In my previous blogs on the subject of blockchain, I talked about the fundamentals and benefits of the technology, some of the challenges it has faced, and what various groups are doing to address these challenges. In this blog I will discuss some of the new development environments being established as well as some of the applications entering the market. This should give you an idea about how this technology can be utilized and how it may impact you in years to come.
In October 2015, Microsoft announced they were partnering with Consensys (a venture production studio building decentralized applications and various developer and end-user tools for blockchain ecosystems) to offer Ethereum Blockchain as a Service (EBaaS, BaaS) on Microsoft Azure so Enterprise clients and developers can have a single click cloud based blockchain developer environment. According to Microsoft: ““Ethereum Blockchain as a Service” provided by Microsoft Azure and Consensys allows for financial services customers and partners to play, learn, and fail fast at a low cost in a ready-made dev/test/production environment. It will allow them to create private, public and consortium based Blockchain environments using industry-leading frameworks very quickly, distributing their Blockchain products with Azure’s World Wide distributed (private) platform. The Microsoft Azure BaaS includes a marketplace with certification, templates and artifacts to ease the onboarding process.
Among the many partners that Microsoft has now added to their BaaS environment, is the R3 consortium with their 45 financial institutions members who chose this environment as their preferred platform to experiment and develop new blockchain related offerings.
In other news, Amazon AWS announced this month that they have partnered with the Digital Currency Group to create a BaaS solution for financial services firms.
What Microsoft and Amazon are doing is providing stable development environments that can allow entities who are creating Blockchain Dapps (UI + decentralized backend) to develop and test at scale within a multivendor environment. With this readily available (few clicks away) infrastructure we can expect the world of blockchain development to expand and accelerate very quickly. Microsoft and Amazon are betting the consortiums in place today will be interested in a trusted operating environment within the Azure or AWS clouds.
The number of Blockchain startup and enterprise development projects taking place is quite large and growing daily, and among them there are many Dapps of similar type. The handful I list below were selected to give you some ideas about where this technology might take us. The list however it is not meant to be an endorsement of these products over potential competitive efforts:
Decentralized storage. A blockchain based, end to end encrypted, and distributed object storage. This product will create a marketplace that will allow users to rent and buy storage in a peer to peer network. Storj has released their multiplatform GUI app for DriveShare, that allows users to share their available hard disk space without the need of particular IT knowledge.
Maidsafe wants to build a free, open, decentralized, crowd-sourced, fully distributed Internet. Imagine: websites don’t live on central servers that can be blocked, switched off or seized, but are streamed by thousands or millions of personal devices worldwide. Rather than using data centers and servers which are prone to data theft and surveillance, as is common on todays Internet, the SAFE Network uses advanced peer-to-peer technology that joins together the spare computing capacity of all SAFE users, creating a global network. You can think of SAFE as a crowd-sourced Internet. It is on this network that everyone’s data and applications reside.
Copy write protection with proof of ownership of digital content. Blockchain-based digital content record platform Ascribe has launched a service called WhereOnTheNet to enable artists who ascribe their work on the blockchain to trace the pathway of their content on the web. By utilizing an intelligent and intuitive blockchain-based software, Ascribe’s WhereOnTheNet allows users to search sites, which used their images with or without permission from the content provider.
The Block Verify team will use a private blockchain simultaneously with the Bitcoin blockchain, which they will use as “a ledger to hash certain data to secure [their] own chain” to build an anti-counterfeit solution (for pharmaceuticals) or to ensure the legitimacy of pharmaceutical products. They will give every product its own permanent record on their blockchain, making manipulation of private keys impossible, says Blockverify. The system is designed to protect everyone at each point in the supply chain, creating a “trustless system of transparency.”
This Internet of Things company: Slock.it unveiled the first autonomous lock you can open with money. The digital locking system designed by the German startup can be controlled by a smart contract on the blockchain, using Ethereum. This technology will further decentralize the Sharing Economy, empowering anyone to easily rent, share or sell anything that can be locked. This means disrupting the disrupters, including companies like Airbnb and a host of other sharing economy companies acting as intermediaries based around some form of physical access.