledger, and permits decentralized operations and transactions while preserving trust between all players in the value chain. Look for the intersection of these two technologies to speed up implementation of both.
SEE ALSO: An introduction to Blockchain
5. An evolving ecosystem
The blockchain ecosystem is continuing to evolve quickly. This past year saw the dominance of Ethereum, Hyperledger Fabric, and R3’s Corda as the major platforms in blockchain. It is clear that new platforms will continue to emerge with different strengths, and this will mean popularity of platforms will rise and fall. Having the ability to develop for different platforms, prototyping new ones as needed, will be a strength for enterprises. In other words, when evaluating blockchain technologies, there will be no one-size-fits-all in 2019, and companies have to be prepared to jump from one technology to the other.
Major projects will raise visibility for blockchain
Several prominent blockchain projects in 2019 will influence interest in the technology. A key one to watch is Walmart. To better ensure food safety, Walmart and Sam’s Club are requiring produce suppliers to trace their products using blockchain technology.
Can Walmart and its suppliers make sure that all the different complicated steps from farm-to-table are accurately and safely completed? If blockchain delivers as promised, this will significantly raise visibility.
Suppliers still have some time for implementation but the system outlined by Walmart is scheduled to be in place by the end of 2019.
Blockchain is evolving rapidly. 2019 will see new projects and new platforms continue to emerge. A key trend is more decentralization of apps themselves. Currently, too many apps using a blockchain ledger rely on a centralized application. Understanding of this issue is increasing. In a similar vein, paying attention to off-chain components as a key part of your blockchain project and being flexible in evaluating your blockchain platform will continue to be key pieces of success in the coming year.