An economy is nothing more than the aggregate of its markets. To be an effective leader of a corporation or government, an understanding of the economy is essential. All attempts to grasp what is going on in markets are informed by looking at who is doing the buying and selling of goods, services and financial assets, whilst asking ‘why?’. The current widespread impatience with economic sluggishness, best illustrated by the stagnant wealth middle- and lower-income earners, is leading to risky populism and nationalism. Fittingly, the impact of digital technology on the evolution of our ecosystems has become a key focus as the global debate sprouts branches of tributaries with evolving design. Whether it is the political establishment versus Facebook, the SEC v. Crypto or 680,000 Spotify premium-tier members ‘facing the power of the App Store’, it is clear that the role of technology in our ecosystem is mainstream and growing. The recent blockchain enabled decentralized computing platform models of today provide a glimpse into how technology might evolve to balance competing payoff sets and priorities.
As the human ecosystem evolves, so does our understanding of technology. Often blockchain is used interchangeably or understood to be synonymous with bitcoin. It is not. Blockchain is an application on top of a much broader fundamental movement exhibited by the world of today. A reflection of the years gone by, reveals the important role that the world wide web has played in our lives through the rise of ‘centralized platform technology’. Companies such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google all leveraged the web to create centralized platforms that divert essentially all social, media, retail and advertising business through their centralized models. As the impact of all of this is debated by society, a peak at the 10 year growth curves of FAANG NASDAQ market capitalizations confirms that this has been good for business. The discussion on the impacts of this technology in our society is huh, hmmm, oh, no, errr lively.
Enter a horizontal architecture and concept called blockchain. While bitcoin does perform exceptionally well for the case it was built to enable, it is not a miracle worker for all use cases. There are currently more than 110 different blockchain technologies and frameworks in the market (Ideation Centre @ SAP Canada count as of 06/2019). Blockchain technology is developing to ensure deficits are being addressed through prototypes that are now live with a learning feedback loop. Centralized computing is no longer always the tool to select when faced with a new challenge at your organization, even if it is the tried and proven default.
Take for example a recent challenge faced by a North American business seeking to expand globally to fulfill customer demand. Bumble Bee Foods was looking to track a fish from “bait to plate,” to let customers know who caught it, packed it, and shipped it. That challenge to solve was ‘how could they ensure that the full ocean-to-table experience for their customers with a line catching fisherman off the shores of Indonesia would happen with new business partners operating their own way?’ A tablet yielding fisherman’s son on the beach proved to be the key insight that led to a blockchain enabled supply chain that traverses ocean focused NGOs, government agencies, packagers, and retailers. The independent fisher across the planet leverages the NGO for pricing power which benefits from supply chain visibility from the SAP application. As everything is backed by encryption, the consumer scanning the QR code can tell that it has not been tampered with at any point, and that the fish they are taking home to eat was genuinely caught at the time and location indicated by the entry on the blockchain made by the local fisherman. Numerous challenges in our world could benefit from enhanced trust between the consumer and entrepreneur like this network provides not only for the end points, but all of the other essential partners along the journey.
We are in a world where person to person interaction has been usurped by focusing on screens, headphones, or any other social connection limiting action when in the company of people. Creating more connections and trust through openness makes sense for a variety of services in today’s world. So perhaps a world with centralized platform technology offerings complimented by decentralized technology innovations can help to unite us all. If we can comprehend the previous sentence that is.