"The technology most likely to change the next decade of business is not the social web, big data, the cloud, robotics, or even artificial intelligence. It’s the blockchain."
–Harvard Business Review, May 2016
You read that right. Despite the never ending noise about AI and machine learning or the constant distraction of social media, it is possible that a much less superficially interesting technology may be about to have the most profound impact on both businesses and consumers.
The blockchain is a highly secure and non-corruptible ledger or record of transactions (economic or otherwise) that exists across multiple computers with no centralised storage of data. Every part of this peer-to-peer network verifies every transaction, creating a block which is added to the chain and available to everyone on the network.
In the last 12 months over a billion dollars has flowed in to Blockchain startups and 30 of the world’s largest banks have joined a consortium to design and build blockchain solutions.
Bitcoin and Ethereum, two leading cryptographic currencies based on Blockchain technology have seen their values rocket – if you had bought $100 of Bitcoin in 2011, it would now be worth around $483,000. Microsoft already provide a Blockchain as a service offering based on the Azure cloud and many Governments are investing in research and early applications of the technology.
The UK, Georgia, Estonia, Singapore and Dubai are all actively trialling blockchain approaches to information management.
For those of us working in a data-based marketing environment, the implications are difficult to quantify at present.
It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine a post-GDPR world in which consumers opt to put their data in to the blockchain and effectively gain power back from brands who want to communicate with them.
With cyber-attacks ongoing a system of data management which significantly reduces the risk of a devastating loss of personal data will be highly attractive to consumers, though the education process required may well be fairly arduous.
Whatever happens, it is a technology worth keeping an eye on – as marketers we are not always the first to pounce on new technologies but with the momentum and investment already in place it is something that we all need to be considering.