May 6, 2016

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Our View on Penetration

BlockChain Implementation Penetration – Part 3

We have previously argued that the BlockChain is being evaluated typically as a replacement for databases. It is our view that in order to understand the impact it will have one has to view the BlockChain as an ecosystem – more akin to the Internet rather than a database.

We highlighted 4 levels of penetration that the Internet went through and suggested that BlockChain has enough similarity to the Internet that it would follow a similar path.

The 4 levels were:

  • Level 1: Direct Solutions
  • Level 2: Walled Gardens
  • Level 3: Public Availability
  • Level 4: Open Gardens

We now provide a view on how these levels impact the current state of penetration and suggest how it may grow in a similar way to the Internet.

Level 1: Direct Solutions

This is today. Organisations are exploring the use of private BlockChains that share information between either the same organisation or very close partners.

When trying to understand the technology this may be a valuable exercise. However, given that the BlockChain’s principal benefit is enabling non-connected entities to interact in a secure and irrevocable manner it seems somewhat pointless not to connect with the public.

Organisations have appeared to enable institutions to collaborate on the BlockChain through brokering relationships and even attempting to set standards. However, these are staffed, run and paid for by existing institutions who have a vested interest in keeping the status quo. One could suggest that this effectively cripples the BlockChain adoption and hides the true threat of those involved from smaller substitutes which may appear

Level 2: Walled Gardens

BlockChains will appear across multiple industries focusing on a specific industry.

This has happened already to a small extent with the U.K. Land Registry looking at issuing land contracts which will be issued on a BlockChain or Ever Ledger which stores ownership transactions of diamonds. However, these are early days and no one has captured a market yet. Companies with minimal supply chain relationships (such as Jewellery suppliers) may actually have some success here.

R3CEV (an organisation brokering bank’s interests in BlockChain) have recently announced ‘Corda’. This is a breakthrough in terms of a potential standard in BlockChain networks those banks may take up, but has significant problems. First, it is a walled garden and we know they will be supplanted quickly as soon as public access to assets held on that BlockChain is granted. Second, Corda is for incumbents which means that no new competitors will be allowed on the BlockChain and therefore substitutes will go elsewhere.

Level 3: Public Availability

As users become more trusting of BlockChains in general thanks to the walled garden approach, the desire to access BlockChains outside of the walled garden will begin. Those walled (or private) BlockChains will be pushed more and more by their users to access public BlockChains.

 

At the same time, a smaller public BlockChain (potentially currency based) will appear or be consolidated on (such as Bitcoin). Those pioneers stepping outside of the walled BlockChain will quickly agree a standard to enable interchange. This is more than likely to be unregulated in terms of a standard but will gain standardisation because market makers (of an appropriate size) will agree between themselves.

As assets become transacted on more public BlockChains, Smart Contracts will come into their own. They will provide the guarantees during transactions that consumers will demand for fraud-free business.

Level 4: Open Gardens

One of the major differentiators between the Internet and the BlockChain is the value of the assets stored on the network. The Internet stores data and the BlockChain stores value itself.

Given this, there is a place for walled gardens to make a resurgence. As assets become larger in value, consumers will want security that the assets are safe or at least moderated. Therefore, asset issuers (securities, property, minerals, etc.) will become more significant players as they essentially provide insurance for the asset.

Conclusion

The final state of the BlockChain will be similar to what we see the Internet as today.

This will be a single BlockChain of assets with various applications sitting on top of the BlockChain – the equivalent to web applications now. The successor to Smart Contracts will be the operating principles on which escrow-free transactions occur.

Trusted ‘gateways’ will appear between BlockChains to marshal assets and identities between BlockChains, enabling the flow of value and the interaction of different entities who own the value.

Identity will be issued by centralised bodies (potentially governments) and those identities will be notarised by multiple organisations (such as a national ID card, passports or taxation authorities) based on the requirements of interacting consumers to provide extended fraud reduction.

The number of transactions will grow exponentially, faster than the adoption of the Internet or mobile phones as consumers are more accepting of technology advances than previous generations.

We will have security concerns over the safety of our assets in the same way we have concerns over the safety of our data or access to systems that transact our assets.

Governments will intervene, attempting Keynesian-style management of markets while but they will struggle as consumers move money between different economies based on taxation benefits.

From there, who knows where?