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Microsoft's investment surge in blockchain
The rapid growth of cryptocurrencies and the hysteria around bitcoin has drawn attention to the technology that underpins it: blockchain. Beyond this, however, most people know little more about the new distributed ledger technology. According to Research and Markets, the global blockchain market is set to grow to just over $8.68 billion by the end of 2024, from $212.12 million in 2016. This month, IG attended the Global Blockchain Innovation Summit in London to learn more about blockchain. Microsoft, Deutsche Telekom, Dell EMC, Bank of New York (BNY) Mellon and IBM were among the major companies to send delegates. The event’s organiser, Corporate Parity, says:
‘The next great disruptor, blockchain, is seemingly here to stay. Not only is it here to stay, but it is set to dramatically alter our lives in the very near future. Likened to the advent of the internet itself, blockchain technology has the power to transform how we do everyday tasks, reinventing economics and the exchange of information as it does so.
From healthcare and government to insurance and retail, blockchain will directly impact industry, affecting both customer and supplier. While the true potential of blockchain has yet to be fully explored or exploited, the time is fast approaching. Before we know it, this simple, yet crucial, technological advance will change the game for good.'
Microsoft is among the pioneers in the blockchain space. This month, the technology giant launched a new product, the Azure Blockchain Workbench, which is a new developer tool created to make it easier to build blockchain applications. Nestlé and 3M are among the notable companies using Blockchain Workbench so far. Microsoft says it helps businesses to get up and running quickly, build applications in days, not months, and easily integrate blockchain workflows with existing systems. Stefano Tempesta, regional director for Microsoft in Switzerland, says blockchain is a significant space to watch and he sees its application going far beyond cryptocurrencies.
In another potential use of the blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies (DLTs), Microsoft is investing in decentralised digital identities, which the company says will 'enhance personal privacy, security and control'. Using education as an example, Tempesta says, through blockchain, students will 'own their digital identity and studies across multiple educational institutes'. He says that certificates will be issued on blockchain and can be signed digitally, whereby 'recruiters, employers, government and universities can verify students’ credentials without relying on central authorities'.
In terms of the biggest risks around blockchain, Tempesta says they are difficult to predict but will likely come from misuse and the immutability property of blockchain, because anything put on the ledger will stay forever and cannot be removed. He says there is a potential abuse around illegal traffic and adult content. While he does not argue for governance, because he says this goes against what blockchain is about, he says the technology will need some kind of filter.