Features  •  Opinion

Bitcoin is Entering the Age of Practicality

| Published on December 24, 2015 at 20:00 BST
Opinion

Lamar Wilson is a programmer, web developer, serial entrepreneur and loving father. He co-founded the software development firm 212ths with his long-time friend and co-founder of Fluent, Lafe Taylor. Lamar is co-founder and CEO of Fluent, a B2B payment platform built on the blockchain.

practical, tie shoes

As the end of the year approaches, it is customary to begin thinking of what's next.

We try to assess what changes can be made to better our lives, our businesses and our relationships. We ask what can we do differently that will push us positively towards our anticipated outcomes.

In the spirit of this thinking, let's discuss bitcoin and blockchain technologies.

Bitcoin and blockchain technologies are still in their infancy. Yet, millions of dollars have been invested and many companies have reaped tremendously from early adoption.

But, it's important to note that the companies that have had the most success have done so by creating a foundation for the entire industry.

As when building a house, the foundation is the first and possibly the most important element. Without it, the house would fall, and any good builder knows that you have to give the foundation a chance to cure before building on top of it.

The companies we'll list below have built a pretty solid foundation on top of the ground that the core developers provided. The only problem is, sleeping on a concrete slab can prove to be uncomfortable.

Enter the age of practicality.

The next steps

With the foundation laid, it is time to begin building practical solutions to real-world problems.

People want to put all kinds of things on the blockchain – from gold to furniture receipts. If it exists, someone has pitched that it should be on a blockchain. But the blockchain is not some magic wand that solves all problems.

The blockchain, at its core, is a database. It may be the Liam Neeson of databases, but still it's a database.

This new age of practicality must be filled with companies solving real problems – problems that could not be solved before the gift Satoshi left for us (before returning to his alternate dimension).

We as an industry must be able to look into every industry and every discipline and see what challenges a distributed, immutable ledger can really solve.

We have debated on Reddit and other forums about what can be. But the new age must be filled with companies that not only see what can be, but build what should be.

We have to embrace people from all disciplines and lend a ear to what struggles they have. We have to then be creative enough to innovate through cross-discipline association.

The good examples

There are a handful of companies that have already prepared us for this future.

Companies like Blockcypher have become the Amazon Web Services for blockchain tech. They began with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, litecoin and dogecoin, and because of this early versatility, can now easily create private blockchain solutions with their full suite of tools.

Companies like Coinbase and BitGo have become the 'First National Banks of Bitcoin', and are expanding to be Global Bitcoin and FX banks. They are providing a foundation for developers to build all types of transaction-heavy applications.

Elsewhere, Zapchain has taken full advantage of the simple API Coinbase provides for tipping to reimagine social communities.

Chain and the recently acquired Blockstack.io, focus (or focused) heavily on private blockchains and the tools to interact with them. R3 has done a great job of grabbing a piece of mindshare at some of the largest banks in the world, creating a foundation for meaningful engagement with incumbents.

Michael J Casey at MIT Media Lab is helping to lead us toward this age by encouraging the MIT Sloan School of Management and the MIT School of Engineering to work together on blockchain technology, combining two world-class schools at a world-class institution.

These types of actions will begin to create the walls of our industry's house. They will help discover new problems that we can then solve with technology.

At Fluent, we've found a very specific problem by talking to industry leaders and professionals about issues in their supply chains. Equipped with our knowledge of blockchain technology, we were able to build a solution that will solve this problem in a way that was impossible without the core technology.

The beginning of the new year will be filled with optimism and glee, but when the confetti is cleared, we'll need to move forward toward solving real issues.

Bring on the age of practicality.

Father and son image via Shutterstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, CoinDesk.

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