In the post-Snowden era of truth, transparency and openness, you could be forgiven for believing that the age of internet mysteries is over. What you may not know is that Blockchain, one of the most exciting digital technologies to emerge in the last decade, has its origins shrouded in a mystery that would rival a Dan Brown thriller.
Back in October 2008 Satoshi Nakamoto first appeared on an encryption news group announcing to the world that he had developed a new electronic cash system that was “fully peer-to-peer, with no trusted third party”. Known as bitcoin, the open source software quickly rose to prominence and is now used worldwide – today there are over 16 million bitcoins circulating, each with a value that fluctuates somewhere between $450 and $750.
And while bitcoins may be globally known, the identity of Satosho Nakamoto appears to be one of the world’s best kept secrets. Despite much detective work and finger pointing, no one has ever managed to work out the real identity – or identities, as one theory suggests – of the elusive Nakamoto.
The mystery of Nakamoto notwithstanding, Bitcoin has given the tech sector many other reasons to get excited. The currency platform is underpinned by Blockchain, a ledger that records every bitcoin transaction ever made. And what makes Blockchain so special is that it uses a public and fully distributed network of nodes and users to move any digitalized asset from peer to peer, anyone can access the ledger and see the transactions which are validated without any intermediary. The transparency of the process even extends to the name itself: transactions are recorded in blocks which are cryptographically secured and sequentially chained together from the oldest to the newest, offering a non-refutable and unbreakable record of data.
Although most closely associated with transacting bitcoins, the potential applications for Blockchain are huge and include the transfer of everything from stocks, deeds, files, votes, art, and intellectual property. As a consequence, it has massive implications for the futures of many established businesses that act as a middle man between service or product exchanges. Whether you’re a traditional bank or digital disruptor such as Uber, eBay or AirBnB, the increasing adoption of Blockchain should be giving your organization some pause for thought.
Big banks are now seeing its massive potential to make the existing financial system more efficient, and find cost savings in a landscape that is coming under increasing cost and compliance pressures. The technology also has implications for the wider markets. First and foremost, it could well prove to be the missing link in creating viable sharing economies, lessening transaction chains and allowing providers to sit closer to their end users and consumers. And, perhaps most importantly in the digital age, it could allow people to reclaim their online identity, begin to own it, monetize it and protect its privacy.
At Atos, Blockchain is already making waves. Worldline supports the bitcoin cryptocurrency on its payments terminals and numerous business groups are now working with customers to educate them on the potential of the technology, how it might change their business models as well as the exciting opportunities it represents for future revenues.
This is just the first in a series in which we will explore the hype behind Blockchain – look out for our next piece where we will be discussing some of the most exciting use cases for the technology…