Will Blockchain Drive the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Cryptocurrencies have experienced exponential growth since Bitcoin was first introduced in 2009. They have seen a surge in popularity, skyrocketing value, and have been increasingly adopted by payment applications like PayPal. And other forms of cryptocurrencies like Dogecoin and Ethereum have swiftly followed. 

In some areas, primarily among wealthy, younger men, cryptocurrencies have become a day-to-day vehicle for financial exchange. Some of this awareness and popularity has naturally happened over time, but there are also several forces that have driven growth in cryptocurrencies and new technologies.

Users no longer have to mine their cryptocurrency. And partnerships with payment apps and digital wallets like Venmo, PayPal, and Cash App are beginning to help non-techie beginners get started in the crypto world. 

Polarized Views on Crypto’s Future

Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies built on blockchain technology. They are decentralized, unregulated, and not connected to any third party like a bank, financial institution, or government body. 

As crypto has become mainstream, it is seen either as a new vehicle to make a fortune or a big idea that can contribute to saving the world. Square CEO Jack Dorsey even said in the summer of 2021, “My hope is that it creates world peace.”

Even as they surge in popularity, crypto technologies remain challenging to understand. And several concerns frequently crop up, including price volatility, lack of regulation, decentralization, and the computing power necessary for cryptocurrency mining is highly energy-intensive. 

The growth of cryptocurrency has been primarily due to its use as a tool for investment. As a medium of exchange or a way to pay for goods and services, crypto as a consumer tool makes it more accessible in the non-tech world.

The use of the cryptocurrency’s foundational tool, blockchain, also promises a wide variety of industries beyond banking, an entire universe of technologies

Most everyone agrees that cryptocurrency will be a transformative force in the coming years, a game-changer, whether friend or foe.

Cryptocurrency Becomes (Almost) Mainstream

In recent years, cryptocurrency has broken through resistance from individual investors and found acceptance as an institutional investment. Publicly traded companies have begun to convert cash in their treasuries over to Bitcoin as a more sound store of value. Top high-profile public companies with cryptocurrency portfolios include MicroStrategy, Square, and Tesla.

From Bitcoin to Ethereum to Dogecoin to Zcash, there are thousands of places to invest in cryptocurrency. Each comes with its own special sauce, including enhanced privacy, independence from regulation by a central authority, faster than wire transfers, 24/7 access, manual transactions, and anonymity. 

The crypto industry experienced a landmark moment a year ago, in April 2021, when the crypto exchange company, Coinbase Global, went public and began trading on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol: COIN.

Some of the top crypto companies have become household names, yet, according to a Pew Research study, only 16% of adults in the U.S. say they have invested in, traded, or somehow used cryptocurrency. Men ages 18 to 29 are particularly likely to say they have used cryptocurrencies. And overall, 86% of those surveyed say they have heard something about cryptocurrencies and blockchain networks. 

Super Bowl 2022 and its Crypto Advertising Push

This year, there was a lot of talk about the Super Bowl broadcasting commercials for crypto companies and 4IR technologies. The 2022 game was compared to 2000 when one-fifth of the ad space went to internet startups in what was called the “Dot-Com Bowl.” 

Six crypto companies ran ads during the Los Angeles Braves vs. Cincinnati Bengals game. Bitbuy, Coinbase, Crypto.com, eToro, and FTX bought crypto investment or NFT messages. Star power included LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Matt Damon.

It makes sense: Football’s audience directly hits an 18- to 29-year-old demographic. Damon’s “Fortune Favors the Brave” ad for Crypto.com flooded the market post-Super Bowl. And even though some criticized the ad on social media, it was shared extensively and has been watched nearly 17 million times on YouTube. For many, Damon’s Crypto.com ad may just be baffling, especially for those who are still unclear about what cryptocurrency is or what it might mean to them. 

“We need to meet people where they are, and that means embracing skepticism,” says FTX co-founder and CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. “A lot of people who are now the biggest advocates of crypto once had significant reservations.”

Blockchain: Pillar of the Fourth Industrial Revolution 

Technology at the core of cryptocurrency has been hailed as a gamechanger. 

Blockchain has been called a pillar of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, comparing it to transformative technologies such as the steam engine during the First Industrial Revolution and the internet. However, banking is just the beginning. 

BEYOND CURRENCY: Blockchain technology is a digital ledger capable of recording and verifying a high volume of virtual transactions. The first blockchain was the database on which every Bitcoin transaction was stored. According to analysts at CB Insights, it’s a solution for storing all types of digital information more securely and is now spreading across non-finance industries. Annual spending on blockchain solutions is expected to reach nearly $16 billion by 2023. 

FRAUD: Big Four accounting firms, including KPMG and Deloitte, have developed blockchain-based software using artificial intelligence to help auditors reduce human error and instances of fraud and money laundering. 

INSURANCE: Most blockchain applications in the insurance industry focus on improving operations. One sector that stands to reap the most rewards is reinsurance—insurance for insurers—which could potentially save up to $10B by using blockchain, according to PwC. 

CHARITY:  Blockchain can deliver accountability and transparency in the world of international charity. BitGive Foundation has created GiveTrack, a blockchain-based multidimensional donation platform that provides the ability to transfer, track, and provide a permanent record of charitable financial transactions across the globe. 

CAR LEASING AND SALES: In 2015, Visa partnered with transaction management startup DocuSign, using blockchain to streamline car leasing. 

Those are just several industries using blockchain to create more reliable systems. 

Understanding the Future of Blockchain and Crypto

Crypto—and its blockchain technology—is being recognized as a tool for investment and a way to help solve global problems and transform industries. But its benefits will grow and evolve only if people understand it.

As of March 2022, more than 81 million people  have created unique Bitcoin wallets on Blockchain.com, a site that makes buying Bitcoin possible. That’s an increase of nearly 72% from the year before. 

An estimated 106 million people worldwide now use cryptocurrency exchanges, including Bitcoin, Dogecoin, and Ethereum, according to 2021 data from the cryptocurrency exchange Crypto.com. Cryptocurrency is most popular in countries in Africa, Asia, and South America compared to Europe, North America, or Australia.

Global leaders at the World Economic Forum are exploring how crypto technologies can change the international development sector. Blockchain and crypto assets are emerging technologies that offer the possibility of re-engineering economic models and enabling the creation of markets and products that were previously unavailable or unprofitable across emerging markets.

If you’re not sure how there’s still time to catch up. 

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