Throughout my career in the technology industry, I’ve experienced so many times where bridging two seemingly incompatible worlds has been necessary to keep moving forward. Whether it’s balancing a heavy workload and making time for family or engaging as a small cleantech company with government and global industry giants, I think every entrepreneur is familiar with the delicate balancing act required to succeed in the many spheres we all need to juggle.
I credit my decade-plus experience with building these bridges to the amazing momentum the Alberta Blockchain Consortium has been able to create in our province’s blockchain ecosystem. Even within our small niche of technology, there are so many varied interests and ideas, ranging from the needs of major international companies or specialized application developers to the increasingly mainstream area of digital currencies like Bitcoin.
Our ecosystem is not a homogenous place – and I don’t think it would be as exciting or effective if it was. Having a diversity of opinions and viewpoints enriches us, and if we all were in perfect agreement on all points, I think our blockchain ecosystem would lack the creativity and drive we see all around us. It’s a truism that growth most often happens through pressures, challenges and differences, and it’s the overcoming of obstacles and reaching alignment that moves our world forward.
It’s certainly the case that some members of the Bitcoin and digital currency communities are wary of enterprise blockchain – I think it’s clear to see why this would be the case. In their early days, cryptocurrencies were positioned, in some cases politically, as an alternative to the current financial system, and seeing this technology becoming a part of mainstream business must be disconcerting. But with so many benefits to offer, it was always going to have broad usage and applications.
“Anything that can conceive of as a supply chain, blockchain can vastly improve its efficiency- it doesn’t matter if its people, numbers, data, money.”– Ginni Rometty, CEO IBM
There are also semantic disagreements with the way the term ‘blockchain’ is used in some of its applications – it’s not uncommon for highly technical people in the Bitcoin community to dispute whether some enterprise platforms are ‘true’ blockchains rather than distributed databases – but the word has entered deeply into the public lexicon, and for the sake of simplicity, I think most agree it’s time to embrace a more general (if not perfectly accurate) definition.
Digital currencies and enterprise blockchains, while they may seem like very different arenas, actually have a tremendous amount in common beyond just the underlying technologies. Here are just a few of the reasons behind why enterprise blockchains and digital currencies like Bitcoin are stronger together.
1. Both technologies share the same goals.
I can confidently say, balancing both the enterprise and currency worlds, that the people behind the technologies have a common vision of a future where our economy is optimized and free of redundancy and waste, where the right information is easily shared and openly distributed, and where people have access to the services they need while managing their privacy effectively. The core benefits of blockchain technologies, whether for business processes or currencies, are universal.
2. Bitcoin is still the strongest blockchain use case.
Demonstrating the real-world utility and viability of any new technology is always an immense challenge, and one still faced, despite growing successes, by the enterprise community. Bitcoin is the first major use of the technology with the most developed infrastructure, and an important example of how, through its many evolutions, blockchain technologies can work for people and business needs.
3. They can learn from each other’s challenges.
Adoption is the main issue facing any emerging technology, and Bitcoin’s growth to a market cap of around $150 billion USD is a great demonstration of the challenges and opportunities in gaining blockchain acceptance. On the other hand, backed by its corporate expertise, enterprise blockchain can offer great lessons to digital currencies about navigating regulatory compliance, integrating with business systems and making the technology more user-friendly.
4. Both are keys to our digital evolution.
The world is quickly moving toward greater digitalization, and this it’s even a core priority of the Canadian Federal Government to help our society and industries evolve digitally to benefit our country’s growth. It’s pretty clear that this goal requires both efficient, low-cost digital currencies and the effective use of digital data to optimize how we work, spend money and live.
When I think of what the next decades will look like, I’m certain that these two technologies will have a major role to play in our evolution. Both of them are world-changing ways to take the need for trust out of the equation when it comes to many aspects of business and transactions, and both are working to move our society ahead to a future where digital technologies make life simpler and easier.
We must support each other and empathize with each other because each of us is more alike than we are unalike. – Maya Angelou
When I recently attended this year’s Bitcoin-focused Baltic Honeybadger conference in Riga, Latvia, I was amazed at the incredible advancements being made to the underlying blockchain technology of Bitcoin, and how some of the ideas could potentially translate into the enterprise world when it comes to scalability, utility and innovative uses. This was a heavily technical event with leading developers from around the world, and I was blessed with the opportunity to speak with many of them personally about their views on how the technology’s strengths and areas for improvement.
With Bitcoin adoption growing every day, these types of conferences are by no means fringe. Even top schools like MIT are hosting Bitcoin seminars and events like this past March’s 2-day 2019 Bitcoin Expo, and if Canada is going to become a leader in blockchain innovation, we need to embrace this aspect of the technology’s use, rather than being too risk-averse about an anti-establishment streak among some Bitcoiners. That would leave our country at a big disadvantage, because these issues definitely aren’t scaring off national governments, major banks and corporations from using Bitcoin.
Alberta Blockchain Week, which incorporated every aspect of the technology from social good to industrial applications to digital currencies, was a perfect demonstration of how all aspects of our ecosystem, despite our differences, can come together harmoniously to accomplish something truly meaningful. And each month, the ABC will be building new bridges to other communities where our technologies can work in synergy, like October’s collaboration with our province’s thriving Internet of Things organization, Alberta IoT.
This is a momentum we can all be proud of, and as we keep progressing towards increased interest and adoption, I believe we can help transform Alberta’s economic challenges into greater opportunities for everyone. And isn’t this truly the goal in our ecosystem? We have so many struggles in our province that lie outside of our control, and only through unity will we find the strength to overcome them. This is our time to create the future we want and need – so let’s keep moving forward together.