Finance

The blocks and mortar of the fourth industrial revolution – blockchain and the token economy

By Gary McKay, CEO and founder of APPII
Finance
Published: 6 November 2017

The last decade has arguably seen more technological advancement than in the last two centuries, with the introduction of the likes of smart devices, artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and now blockchain entering the mainstream and transforming how we undertake business and live our lives. What would have been incomprehensible even in the 80s, is now simply a fact of life; from carrying access to the internet on our smart phones in our pockets to being able to store almost limitless amounts of data remotely in the cloud. As this staggering pace of development shows no sign of stopping, we are on the edge of the next great industrial revolution, namely Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 will be characterised by a decentralisation of all aspects of business, moving the location of value away from the centre and towards the edges. This will be brought about by a unilateral automation of all manual processes, whereby the inefficiencies found in today’s processes will be removed by the interoperable, decentralised digital systems.

The foundations of Industry 4.0 are already being laid, with the likes of blockchain technology paving the way for these future decentralised global systems. In the financial services industry for example, blockchain is being utilised to improve efficiency, reduce the chance of fraud and lower the cost of transactions. In particular, processes which have historically relied upon time intensive manual processes, such as share and loan approvals, are now being moved to blockchain-based platforms, where the third-party brokers usually relied upon are no longer needed. As such this is freeing up time for financiers to focus on more cognitive tasks, unlocking capital to invest in business growth and driving productivity.

Unsurprisingly, investment in blockchain technology to this date has been primarily focused on those start-ups working in the finance sector; with many concluding that blockchain only has applications within the finance industry. However, blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt every trusted broker industry, from recruitment to real estate and the legal profession, and as such will become the cornerstone of Industry 4.0. For example, blockchain technology can be used to facilitate the verification of CVs, whereby all qualifications and experience will be validated on the blockchain and immutable. This will remove the need for recruiters to spend significant amounts of time and money on verifying candidates are who they say they are, and have done what they’ve said they’ve done.

Not only will blockchain technology fundamentally change the way in which services are carried out, it will also intrinsically change the way investment is made around the world. One of blockchain’s most well-known uses is as the supporting technology that underpins cryptocurrencies, or tokens, a substitute for traditional money such as British pounds. Since the Bitcoin’s creation in 2009, over 900 different cryptocurrencies have been created.

In the last 12 months, more than $2 billion has been raised in funding for blockchain projects through Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) or token sales. As the technology starts to be utilised outside the world of finance, more investors have begun to move capital into projects buildings blockchain based platforms looking to transform other areas. This new way of raising capital for funding projects will become one of the main methods of realising the transformational benefits of blockchain in the coming industrial revolution. Furthermore, the rise in ICOs and token sales will drive the adoption of technologies such as blockchain and AI far quicker than would otherwise occur through traditional methods of finding capital.

Today we are seeing the start of the next great industrial revolution, one that will truly change every aspect of our lives – from investment and banking to the very technology we depend on each day. The next decade will be the transition period into the fourth industrial revolution and we will see blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and tokens become more commonplace. Ultimately, blockchain platforms and the token economies that they support will be one of the key foundations of Industry 4.0.

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