Back in 1988, political hip hop group Public Enemy penned a lyric that made marketing execs quiver: Don’t believe the hype. And it’s hard to even simply mention Blockchain without being caught up in its hype cycle. Widely known as the technology powering the digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin, Blockchain has been hailed as the most important piece of technology to be invented since the Internet. Many tech futurists describe Blockchain as one of the most disruptive and important discoveries of our ages, and the tech media write feverishly about Blockchain’s ability to end global poverty, save the rainforest, and completely revolutionize tech, politics, business, and beyond.
And while speculating about the future is exciting, today we want you to join us on a use case journey that is less conceptual and more reality-driven. Forget Bitcoin for a second, let’s explore some exciting non-financial industry use cases in which Blockchain technology is currently being developed and deployed.
Sharing Economy: Slock.it
Ethereum-based German company Slock.it is a tech startup that’s in the business of developing a Universal Share Network — an open-source infrastructure powered by Blockchain technology. Slock.it believes that wherever there are underused assets such as temporarily vacant apartments, office space, shipping containers, or machinery, there is an untapped opportunity to make a profit. Imagine a fully-automated Airbnb, being able to lease commercial spaces on a per-needs basis rather than committing to complex commercial leases. Imagine being able to find, locate, rent, and control any object as mediated by the USN, without having to “ask permission”. The fundamentals of Blockchain technology — transparency, security, auditability — are passed on to tangible real life assets that we are already currently using. On a basic level, it’s a marriage between the physical and the digital by combining access with permission and payment.
RWE is a German power supply company with over 20 million customers. Six years ago in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, the German government announced a phase-out of the country’s nuclear power plants. This inspired RWE to introduce Blockchain technology to help lower costs whilst reducing emissions. Using the example of electric car charging stations, RWE revolutionized its user billing methods. Simply by billing users for the amount of electricity consumed in the charging process, rather than the amount of time spent connected to the charging station, RWE embraced smart contracts, by limiting the amount of microtransactions performed. This saved users money and allowed electricity to be deployed more efficiently and meant users could engage in smart contracts directly with the charging machine stations, effectively cutting out the middleman.
The Arts: UJO Music
The internet has been a powerful tool for artists, in both positive and negative ways. File sharing and digital streaming technologies disrupted the way record labels commoditized albums, giving immense power to the listener but at a financial cost to the artist. How can Blockchain technology transform music publishing whilst solving an industry’s problems where stakeholder needs are often in conflict with each other? In 2015, the startup UJO worked with acclaimed singer-songwriter Imogen Heap to release her single “Tiny Human” on Ethereum technology. This allowed Heap’s listeners to purchase licences to download, stream, remix, and sync the song, with payments exchanged on Blockchain technology and split between the artist and her collaborators, which gave Heap greater ownership over her art. Blockchain was used as a decentralized platform, facilitating direct licensing by using digital currency to facilitate instant payments between listener and artist.
All three of these use cases are in early deployment, but point to a bigger opportunity set: Blockchain as tool for unlocking value and allowing us to transfer that value in new ways.
Would you like to learn more about Blockchain technology? We’ve launched an education course “The Basics of Blockchain”. Discover the fundamentals and terminology basics of Blockchain, explore Blockchain from an economic perspective and get the lowdown on how this changes how we exchange value. We also will teach you the technology behind Blockchain — from infrastructure to application — and we will deep-dive with further use cases and discover just how Blockchain is being used in today’s business climate.