Successes for 2021
Blockchain for vaccine tracking and distribution
Soon we will probably see blockchain being used to track vaccines from the point of production to the patient. At every step of the way, the technology could be used to create a permanent and tamper-proof record of where each batch was at any given time. To do this at the speed necessary to make vaccines effective worldwide, processes for demand forecasting, supply chain management, and authentication need to be developed.
The current leader in solving these problems is IBM, which has a working system and is in talks with pharmaceutical companies to launch a pilot project.
Two British hospitals are also testing the expansion of a blockchain system that is currently being used to track the distribution of chemotherapy drugs, as well as to track the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine. Vaccine shipments have internal sensors to ensure that they do not exceed the minimum safe temperature. If they do, a permanent, non-erasable record will automatically be added to the blockchain to ensure that the drugs are safely removed from the supplies.
If these projects prove successful, it looks like another very valuable use case for blockchain will be created, and we can expect it to be replicated on a large scale.
The continued growth of enterprise blockchain
Enterprise investment in blockchain technology is projected to reach nearly $16 billion by 2023. By comparison, spending was about $2.7 billion in 2019, and we’ll see that accelerating next year.
Banking and financial services will undoubtedly lead the way because of their obvious bookkeeping suitability, as well as the disruptive impact of cryptocurrencies themselves. In addition, applications will increasingly be used in health care, manufacturing, distribution, and professional services. Confidence in technology is also growing, with a recent Gartner survey showing that 14% of enterprise blockchain projects are moving into production in 2020, up from 5% in 2019.
The rise of NFT in gaming
NFT is a hot topic right now, and we’ll be hearing more about it.
While the global gaming industry continues to grow in all markets, it is still structured to primarily benefit game developers and maintain a one-way flow of value as players spend money to unlock access to game resources and gameplay configurations. In contrast, blockchain-based games and decentralized applications (dApps) allow players to more effectively capture the utility and value of in-game purchases and asset purchases.
Blockchain technology in games is based on non-exchangeable tokens (NFTs), digital assets that represent in-game content. These benefits can drive mass adoption and create a much fairer value model.
The challenge of 2021
The carbon footprint of cryptocurrency mining
Recent estimates of the amount of energy used in bitcoin mining have recorded ranges from about 75 (Digiconomist) to 140 (Cambridge University) terawatt hours (TWH) per year. Since the code underlying the network allows only a certain number of bitcoins to be created at set intervals (currently set at 6.25 bitcoins every ten minutes), all this power simply increases the speed at which computers must work to produce the same amount of cryptocurrency.
The growing power needs of the network are truly staggering compared to other potential applications. Based on a lower estimate of 75 TWh per year, each new bitcoin currently uses about 228,000-kilowatt hours (kWh) to produce. In other words, the production of just one bitcoin consumes as much energy as 18 Americans or more than 1,500 Nigerians a year.
Market participants must actively work together to realize a low-emission future based on clean, renewable energy. The Crypto Climate Accord (CCA) was launched in April 2021 with more than 40 supporters, including Ripple, the World Economic Forum, Energy Web Foundation, Rocky Mountain Institute, and ConsenSys, to enable all blockchains worldwide to run on 100% renewable energy by 2025.
Some industry participants are exploring renewable energy solutions, but the industry still has a long way to go on this issue. While 76% of hashers claim to use renewable energy to power their operations, only 39% of total hashing energy consumption is from renewable sources.