Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin, has wide applications beyond cryptocurrencies, and Baird analyst Colin Sebastian came up with 13 industries where it could have a major impact. In some areas, it could even threaten Amazon, the disrupter-in-chief.
Banks have been talking about blockchain for years, but Sebastian expects tech companies to get more heavily involved, in part to defend against disruption and in part to capitalize on the opportunities.
“While the vast majority of’Blockchain’ related jobs appear to be at start-ups, consultants, and large financial services (IBM, Microsoft, Fidelity, Invesco, Capgemini, Bank of America, JP Morgan are among the top recruiters of blockchain specialists), we expect that technology and Internet companies will quickly become more engaged with the opportunities,” he wrote.
A blockchain is a cloud-based software that allows users to store and keep track of data in a decentralized digital ledger. Because everyone’s computer has a copy of the ledger, people connected on the software don’t need a central intermediary to keep track of their transactions. That’s why people can trade Bitcoin without going through a bank — they don’t need a receipt for their transaction because the whole thing is stored on a blockchain.
The most prominent players in blockchain technology right now are IBM (IBM) and Microsoft (MSFT), both of which are pioneering new software applications and partnering with companies like banks. But Sebastian sees wide applications in the following 13 industries, with some being “disrupted” and some being “enhanced”:
Internet of Things (enhancing): Devices could communicate directly using a blockchain. “Samsung and IBM are creating a decentralized network of IoT devices using the Blockchain,” Sebastian wrote.
Ride-sharing (disruptive): Who needs Uber when taxi drivers and customers can connect directly on the blockchain?
Online media and music (disruptive): Who needs Spotify if fans and musicians can connect directly on the blockchain?
Online retail (disruptive): If sellers and buyers could connect directly on a blockchain, they could circumvent middlemen. And “smart contracts” embedded in the blockchain could theoretically establish scores for buyers and sellers to determine their reliability and quality. Maybe this is why Amazon (AMZN) has started to staff up in blockchain.
Online marketing (disruptive): Startups are already looking to build platforms that don’t depend on intermediaries, and could possibly reduce click-fraud.
Video games (enhancing): The virtual currencies used in digital games could also be “tokenized” and transferable, allowing people to make money trading them like “real” assets. The startups Gameflip and DMarket are already looking at this.
eSports (enhancing): Multiplayer video game competitions are getting more popular, and blockchain tech could allow for betting and virtual asset purchases, among other benefits.
Loyalty points (enhancing): Retailers could use the technology to improve their loyalty programs.
Cloud storage (disruptive): File storage could become more secure and possibly cheaper. A new “coin” called Filecoin allows for decentralized file storage, for instance, with people renting space on other people’s hard drives. Sebastian expects this to hurt Box and Dropbox more than Amazon and Alphabet (GOOGL), which may simply adopt blockchain for their own systems.
Online gambling (enhancing): Prone to hacks, online gambling could benefit from a more secure technology that wouldn’t depend on vulnerable intermediaries to hold players’ money.
Money transfer (disruptive): Transferring money across borders will only get easier, and is likely to disrupt traditional players. Sebastian doesn’t mention Western Union, but there’s little question that their current business model could be under threat.
Digital wallets (disruptive): E-Wallets could make it easier to pay for tolls, parking and more. Innogy and ZF are two startups in this area.
Social networking (enhancing): Blockchain tech might make it easier for content creators to get the word out and get paid, and help with identity management, Sebastian says.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.