Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

If you have been watching the news or scrolling through social media, you have probably heard the terms "blockchain" and "cryptocurrency" come up every once in a while. "Everything will be tokenized and connected by a blockchain one day", Fred Ehrsam, an American business executive, investor, and co-founder of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase had stated. But blockchain hasn't become as big as people claimed it would become. A deeper look into the various reasons why blockchain hasn't become very popular and the problems associated with it will help assess its underperformance. At the same time, it is important to look at its potential and how helpful blockchain technology has already been in diverse industries. Finally, we shall look at what is in-store for blockchain and cryptocurrency in the upcoming future.

Blockchain is a specific type of database. It is different from a traditional database in the way it stores information; blockchains store information in blocks that are chained to each other. The most common use for blockchains is as a ledger for transactions. In terms of cryptocurrency, blockchain is used in a decentralized way so that no single person or group has control-instead, all its users collectively hold control. Decentralized blockchains are immutable which means that transactions are permanently recorded and can be viewed by anyone. The data cannot be reversed. A cryptocurrency is a digital currency secured by cryptography, making it impossible to counterfeit or double-spend. One of the main features of cryptocurrencies is that they are not issued by any central authority, making them theoretically immune to government interference.

The story of cryptocurrency begins with David Chaum, in 1983, he developed eCash. After a few years, he came up with DigiCash that used cryptography to make transactions confidential. The first time the term "cryptocurrency" was coined was in 1998. Satoshi Nakamoto created the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin. His reason behind it was a big economic crisis that affected millions of citizens. Satoshi Nakamoto also conceptualized the first blockchain in 2008. He improved the design using a HashCash-like method to timestamp blocks without requiring them to be signed by a trusted party. Since then, many new blockchain technologies and cryptocurrencies have been springing up everywhere.

In May 2018, it was found that only 1% of CIOs indicated any kind of blockchain adoption within their organization and only 8% of CIOs were in the short-term planning of active experimentation with blockchain. In the year 2019, it was reported that 5% of CIOs believed blockchain technology was a "game-changer" for their business. So clearly, even if there has been a small percentage increase in the number of companies and individuals using blockchain, it seems like it is far off from replacing the traditional coins and e-commerce payment system. Something that once looked promising and seemed to have the power to change the world, doesn't look as promising now. It is a mystery waiting to be uncovered.

One of the biggest problems in blockchain adoption is the scalability issue. The original blockchain design in Bitcoin could only process 7 transactions every second whereas a Visa card network can process thousands of transactions every second. More the people or nodes join the network, the slower it gets. There have been some solutions for this problem but these are not at par with a typical centralized system. Cryptocurrency is not well equipped enough to be used in day-to-day life yet.

Bitcoin mining is the process by which new bitcoins are generated and entered into circulation. It is also a critical component of the maintenance and development of the distributed blockchain ledger. Whenever you complete "blocks" of verified transactions, which are added to the blockchain, the miners receive Bitcoins as a reward. They are paid to the miner that computes the solution to a complex hashing puzzle first. The probability that a miner will be the one who discovers the solution is related to the portion of mining power on the network. You need either a GPU or an ASIC. Bitcoin currently consumes about 80 terawatt-hours of electricity, roughly equal to the annual output of 23 coal-fired power plants. Bitcoin consumes more energy than the whole of Argentina. Such bizarre consumption of energy is a serious disadvantage in using blockchain technology.

Even if blockchain is more secure than other platforms, it is not completely secure. Let us look at some ways in which the security is compromised. First, there is the 51% attack: Here if an entity can control 51% of the network nodes, they can control the entire network. By gaining control, they can modify data and also do double-spending. Private networks are mostly safe from this. Second, double-spending is a problem in current technology. There have been new ways such as Proof-of-Stake, Proof-of-Work, and so on to prevent this. Third, a DDos's attack. In such an attack, the nodes are bombarded with similar requests, congesting the network and bringing it down. No complete security makes users a bit more dubious about its adoption.

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay 

Implementing and managing blockchain is not an easy process. It requires a lot of knowledge from the companies to go through with it. They need to hire experts. It requires the company to spend money and resources on it. The public will only use the easiest and cheapest option they can find. If someday, blockchain is just as easy or even easier to use than a centralized system, people are more likely to use it. The principle of decentralization is motivating for some people, but it is simply not a priority for some people. The keys in blockchain have a series of random letters and numbers which might be hard for people to handle. There is a huge risk of losing the contents of the blockchain by typing a letter wrong. Education may help in overcoming this disadvantage of the difficulty in the usage of blockchain but the above reasons are a contributing factor for the underperformance of blockchain.

Data is immutable. Multiple industries benefit from blockchain, including supply chain, healthcare, etc. but immutability can only be present if the network nodes are distributed fairly. An entity can control a blockchain if it owns 50% or more of the nodes, making it vulnerable. Another problem with immutability is that a person cannot remove his trace, leaving privacy compromised.

Another important thing to highlight is crypto scams. Some of the common ways people are scamming are by creating imposter websites, fake apps, bad tweets, and other social updates, and sending scam emails. One interesting case is the case of Ruja Ignatova, a convicted fraudster. The Times has reported her Ponzi scheme known as OneCoin as "one of the biggest scams in history". She had thousands of fans and she claimed that OneCoin would become the world's largest cryptocurrency. Billions of euros were invested in OneCoin. Suddenly one day, she disappeared. Stories like these make people apprehensive about cryptocurrency.

Despite all of these challenges, many industries have been using blockchain in beautiful ways. Walmart, for example, has tied up with IBM on a food safety blockchain solution to add transparency by digitizing the food supply process. In 2019, Walmart announced that all suppliers of fresh leafy vegetables will be required to start using the blockchain system. The best part is that the suppliers don't have to be experts in using the system, they just have to add data to the blockchain.

Blockchain can deflate spending bubbles, protect patient data and improve the overall experience. Using blockchain in healthcare can be revolutionary. It can even be used to manage an outbreak of diseases. Estonia has been using blockchain technology in its healthcare system since 2012 to secure data and track transactions. Currently, 95% of healthcare information is ledge-based and 99% of prescription data is digital. Many blockchain healthcare companies such as RoboMed, Chronicled, Akiri, etc. have been making huge changes in the world.

IBM blockchain is being employed within the automotive industry in distinctive ways. IBM proclaimed a partnership with ZF and UBS banks to implement a blockchain-based eWallet service enabling cashless micropayments for tolls and parking. Mahindra is functioning with IBM to form a standard blockchain platform for suppliers to manufacture transactions that promotes transparency across its business ecosystem. Boeing is implementing a solution based on IBM blockchain to make the information across the supply chain accessible to component vendors.

Blockchain is being used even in the media and entertainment industry. Safe. press, for instance, is helping organizations protect their brand and business against disinformation. Online disinformation can have serious implications for business and additionally harm its readers. By using a decentralized system there is transparency and this will forestall faux news from spreading. The implementation of blockchain can also make content royalty more efficient, secure, and automated. It can enable the monitoring of micro-usage of offline as well as online streaming.

A lot of people have been speculating about the future of blockchain and thinking if cryptocurrency can take over Rupee and Dollar in the future. Many of them are sure that cryptocurrency is going to stay around either as currency or as an investment choice, asset, or in other forms. It is very possible that some governments won’t let cryptocurrency take over. Over 7 million people in India have already invested 1 billion dollars in cryptocurrency. This number is increasing as the government has chosen to reconsider its prior position of banning all cryptocurrencies. This might be the first step in the legalization of cryptocurrency. Taking over the rupee and dollar might be a bit far off but it can likely co-exist amongst it.

In the future, a single blockchain may be shared between different industries. If this happens, then it will become very easy and accessible for everyone to use it. This will also retain transparency and add greater security. There is a possibility that even governments will adopt it if this happens.

According to statistics, nearly 1.5 billion people in developing nations do not adequately prove their identity. Identity systems are currently very flawed. Blockchain identity is very likely to come up as it acts as a single source to verify identity and assets.

International trade is a very dysfunctional process that slows down commerce and discourages trade among different nations. By introducing cryptocurrency into the equation, many of such problems can be alleviated. It can help foster trust among nations and improve relations. Various businesses have already been using blockchain for smart contracts, automatic tracking, and policy reinforcement.

Mathematical data is always important to make predictions. There are 74.74 crypto wallet users worldwide. The total market cap in July 2021 was over 1.2 trillion dollars and it is constantly growing. More than 650 million transactions have already been executed on the blockchain. Global spending on blockchain-powered solutions is projected to reach 19 billion dollars by the year 2024. According to the tech giant Accenture, financial companies can save as much as 12 billion a year using blockchain, and according to Gartner, by 2023, blockchain will support the tracking of goods and services worth 12 trillion every year.

There have been sudden developments in the crypto world such as the recent NFTs that have gained the attention of celebrities, artists, and even common people. The NFT blockchain has blown up. Such sudden trends in blockchain can make the technology much more popular than it already is. There is a probability that some trend will come and grow crypto to a new level.

The talk about blockchains and their use cases and trends is an endless one. There might come a day when no one will talk about how revolutionary blockchain is because it would have become a normal part of all our lives. But currently using blockchain is a very complex task. It is not a bad idea to put some money down in cryptocurrencies after complete research on how it works. It might be a good idea for companies to put some resources into blockchain and automating their tasks. It might be expensive at first but, in the long run, it will save them money. The story of the blockchain world might go either way. We can only speculate for now. 

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