Blockchain is coming up to its 10th birthday, having been born conjoined to Bitcoin. The issue is that in these years of evolving technology Blockchain has not yet found its killer app or been picked up as a disruptive technology that has led to another technology becoming obsolete.
Cryptocurrencies have grown and expanded, with a lot of attention being heaped on them, growing that sector of ecosystem well. Meanwhile, the base technology has been heralded and innovated with, but the execution of it has largely been a damp squib. There are a number of reasons to delve into why the Blockchain revolution is still taking off, but one factor that could help speed it along is a new wave of non-tech, non-Blockchain companies picking up on the potential of Blockchain.
The German automotive industry, with the likes of BMW and Mercedes, as well as Porsche, have all been in the news recently as they experiment with the possibility of Blockchain. Major companies, that exist outside the tech and Blockchain space, entering this ecosystem bares a lot of positivity for the burgeoning technology as it begins to prove its real-world use without the usual hype.
Blockchain still lacks a killer app
Blockchain has so much potential and promise and still has not nearly reached that potential, especially as a disruptive technology. The cryptocurrency ecosystem is evolving and advancing, taking it deeper and deeper into the mainstream and all round adoption. But as for uses of the base technology, there is still little execution.
A good example of this is a look at the ICO space which is choc-a-block with innovation and ideas of how the Blockchain can disrupt and revolutionize anything from public identities to webcam porn sites. However, the space is still in its infancy and when it comes to execution, adoption, and acceptance of these Blockchain solutions, there is very little evidence for it.
Lorien Gamaroff, CEO at Bankymoon, a Blockchain Solutions service, goes against his own companies offering in stating that the Blockchain technology needs time to grow and rather, people should focus their attention on making cryptocurrencies flawless:
“I am a pessimist and I have become really cynical dealing with so many companies trying to get involved with Blockchain. I don’t like the hype that we are currently experiencing because, really, most of the ideas and solutions are better done on a database. We are riding a Blockchain hype bubble at the moment.”
In Gamaroff opinion, cryptocurrency is the real killer app for Blockchain: “We now need that next step moment, we need to make it easier and seamless, but there is so much money and effort being put into ICOs and different Blockchains that is being wasted. If we had focused that attention on cryptocurrencies, we would be so much further down the line.” It could be that the ICO innovation phase that we are currently witnessing is slowing the Blockchain revolution, and what is needed is companies and entities that can come in a push the envelope with more manpower and resources to execute.
It has already been seen that companies, in the mold of Microsoft and IBM, in the technology space, are dipping their toes into the Blockchain space, and this could be the drive that pushes Blockchain way past the innovation phase. Moreso though, when companies not directly involved in technology start entering the Blockchain space, it adds a new dimension to it as they are not simply boarding the hype that Gameroff mentions, they are seeing true promise.
Driving Blockchain forward
Now, three instances cropped up recently of automotive companies, renowned for execution and efficiently, taking a crack at different Blockchain solutions. Mercedes-Benz, or rather, its parent company, automotive giant Daimler AG, is launching its own cryptocurrency, MobiCoin to reward drivers for environmentally-friendly driving habits. The project will be in its testing phase for the next three months, during which 500 drivers who follow eco-friendly driving practices will be rewarded with MobiCoins.
Additionally, Automobile manufacturer Porsche is exploring Blockchain apps in its vehicles in cooperation with the Berlin-based startup XAIN. In an official statement, Porsche has called itself “the first automobile manufacturer to implement and successfully test Blockchain in a car.” Finally, BMW has also been building its Blockchain repertoire, allegedly closing a second partnership with a Blockchain startup, this time to source ethical cobalt for its products, Reuters reports, citing the startup’s CEO.
These three car manufacturers are all entering the Blockchain space at different points, with different needs, but the real story is that in the automotive industry, they are finding real-world usage for Blockchain across the board. There is little hype about it, in the same way, there is when it comes to ICOs rolling out new coins, but there are positive opportunities for the companies and the technology.
Mercedes can, through Blockchain, find a way to help with safe driving using Blockchain technology which means the program is much more cost effective and can self-execute thanks to smart contracts. BMW is also taking an ethical route as it uses the immutable ledger to keep track of its cobalt and ensures it is mined with as little harm as possible. And even Porsche, their dalliance with Blockchain apps range from locking and opening car doors via an app, with the possibility for temporary access authorization, to new and improved business models through encrypted data logging.
All of these applications can help keep an industry, that has always been on the cutting edge, one step further ahead. But for Blockchain, this sinking of resources, manpower, and power to execute on a high level will see Blockchain technology thrust forward, ironing out the kinks, and filling the gaps where small startups cannot.
Foreseeing the future
The innovation of Blockchain has never been the problem, even going back as far as 2001. Legendary cryptographer Nick Szabo used examples to illustrate the concept of smart contracts that the brains at Porche are now trying to execute. Szabo described how the problems of trust could be solved by being self-executing and having property embedded with information about who owns it: “For example, the key to a car sold on credit might only operate if the monthly payments have been made.”
According to Porsche, the applications successfully tested include locking and unlocking the vehicle via an app and authorizing temporary access. “[The] technology makes it possible to assign temporary access authorizations for the vehicle — in a secure and efficient manner,” notes the Porsche press release echoing Szabo’s words of what would be possible in the future with Blockchain. “A protected connection to vehicle data and functionalities can be established using Blockchain. At the same time, it protects all communication between participants.”
Not caught in the hype
Blockchain technology is hugely exciting, and the possibilities feel seemingly endless. It has sparked a massive ICO boom but has also piqued the interest of technology giants, who are equally excitable. The difference comes when companies outside of the advancing tech space start to look for new ways for themselves to stay innovative. If they feel they can get something out of a technology, and help push it along, it can only be beneficial for the space.
The Blockchain space has existed for so long on the backs of ICOs, and now, as this new wave of corporate interest comes in, the belief is that there can be some hand-in-hand advancement. It is not a corporate take over, as Anja Hendel, director at Porsche Digital Lab explains how they are doing more than hopping onto the Blockchain.
“Porsche is now an official supporting member of the German Startups Association. With over 750 startups, it’s one of the most important networks for bringing together founders, investors and corporations here in Germany. We want to work with founders to develop new solutions in the fields of Blockchains, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, cybersecurity and mobility - on equal footing with our internal experts here in the lab.”
Moreso, the companies that are already in the Blockchain automobile space, are generally excited at what these icons of automotive excellence can do for their burgeoning ecosystem. “We can see a huge amount of hype in the car industry around Blockchain technology,” says Tim Bos, CEO and Founder of ShareRing and Keaz, a company that is working towards partnerships with similar major automotive companies and fleet management tools:
“With Blockchain proving to be the future of security, and with cars essentially becoming IoT devices - the fusing of both together seems only natural. It makes perfect sense for leading car manufacturers to be the first in line for this cutting-edge technology. We predict that we will also see the 'cutting out of the middleman' in many automotive dealings, thereby increasing accessibility of cars and other automotive solutions through this new technological opportunity."
There seems to be a genuine excitement about the possibilities of Blockchain in the automotive industry that is removed from the general hype of ICOs and get-rich-quick Blockchain projects. These major companies are rather taking startups on board to build up their innovation, and help execute it in a manner as efficient as only German car companies can.