Last year, Bitcoin celebrated its 10th birthday. Over the past decade, cryptocurrency has seen a meteoric rise, followed by the inevitable fall at the end of 2017. Since then, it has once again risen like a phoenix from the ashes, with a whole raft of altcoins clinging to its digital coattails.
All that is well and good for the investors who buy and sell on the day trading exchanges. Bitcoin, Ethereum, and all the rest are established as financial assets to buy low and sell high. But what about the second part of that word cryptocurrency? Is digital currency any closer to becoming an operational way to obtain goods and services in what is, after all, the digital age?
Moving on from the Bitcoin Pizza
Back in 2010, Laszlo Hanyecz ordered two pizzas from Papa John’s, priced at $15 each, and paid for them with 10,000 BTC. The idea was to prove crypto could be used for everyday transactions, but the stunt blew up in his face is a spectacular style. Yes, at today’s rate, that puts the pizzas at $50 million each, and he didn’t even get a free pot of garlic dip.
Ever since, people have referred to the Bitcoin Pizza Guy’s experience as the reason crypto will never be a practical means for the exchange of goods, services, and fast food. Yet plenty has happened in 10 years. Sure, BTC is still volatile, but so are plenty of currencies. The point is that you are not going to see the sort of volatility of 2010 happening a decade later.
Retailers embracing Bitcoin – softly
It’s a fact that is not lost on a number of the world’s most influential retailers. Microsoft, Starbucks, Nordstroms, and even Burger King in some jurisdictions are now accepting Bitcoin as a legitimate payment method. Still, however, the notion has an air of being done for novelty value, a payment option tagged onto the end of all the more common choices as something one customer in a thousand might actually make use of.
Part of the issue here is that there is no real driver to use Bitcoin to buy a vanilla latte or a quarter pounder. Doing so brings no obvious benefit or advantage. There are, however, other, less obvious, areas in which those drivers do exist. Here, crypto is already acting as a positive disruptor.
As the internet has evolved, it has opened up vast new areas of opportunities for advertisers and marketers. But they can also be an almighty pain-point. Pop-ups irritate more than they elucidate and the simple act of having ads on a page adds to data usage and loading time, to the detriment of users.
In 2017, Brave came up with the Basic Attention Token (BAT). It powers their free web browser, and when using it to surf the web, users can opt in to be shown specific ads. They will then be rewarded in BAT for their attention.
Changes in attitudes, legislation, and leisure habits have pushed casino gaming and sports betting from the periphery into the mainstream over the past decade. Online casinos and sportsbooks have never been more popular, and blockchain adds an extra layer of security, trust, and transparency.
Here is an area in which being able to conduct transactions by crypto adds a real benefit to users. You can read more about the benefits of Bitcoin casinos in Nitin Agarwal’s article from last January, but in short, transactions are instant and secure, and there are usually no administrative fees. You don’t see other coffee shops rushing to imitate Starbucks, but there are dozens of online Bitcoin casinos hitting the market, especially in Canada and the United States, all chasing that competitive edge that crypto can deliver.
Consider all the information you provide to a travel agent when you book a flight, hotel, and rental car. Bank details, address, date of birth, passport number, and of course detailed information as to when your home will be standing empty. Blockchain technology can transform your travel tickets into digital tokens, adding security but also convenience. In addition, it makes the management and value-adding use of this data to improve user experiences far more efficiently.
This is an area of blockchain use that is still in its infancy, but we are seeing the first shoots of what it can achieve with some loyalty reward programs. Singapore Airlines has led the way here, handing out reward points via KrisPay as digital tokens.
Getting serious with crypto
Ten years is a long time, and the message we are seeing is loud and clear. The time for gimmickry and experimentation is over, blockchain has enterprise-ready solutions that bring specific benefits in the digital era. These might include security, convenience, operational efficiencies, data transparency, or, most often, all of these in combination.
When you walk through a shopping mall, you might not see people using Bitcoin to make their purchases. But don’t be fooled. An incredible 86 percent of businesses in the US and 70 percent in the rest of the world are building blockchain teams. The applications to which they put the new technology might not be immediately obvious from the outside looking in. However, they will gradually infiltrate every aspect of our lives, until there comes the moment that we will wonder how we ever managed before blockchain and crypto came along.