Blockchain, as we have seen, is quickly becoming an established enterprise technology. There is still way to go, however, before it reaches its full potential. In the meantime, there are a number of emerging and established trends around blockchain that are gaining traction at the moment. There are new technologies and capabilities emerging almost daily as well as new job market demands to build these new technologies. Here are several that we've identified as common themes for blockchain companies

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1. Beyond Cryptocurrency

Mark Grabowski is an associate professor at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, and teaches a course on bitcoin and blockchain. He points out that bitcoin is the first and best known use case of blockchain. However, cryptocurrency like bitcoin is just one application of blockchain. Blockchain has been used in voting, food safety and shipping, among many other fields and industries. Major companies, including Walmart, IBM and Amazon, are all experimenting with blockchain. “In fact, while there's much debate over the future of Bitcoin (is it a bubble?), one thing you can probably bet on is that the underlying technology of blockchain will at least succeed and be widely adopted, even if cryptocurrency turns out to just be a fad,” he said.

2. Blockchain For Printing

LINK3D, an Additive Manufacturing (AM) software company focused on software advancements for the 3D Printing Industry, has recently unveiled an integration of blockchain technology. For AM, blockchain technology offers middleware to stabilize an untrusted distributed network that continues to gain momentum and popularity in major industries. Blockchain technology is now integrated in LINK3D’s SaaS product, Digital Factory that they launched in 2017. This is a major enhancement to the product that enables enterprises to apply data governance, identify data provenance, ensure data auditability and data validation

LINK3D discovered with Digital Factory that a digital thread is crucial for the mass adoption of AM. A seamless "strand" of information data that aids in the 3D printing process, from start-to-finish, through conceptualization, design and production. The file integrity and traceability that blockchain provides is a priority for AM processes.

Related Article: What Is Blockchain and What Does It Do?

3. Smart Contracts

Yael Tamar is the CMO for Laurel, Md.-based iOlite, a blockchain company, said that blockchain is still under the radar of skeptics as it is believed by many in enterprises that blockchain has inherent flaws, which are hindering its mainstream adoption.

Smart contracts are integral components of blockchain transaction, and they are difficult to write with only trained professionals able to accomplish the task. With skilled blockchain professionals scarce, the cost of hiring a blockchain developer cannot be borne by many aspiring startups.

A number of issues have prevented blockchain from reaching its full potential as the disruptive force of the future. To this end, organizations have been brainstorming on how to maximize its potential and come up with mechanisms to overcome blockchain’s shortcomings. iOlite allows anyone to write a smart contract via translating spoken language into code using a machine training algorithm based on language constructs provided by a global community of developers.

4. Supply Chain

Evan Maslennikov is co-founder of RunCPA. According to him, in 2017 enormous amount of blockchain-based projects came out and made a lot of noise. Most of them still remain proof-of-concepts (PoCs) or pilot programs and thus do not shed light on how this new technology works and why it generates that much money. The development is in early stages and unready for large-scale commercial implementation.

Learning Opportunities

The first case that already proved to be successful in blockchain implementation is cryptocurrency. After cryptocurrencies, companies that are most focused on supply chain and other markets with a number of intermediaries will be the next ones who take advantage of the blockchain technology. It implies complete transparency of every transaction and that leads to pervasive adoption in the future. Businesses will be able to track the movement of any product, reduce the fraud risks and costs.

5. Blockchain With IoT

Joel Vincent, CMO of  Santa Clara, Calif.-based ZEDEDA says that blockchain will also lend itself to the Internet of Things. The concept of distributing trust to a peer-to-peer network is and will continue to be essential in the world of IoT and Edge Computing, he shared. This means creating an edge economy that allows apps to run anywhere. It also means, moving applications that run in data centers, where there is a single owner of all the infrastructure that provides the app developer with its entire virtual environment, to places where infrastructure is not owned by a single party but the services and data exchanges must be trusted and not spoofed.

6. Data Provenance

Vincent added that in the area of data provenance, the platform running the cloud native edge should inherently look to be able to track immutably who is creating the data, when it was created, and as the owner of that data what the owner’s rights are with regards to manipulating the data. A data provenance service would allow an app developer to add devices to the network and have every piece of data tracked, enabling that data to be accessed by others, but not without express permission of the originator. This service can be provided to that app by a platform via smart contracts and blockchain.

7. Blockchain Developers and Engineers

Technology will not be the only challenging area in the coming months and years. Finding people with the right skillset will also be a challenge. According to Good Robot CEO, Alan Majer, Blockchain is still constrained to early adopters. The technology is a moving target, use cases are still being explored, and an only a handful of more aggressive players are going beyond pilots to more extensive roll outs, he added. 

That said, the conservative mainstream is also taking a look at it too. They are cautiously exploring the possible use cases (some doing pilots). In the next two-three years we'll see much more mainstream use particularly as enterprise blockchain services and solutions become more widely available. “I've spoken to a number of people who have piloted proofs-of-concept, and some of them are beginning to roll out more broadly. Financial services are probably the furthest along. Incumbents are doing some very interesting work to innovate existing systems, and new entrants are moving even quicker with innovative forms of asset securitization and new models for exchanges and trading,” he said. Engineers

Doug Schade is a partner in the software technology division at talent acquisition firm WinterWyman.  He said that only a couple years ago there was a slight rise in demand in the space, mostly around surrounding bitcoin mining. Today, with enterprise level adoption in multiple industries, there has been an explosion in hiring for engineers with differing levels of abilities related to blockchain technologies. This includes everything from deep ledger technology understanding through more general abilities to build platforms/applications that service the technology.