How Blockchain Will Enable Mobile Apps In The Enterprise

Esther Shein

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ve heard something about blockchain, the immutable distributed ledger technology used to record transactions in encrypted blocks that cannot be modified. The technology is the backbone of the popular bitcoin digital currency.

Blockchain technology removes the middleman (like a bank), enabling mobile transactions to be conducted by two parties, which reduces the potential for hacking.

Although the technology is still in the nascent stage, it is being eyed for a number of use cases, and the mobile and security industries are taking notice.

Huawei Technologies, for one, announced that it is developing the first blockchain-based phone so that people can store and use digital currencies without having to pay transaction fees, according to Bloomberg.

The Lenovo Group recently introduced its Lenovo S5, which features an encrypted “Z-space” blockchain-based payment system. And blockchain real estate startup ShelterZoom has developed a service and mobile app based on blockchain that aims to streamline the way real estate offers are made.

There’s no doubt the technology is creating opportunities for mobile application developers (and security practitioners) in a variety of industries. In financial services, for example, blockchain is being eyed for use in stock trading, as well digital wallets and identity verification. This comes as access controls remain paramount to enterprise security. Industry observers also speculate that mobile apps for e-payments might, perhaps, be the biggest use case of blockchain.

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In an enterprise context, besides mobile payments, you can also expect to see blockchain used in IoT devices and systems and to enable a mobile workforce. When transactions are recorded and IoT devices communicate, blockchain technology provides the transparency necessary to identify any malicious activity. For employees working from home and from multiple devices, blockchain provides more secure collaboration and thus, the potential for increased productivity.

Another use case for mobile blockchain is smart grid systems containing smart meters, which record energy consumption data and energy transactions.

“Certainly, mobile is a natural fit and there’s been lot of mobile wallets using cryptocurrencies,” said Bruce Fenton, Founder and President of Atlantic Financial, a financial services investment firm specializing in emerging technologies. “I’m a big believer that the blockchain industry will grow and I think you will see that reflected in mobile, for sure.”

Awareness Remains Low

At the same time, Gartner’s 2018 CIO survey revealed that only one percent of CIOs have adopted blockchain within their organizations, and only eight percent of CIOs have short-term plans for blockchain or are actively conducting blockchain experiments.

IT industry CompTIA found similar results. Across 12 different emerging technologies in CompTIA’s latest research study, blockchain had the lowest level of awareness, with only 21% of respondents saying they had recently consumed some information on blockchain.

However, among that group, there is a belief that blockchain will be a game-changer, with 43% of those familiar with blockchain saying they are already seeing the technology have an impact at their company, and 30% believe they will see an impact in one to two years.

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“Part of the reason that blockchain has low awareness is that it is primarily a building block for other applications that a company might use,” explained Seth Robinson, Senior Director of Technology Analysis at CompTIA.

For many firms, blockchain may simply appear in the applications and processes they use daily, whether those applications deal with digital identity, distributed storage or regulatory compliance, Robinson said.

“There is no doubt that blockchain holds the potential to greatly disrupt these processes by decentralizing control structures and creating distributed ledgers,” he noted, “but many companies may not realize those benefits until there is a sufficient network of blockchain-enabled infrastructure to replace the current models.”

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