Recent Blockchain Innovations: Q1 2021
The first quarter of 2021 has seen tremendous growth in the cryptocurrency space, with many forms of crypto reaching all-time price highs amid new levels of mainstream adoption. This has come as the greater blockchain landscape has continued to experience growth and innovation, including the rapid rise of NFTs and new ways of capitalizing on this ever-evolving technology.
Here are four of the latest blockchain innovations helping shape the industry outlook for the remainder of 2021 and beyond.
The rise of NFTs
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have been making widespread headlines the past couple months, with outlets from the mainstream news media to Saturday Night Live contributing to the conversation.
While NFTs have been around for years, the recent crypto bull run has caused them to gain more attention – and an increase in value. Digital artist Beeple recently sold an NFT for a record $69 million, while musicians have also begun releasing their work in the form of NFTs.
But art is not the only realm getting in on NFTs. NBA Top Shot is a platform that aims to allow users to own unique “moments” from NBA games, such as a LeBron James dunk or a Stephen Curry three-pointer.
But what makes NFTs so desirable to own when you can otherwise just Google a picture of art, stream a song, or watch NBA highlights on YouTube? The main draw is tied to the concept of collectability, similar to the reason you would buy high-end physical art or even trading cards. When you own an NFT, you and only you own a unique version of the asset that is encrypted and secured using blockchain technology. And when a scarce quantity of something exists, its value often grows.
As the NFT space continues to grow and we continue seeing new innovations in this format, we will begin to see if this is just a bubble or something bigger.
New York’s blockchain-powered COVID-19 passport
As vaccination efforts increase across the U.S. and the world, places of business are beginning to require a “proof of vaccination” in order to serve guests and customers – and New York is taking a big step to aid in that process.
In mid-March, a blockchain-based app for tracking COVID-19 test results and for proving users’ vaccination statuses launched in the Empire State. It is called Excelsior Pass and is based on IBM’s proprietary blockchain technology.
Like a mobile boarding pass, the app can be used to store and scan information pertaining to the user’s vaccination status or to print a physical version of the pass if required. It is the first app of its kind to launch in the U.S. and aims to help accelerate the safe reopening of businesses in New York – while the blockchain component will ensure the legitimacy and security of each user’s personal information.
Microsoft’s decentralized identity platform
After four years of development, Microsoft’s decentralized identity platform ION has launched on the Bitcoin blockchain.
Using the same methodology as Bitcoin transactions, ION will be able to validate up to 10,000 identities in a single transaction for use in tasks like logging into online platforms (e.g., social media) or for purchasing tickets online. The platform is also being used as a digital proof-of-identification for documents like diplomas or membership cards.
ION will allow these digital identities to be different than traditional usernames and email addresses by ensuring they are owned and controlled by the users themselves – not by a third party.
Inter-blockchain communication (IBC)
In March, investors in the Cosmos blockchain voted to enable inter-blockchain communication that would allow assets to easily transfer from one blockchain to another. The vote marks a major step for blockchain that would enable users to easily send tokens between blockchain platforms for the first time ever.
Any two blockchains that support IBC will be able to send communication back and forth in a permissionless manner. The move also has the potential to open up new opportunities in decentralized finance (DeFi), where a product on an application-specific blockchain would now be able to use an asset from a completely different blockchain.
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