The cryptocurrency market has been experiencing exponential growth throughout 2017. With Ethereum making the jump from $40 to $320 at the time of writing, and Bitcoin shattering previous records with all-time highs, plus eight other cryptocurrencies with a total market capitalization over $1 bln, the entire ecosystem has reached a market value of over $170 bln.
While the value of cryptocurrencies and associated projects continues to grow, the underlying technology behind the digital assets, Blockchain, has been implemented in the worlds of financial services, supply chain logistics, healthcare, music, and more. Blockchain technology represents a potential disruption of nearly every conceivable industry, even being employed by federal and local governments, and international organizations like the United Nations. At least eight states in the US have begun drafting Blockchain legislation including New York, Arizona, Illinois, and Delaware.
As more organizations pioneer research into Blockchain and cryptocurrency-based solutions, the marketplace is becoming flush with applications built to serve a wide variety of use cases. These applications are making it easier for users to buy, hold, trade, and use cryptocurrencies in their day-to-day lives.
Consider the growth of the Internet: originally a closed ecosystem meant to facilitate communication, once the Internet opened up the possibilities were nearly endless, though it wasn’t until protocol layers like HTTP, HTML, and the URL were created that developers could build on it and turn the Internet into something useful. Although the obvious applications of Blockchain technology are within financial services and payments processing, several organizations and groups are actively exploring how Blockchain can revolutionize other industries. Giants like IBM, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and Maersk are developing Blockchain solutions within their verticals.
On a more tangible level, cryptocurrencies are now being accepted at major retailers.
Over 80 businesses are known to accept Bitcoin as a form of payment, and the list continues to grow. Among them are Microsoft’s Xbox and Windows Store platforms, online travel agency Expedia, and electronics retail website Newegg. Many merchants creating online stores using Etsy and Shopify have begun accepting payments in Bitcoin as well. Japanese department store Marui has implemented Bitcoin payments in one of its largest locations, to much hype.
One of the pioneers is Overstock, the eсommerce giant that started accepting Bitcoin as payment in early 2014, earlier than any other major brand in the eсommerce space. Overstock accepts over 40 different cryptocurrencies as payment, appealing to a wide audience of cryptocurrency users. With consumer preference shifting away from traditional retail towards online shopping, and interest in cryptocurrencies rapidly growing, there exists an overlap in tech-savvy consumers actively seeking out opportunities to use digital assets. Companies that support the cryptocurrency movement are establishing themselves as thought leaders and innovators, ready to position themselves to take advantage of this new technology. Bitcoin adoption has helped drive the daily transaction volume well beyond 250,000 per day, over 100,000 more than January 2016, and more than double the daily volume in January 2015.
The decentralized technology also represents a significant leap forward in electronic security. Blockchain-encrypted distributed systems are the ultimate means to store and utilize private data, meaning industries like healthcare data, identity protection, and advertising are soon likely candidates to see major disruption from Blockchain tech.
Companies like Civic are leveraging the high security afforded by Blockchain tech to give users control over their personal data, letting it only be used and accessed when they expressedly allow it.
In a similar vein, developing decentralized search platforms are putting browsing data back into the hands of the users, by facilitating direct connections between consumers and businesses making third-party ad networks obsolete.
Giving users control over their data is a significant shift towards a more frictionless digital/physical experience in daily life. Businesses will be able to reach their ideal customers more effectively, creating a thriving, cryptocurrency-based economy.