The Blockchain has attracted a plethora of recent media attention and as its development becomes rapidly sophisticated, defining regulations around the Blockchain has become a race against time – individuals and companies are trying to maximise the Blockchain’s potential can find themselves playing in a grey area of disruptive progress and ethical implications.

In an exclusive interview with Blockchain entrepreneur PK Rasam, let’s explore how future applications and use cases of the Blockchain are shaping our relationship with technology.

But, first what is the Blockchain?

The Blockchain is a distributed technology, or ledger, with key characteristics:

  • No central control
  • Data stored on the Blockchain can’t be tampered with or changed
  • Immutability allows the creation of applications or systems that are transparent and open

In addition to its tamper-free data storage, the Blockchain allows users to see all previous transactions, and carry out future transactions by joining onto previous work. The benefit of being able to see a complete history of a Blockchain application is that trust can be built without the need for the use of a third party.

“Blockchain is what we call the Web 3.0, which is the next version of the web. I’ve been tracking it since 2009 when the first white paper came out for Bitcoin. There are now several protocols in existence,” says PK.

An example of a protocol is a smart contract; agreement in exchange for money, property, shares, or anything of value without needing an intermediary. Smart contracts define the terms of an agreement the same way a traditional contract would, but a key difference is that they automatically enforce any penalty if the contract is broken without manual intervention.

While smart contracts are designed to increase transparency and reduce the need for multiple touch points, there is a downside — poor design can produce inherent vulnerabilities.

 

In November 2017, a particular incident occurred where a developer hacked the code used in an Ethereum smart contract. This developer was able to automatically trigger a major vulnerability,  and as a result, gave himself ownership to over $150 million worth of cryptocurrency.

 

How Design Fosters Trust

Until recently, the development of technology has been left in the realm of developers and computer scientists. As disruptive innovation has brought the worlds of technology and design closer together, one key consideration as emerged — how do we create solutions that make humans the centre of the experience?

Like all technology, the Blockchain is subject to vulnerabilities, but a conscious design can ensure the system is robust, secure, and clear  This involves a design approach that ensures the platform is trustworthy at each layer of the user’s experience.

As technology is less than a decade old, the Blockchain is only at the early stages of adoption, as depicted by the Hype Cycle of technological adoption and use:

The Blockchain presents itself as an exciting blank canvas that brings forth many possibilities for creating decentralised solutions that foster trust, cooperation, and transparency.  How we chose to design solutions on the Blockchain for the user — us humans, will effectively become the building blocks for the future of Blockchain technology.

Blockchain Technology in Application

According to PK, “demand for Blockchain is high as this is a brand new skill. Part of people’s transition into Blockchain is learning about the technology and continuing to build on their skills. Everyone is experimenting with Blockchain right now, from universities to financial institutions, shipping docks to hospitals, and even the agriculture industry.”

Beyond cryptocurrencies and FinTech, another use case for the Blockchain is within the supply chain industry.

Since the Blockchain is a distributed ledger, it facilitates trust across multiple parties within the supply chain. Mutual trust is gained through the central sharing and storage of information. This encourages increased cooperation through the creation of shared value, as each party has an overarching view and invested interest in the entire end to end process.

Imagine you’re looking to purchase a replacement part for your car that has broken down. What are your pain points and what bottlenecks exist from the time you ordered your part till the moment that your car is fixed?

Here is a simple example of how the Blockchain can improve your experience. By using the Blockchain, each party in the supply chain is able to track every step of the process. This increases transparency and efficiency by reducing time and cost:

From a consumer’s perspective, having full oversight of the status of your order and a complete history of your car means less time following up with the dealership, and traceable records in the case of any breakdown in the process.

A second example of Blockchain is in the music industry. Through the creation of smart contracts, artists are able to directly connect with their listeners without the involvement of third parties such as music distributors.

Cutting out the middle player alleviates pressure on the artist around censorship, giving them the full creative licence over their work. This also means that listeners are able to influence the market directly through their own demand by allowing sales and profits to go straight to the artist.

Designing for Blockchain Technology

Blockchain technology presents many benefits and use cases, the majority of which are untapped and yet to be explored. The technology creates a new, innovative medium for transparent and open human-centred solutions that take into consideration a user’s needs. While these opportunities are exciting, early development in some areas of Blockchain technology means that vulnerabilities are inherent and could be exploited.  

It’s the perfect time to become a creator, thought leader, and game changer in shaping the future of the Blockchain. Through the Blockchain, you have the power to address some of the world’s biggest challenges — whether it be in the supply chain, the arts, health, or even politics.

Regarding designing new applications using the Blockchain, PK believes that the “Blockchain can be overwhelming for people because it’s almost like learning a new paradigm, medium, and language — everything’s new: the topography is new, the language is new, and even the pronunciation is new.

Part of the challenge is in the early learning stages and understanding what blockchain is all about. It’s important for students to ask questions like: ‘Why is it important? How’s that going to help me as a developer? How is it going to help me as a UX designer?’”

Our Blockchain Product Design course will help you fulfil this potential. Through our course, you will get hands-on and build real-life Blockchain prototypes that can immediately test with users. By removing the technological complexity that was once reserved for tech gurus, our instructors break down the Blockchain in a simple, digestible manner, and help you create solutions that are effectively designed and centred around the end user.  

Learn how to unleash the Blockchain’s potential for good with our upcoming Blockchain Product Design course. Learn more here.

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