There’s been much ado about blockchain for years. But is the distributed ledger technology (DLT), which efficiently records and transparently shares contract and transaction data, worth the hype?
Dubai is overhauling its economy in order to conduct most of its business with blockchain. The European Commission aims to create a regional hub for developing blockchain use cases. And the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has indicated that it will review an earlier decision to block the nation’s first exchange-traded fund that tracks bitcoin, a virtual currency based on blockchain.
This progress makes it easy to start thinking that blockchain has all but arrived. And there’s the DLT’s oft-touted potential, such as faster transactions, greater transparency, and lower data warehousing costs. And indeed, there’s been a lot of progress.
But there are also significant obstacles on blockchain’s road to ubiquity.
Blockchain can immediately cut costs and increase efficiency for those wiring money internationally; it does so by sidestepping middlemen and substantial international wire transfer fees. An international blockchain payment last year executed a two- to six-day transaction from Canada to Germany in less than 30 seconds—and the transfer was compliant with anti-money laundering regulation.
Despite that, worldwide legal frameworks will still have to evolve before blockchain can go mainstream, according to The Wall Street Journal. And a regulatory wonderland for blockchain isn’t likely soon, as risk-averse financial regulators will probably be very thorough in their efforts to understand and create a safe compliance landscape, according to a former U.S. Federal Reserve official.
That safe landscape should include consumer protections, according to Former U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin. But there’s a potential problem with blockchain advocates’ demand for a regulation that both controls and enables.
“In the U.S., you can’t have both,” Bloom said at an event in Washington D.C. recently.
Cybersecurity concerns, including recent cyberattacks, are among the reasons that consumers remain wary of blockchain, according to experts.
Maybe not for consumers
“This is the worst time in history for an alternative currency,” said Anders Borg, chair of the World Economic Forum Global Financial System Initiative, who spoke at the same event as Bloom. “Consumers are afraid to use it.”
And that’s understandable. DLTs aren’t deployed widely enough to test claims of security—plus recent cyberattacks on virtual currencies undermine confidence, according to WSJ. There’s also the costs of implementing new technologies and integrating blockchain databases with legacy systems.
“Despite all that, the advantages of blockchain are attractive for many businesses and institutions,” WSJ stated. “It has attracted the most attention in the financial-services sector and is seeing growing interest from industries such as supply-chain management, healthcare, and shipping.”
A growing market—for some
So blockchain is rife with possibilities for organizations, if not consumers.
“Bitcoin presents a new set of risks to investors, given its limited adoption, a number of massive cybersecurity breaches affecting bitcoin owners and the lack of consistent treatment of the assets by governments,” reports Reuters. “[But] a fund holding the currency could bring more professional investors to the asset and push its price higher.”
The worldwide blockchain market could reach $5.43 billion (€5 billion) by 2023, up from $228 million (€210 million) in 2016, according to a study by Allied Market Research. Most of that is private blockchain, and AMR doesn’t expect that to change anytime soon.
So is blockchain worth the hype? Perhaps—if you’re in an organization that would benefit from quick, efficient, and transparent business to business transactions (especially in financial services, transportation and logistics, or similar businesses). But consumers still need a lot of convincing.
Follow Derek on Twitter: @DKlobucher
This article originally appeared on SAP Community blog, and has been republished with permission.