Something strange happened in the world of Bitcoin in 2015.
While cryptocurrency fans were well aware that the Blockchain, the distributed digital ledger that powers Bitcoin was a brilliant technology, few else knew of its potential.
Then it all changed.
In 2015, the Blockchain came of age as companies small and large, including some of the biggest players in the financial world, either started using the Blockchain or launched initiatives to develop newer versions based on the core technology to use in their own fields.
The first half of the year was quiet looking back, although the interest was there, be it through investments in Bitcoin-focused firms that later went on to change their business models to become primarily Blockchain focused.
In May, and somewhat representative of the changing face of Blockchain usage scenarios, Factom announced a deal with the Honduras Government to use their Land Registry Management tool based on the Blockchain to manage the countries land titles; the deal has since been delayed but it’s still a fascinating use of the Blockchain.
Around the same Nasdaq, the American stock exchange, announced that at it intended to use the Blockchain as part of an enterprise-wide initiative.
A month later in June Overstock.com announced that it was to use the Blockchain for a $25 million bond offering, a proposal since approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in December although at the time of writing it isn’t clear when the bonds will be issued.
Blockchain securities management startup Symbiot, Inc. raised $1.25 million the same month, while the developers of the MMO Voxelnauts announced a plan to use Blockchain backed technology in order to provide property management and ownership rights of items.
The second half of the year marked the clear switch from interest in Bitcoin to the Blockchain with BitFury Group, a well-established Bitcoin Blockchain infrastructure provider and transaction processing company, leading July with an announcement that it had $20 million in a round that included DRW Venture Capital, iTech Capital and Georgian Co-Investment Fund.
Alex “Sandy” Pentland, the Toshiba Professor at MIT and an advisor to the Enigma project which uses the Bitcoin Blockchain to securely track encrypted data, made a visit to SiliconANGLE’s theCUBE to talk about the capabilities and the scope project.
In perhaps a more nefarious application of Blockchain technology, notorious cybercrime forum Darkode announced that it would be returning to the deep recesses of the Dark Web with a new platform that only allows previous members back after they have gone through verification process based on the Blockchain API, and that further they would be storing a hash of users’ Bitcoin Wallet addresses as the only link to their registration.
August saw something a little on the light side when Hip Hop and Rap artist Toby Ganger, the artist behind the song “Welcome to the Blockchain (The Bitcoin Song),” spoke with SiliconANGLE’s Kyt Dotson about the blend between Bitcoin, the Blockchain, and music.
Interest in the Blockchain heated up in September when Big Blue, IBM, announced that it is embracing the Blockchain by utilizing the technology to power smart contracts; nine major banks joined Fintech startup R3CEV LLC (R3) to develop a framework for using Blockchain technology in financial markets, and Blockchain powered remittance app maker Abra, Inc. raised $12 million Series A in a round that included Arbor Ventures, RRE Ventures, and First Round Capital.
Late in October Bitcoin and Blockchain incubator Digital Currency Group, Inc. (DCG) raised an undisclosed amount of capital in a round that include notable investors including Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), MasterCard, New York Life, Transamerica Ventures and others.
Ethereum Blockchain-as-a-Service came to Microsoft Corp.’s Azure cloud computing platform in November, then in December IBM made its second big Blockchain announcement of the year when they said they were joining forces with more than a dozen of the biggest names in the financial services sector to develop their own open-source implementation of the Blockchain for transaction processing model, and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), best known as the body that facilitates international bank transfers, announced a new initiative that will see it explore the possibilities of the Blockchain.
In another positive sign for the space, multinational investment banking firm Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. predicted a strong future for Blockchain technology in a note to clients December 5.
To cap the year out though was perhaps the most important announcement of them all, one that will literally shape the future of the Blockchain in the years ahead: The Linux Foundation’s announcement a new collaborative effort that aims to advance the Blockchain.
While that doesn’t sound that exciting by itself, it’s those who are backing it and its commitment to seeing Blockchain 2.0 remain open source that makes it significant, with a list of backers including Accenture, ANZ Bank, Cisco, CLS, Credits, Deutsche Börse, Digital Asset Holdings, DTCC, Fujitsu, IC3, IBM, Intel, J.P. Morgan, London Stock Exchange Group, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MFUG), R3, State Street, SWIFT, VMware and Wells Fargo.
The risk with all the various initiatives and companies exploring Blockchain technology to this point is that there is a real risk that we could see a Blockchain 2.0 war of standards in the near future, where hopefully with the guiding hand of the Linux Foundation one free, open source standard will come to rule them all.
Stay tuned to SiliconANGLE in 2016 for all the latest and biggest news from the world of the Blockchain.