Over the last few years, blockchain has been one of the hottest areas of technology development across a wide swath of industries. It’s easy to see why. There seems to be no end to the myriad ways that forward-thinking businesses are finding to adapt the technology to suit a variety of use cases and applications. Much of the development, however, has come in one of two places: deep-pocketed corporations and crypto-startups.
That means that the latest in blockchain technology has continued to be out of reach for businesses in the small and midsize enterprise (SME) sector, creating something of a digital divide that seems to be widening every day. The good news is there are a few blockchain-focused projects that promise to democratize the technology in a way that will even the playing field for SMEs and could even do the same for Big Data and analytics, to boot. Here’s what’s happening.
Sharing at scale
SMEs have always relied on shared technologies to power their businesses. Part of that is out of necessity – they can’t, after all, afford to throw billions of dollars at something like blockchain development. In many cases, technology spending represents just a tiny fraction of a typical small-business budget, making the need to leverage off-the-shelf software and solutions the norm. The problem with that approach, as it relates to the blockchain, is that there aren’t many such solutions to be had – yet.
That’s where Endor comes in. It’s an innovative new blockchain-based predictive analytic engine developed by a team of researchers led by world-renowned M.I.T. professor Alex Pentland. The system aims to bring the power of predictive analytics to the SME space (and to anyone, really) using the blockchain to secure the data that the system relies on and to provide the distributed-computing power necessary to operate the platform. At its heart, Endor makes use of M.I.T.’s groundbreaking social physics work and a natural language processing engine to facilitate user interaction. Together, they allow users to pose an analytical question in plain English and receive an answer in seconds.
A marketplace of data
By itself, Endor would be of limited use to SMEs, who often need analysis of niche market data or customer information that’s specific to their operations. Ramping up data collection operations is also cost-prohibitive for many SMEs, putting them at a disadvantage to larger competitors. Fortunately, there’s another blockchain solution that aims to solve that very problem. It’s called Wibson, and it seeks to become a data repository that can rival the collections of companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook. Operating on the Ethereum blockchain, Wibson is a platform that allows users to sell data about themselves and their habits as a commodity, which will give SMEs access to the kind of rich consumer data that could make an analytics engine like Endor a game changer. In effect, combining the two systems, once they reach maturity, would give SMEs in every industry access to state of the art data collection and predictive analytics that could rival that of any corporate entity, no matter how large.
Asked and answered
These blockchain projects point toward a future in which Big Data analytics-as-a-service will become a realistic option for SMEs. They’ll be able to monetize their own data collections and gather rich new data sources to power their business predictions, all without having to deal with costly in-house technology development. All of the data will be protected by the inherent security of the blockchain and operate on a global scale, with little to no upfront investment. It will be no more complex than using Google or any other search engine – except that it’ll be a system that predicts the business’ very future. Who could have seen that coming?
To learn more about the ways that blockchain is revolutionizing business, read “Reimagining the Future of Finance With Blockchain.”