It has been a decade since Satoshi Nakamoto conceptualised blockchain technology. At the time, Satoshi – a person (or people) who to this day remains anonymous – was specifically interested in developing technology for the now infamous cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Since then, companies have risen and fallen trying to copy, amend, or altogether find different use cases for the technology. Private investors from around the world have been speculating whether one of these companies using blockchain technology can establish themselves as the next tech giant. Yet, as of right now, the mainstream use case by the general public for blockchain technology has been digital currency – and even that has arguably not had significant take-up outside of the wider tech and investment community.
This aside, there has been growing anticipation in 2018 that the technology which was initially created for Bitcoin can be put to wider use. We have been approached by a number of companies seeking to use blockchain technology for new and exciting purposes. And on 3 October 2018, the EU Parliament adopted a non-legislative Resolution on distributed ledger technologies and blockchain, considering alternative use cases for blockchain technology. Amongst others, the EU Parliament noted that such technologies can assist with:
• The monitoring of origin of goods, improving transparency, and providing assurances that sustainability and human rights protocols are respected in the place of origin of a product;
• The tracking and management of intellectual property and facilitating copyright and patent protection; and
• The transformation of the energy market, by allowing households to produce environment-friendly energy and exchange it on a peer-to-peer basis.
A main challenge that we are seeing in the development of new use cases is scepticism that blockchain technology can be utilised outside of the digital world. The technology was created for a strictly digital mechanism – so the question has to be asked “how will developers take this technology and apply it to the physical world, in a way that maintains the same status of trust and confidence?”. This will be one of the biggest challenges over the next few years if use of blockchain technology is to expand outside of the digital world.
Another big challenge will likely be around data protection and data security. Blockchain technology requires a lot of data to be readily available to anyone wishing to inspect it. In its 3 October Resolution, the EU Parliament noted that “it is of the utmost importance that digital ledger technology uses are compliant with the EU legislation on data protection” such as the GDPR. As a result, the EU Parliament has called on the Commission and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) to provide further guidance on this point. We hope to see further guidance on this point in the near future.
For now, we eagerly wait as developers attempt to overcome these challenges and develop innovative use cases for blockchain technology.