Why 2017 Could Be Blockchain's Biggest Year Ever
By Peter Chawaga
Since its inception in 2009, blockchain has been primed for a breakout year. It has steadily become more popular, as evidenced by increasing mainstream news coverage and a growing list of industries — from healthcare to ridesharing — testing its capabilities. And yet, it seems that blockchain is perpetually on the cusp of greater things, with a full realization of its potential still on the horizon. 2017 could be the year that finally changes that.
Many experts have predicted a big year for blockchain technology. As Oliver Bussman of Bussman Advisory wrote in a year-end blog post, “we could reach a ‘tipping point’ over the next 12 months if enough players with enough financial capacity come together, as seems to be the case in several areas at present.”
With the table set, here’s why 2017 will be blockchain’s biggest year yet.
Bitcoin’s Lasting Value
Auspiciously, blockchain’s original vehicle, Bitcoin, ended 2016 on a high note.
“The price of Bitcoin has hit the $1,000 mark following a booming 2016 where it climbed around 120% from the start of the year until eventually hitting a three-year high," Fortune reported, shortly after the New Year. “Factors including the devaluation of the yuan, the risk of currency controls in China, and the geo-political instability have been acknowledged as pivotal to the crypto-currency’s success. Another reason for Bitcoin’s banner year could be its staying power — the longer it’s around, the less it seems like a novelty and more like a bona fide store of value.”
Fairly or not, the viability of blockchain technology has always been coupled with the performance of bitcoin. If decentralized databases can succeed in the financial sector, the thinking goes, it can be more widely applied elsewhere. Following suit, the health of the digital currency has prompted discussions about how blockchain can be integrated in new places. With a healthy bitcoin, blockchain has the chance to expand rapidly in other spaces.
Strengthening Existing Players
Of course, it has been some time since blockchain has been irretrievably tied to bitcoin. Over the years, many groups have invested in making technology widely viable, added new capabilities and established novel applications. If 2017 is going to be a big year for blockchain, these existing players will have to be poised to grow along with it.
In a sign that points towards just that, Hyperledger Project added eight new members as 2016 rang to a close. Software company CA technologies, blockchain project Factcom Foundation, healthcare consortium Hashed Health, Korea-based Koscom, accounting company LedgerDomain, trading ecosystem developer Lykee, the Sovrin Foundation and telecom company Swisscom all joined the project’s 100-strong ranks.
With its impressive roster heading into 2017, Hyperledger Project plans to introduce case studies of blockchain’s viability in real-use cases.
As a sign of the technology’s position going into this year, companies all over the world laid the groundwork to capitalize on blockchain’s position. According to BloombergTechnology, companies worldwide had applied for or received 356 blockchain- or digital-currency-related patents last November, nearly twice the figure hit in the first month of 2016.
“We are seeing an increase in filings that’s exponential,” Marc Kaufman, a fintech intellectual property specialist at Reed Smith, told Bloomberg. “I predict that we’ll see in five years thousands of patents.”
Companies are filing patents at such a rapid clip because blockchain has finally made its journey from utopian ideal to finite digital ledger tool. The increase in patents is just another sign of blockchain’s newfound, widespread legitimacy coming to fruition in 2017.
Only time will tell what 2017 has in store for the advancement of blockchain and vice versa, but it’s clear that the technology is in an unprecedented position to justify early investors’ hopes in its potential and blaze new trails in the year to come. Here’s to a healthy and happy New Year.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.