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But in the past three years, more than 2,500 blockchain patents were filed globally, with more than 90 organisations across industries incorporating blockchain into their business processes.
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Besides the financial industry, where four out of five banks will initiate their own blockchain projects by the end of 2017, and the public sector, where 90% of government leaders will invest in blockchain technology by 2018, blockchain is also likely to cause serious disruption in other sectors.
The energy sector is starting to see blockchain as a solution to key challenges such as decentralisation of energy generation, rise of renewable energy and shrinking profit margins for utilities.
With this vision of the future, blockchain consulting firms such as Slock.it, BTL and Bankymoon are actively building proof-of-concept applications in the energy sector and have been approached by startups for collaboration opportunities.
Healthcare is an industry primed for a radical rethink of its digital infrastructure, as the current infrastructure does not support the security or interoperability needs of our connected lives.
Blockchain can be part of a larger strategy to tackle the challenges of digital healthcare, in areas such as connected health and security of wearables.
A milestone on the use of blockchain in healthcare was reached during BTC Media’s Distributed Health conference in October 2016, when healthcare applications powered by the Hyperledger platform were demonstrated.
Manufacturing as a vertical market has many problems which blockchain and distributed ledger technology can address. Manufacturing applications with the following characteristics will benefit from blockchain:
- Multiple parties (organisations, humans or machines) need read-and-write access to a shared ledger. The more parties involved in a business process or transaction, the stronger the case for blockchain.
- Transparency, provenance, verifiability and auditability are critical for market, regulatory or political reasons.
- Dis-intermediation is necessary or is preferred for a trusted third party.
- Dependency and interaction between transactions.
- Need, or potential role, for crypto-assets to be used to incentivise behaviour.
Role of startups
Globally, investments in blockchain-related startups in 2016 reached an all-time high of more than $500m, bringing the total investment in blockchain technology startups to $1.5bn.
Blockchain startups are still largely focused on distributed ledgers and infrastructure. However, signs are beginning to emerge that as the infrastructure consolidates, startup activity in sectors such as energy, healthcare and manufacturing will grow substantially.
The possibilities in those industries may seem complex and endless, but it is critical for startups and disrupters to navigate the landscape and identify the most promising industry applications.
In addressing the market needs, consortia and partnership models are being pursued by corporates and startups. These strategic choices will define the route of blockchain technology’s progress in the years to come.