Blockchains are one of the most important technologies to emerge in recent years, with many experts believing they will change our world in the next two decades as much as the internet has over the last two.
Although it is early in its development, firms pursuing blockchain technology include IBM, Microsoft, Walmart, JPMorgan Chase, Nasdaq, Foxconn, Visa, and shipping giant Maersk. Venture capitalists have so far poured $1.5 billion into the space, with storied firms such as Andreessen Horowitz, Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, and Khosla Ventures making bets on startups.
The applications for blockchain technology seem endless. While the first obvious ones are financial -- international payments, remittances, complex financial products -- it can also solve problems and create new opportunities in health care, defense, supply chain management, luxury goods, government, and other industries.
In more advanced stages, the technology could give rise to what Gartner calls “the programmable economy,” powered by entirely new business models that eliminate all kinds of middlemen, machine networks in which devices engage in economic activity, and “smart assets” in which some form of property such as shares in a company can be traded according to programmable or artificial intelligence-based rules rather than the control of a centralized entity.