Ten to fifteen years ago the word ‘algorithm’ first gained popularity as Silicon Valley titans like Amazon, Google, and Facebook rose to prominence. But few understood just how algorithms worked and what they would mean for our world. Flash forward to 2018 and we’re now well acquainted with algorithms and how they shape our daily lives – from the friends we interact with online to our car service’s optimal route to the airport. In many ways “blockchain” is the “algorithm” of today, a buzzword we’re hearing more often, but with little understanding of what it is and its implications are for our future. At 360i, we’re of the mindset that blockchain technology will impact vast swaths of our world, just like algorithms have, and in its evolution we see an opportunity to dive in and educate our employees and clients on the growing technology.
Late in March we hosted hundreds of hungry minds for a panel titled “Blockchain: Foundation and Future” in our NYC office. Joining our conversation, which was also broadcast on Facebook Live, were two of the blockchain industry’s most prominent minds: Luke Mulks from Brave, whose company is revolutionizing the digital advertising scene, and Fennie Wang, from ixo Foundation, a company that leverages blockchain technology to reimagine the nonprofit sector. To kick the day off, we started with the basics:
What is a blockchain?
By definition, blockchains are “digitized, decentralized, ledgers of transactions.” In laymen’s terms, they’re “digital, hosted-by-users, transparent records of ownership.” Unlike centralized servers, which are vulnerable and susceptible to hacking, breaking into a decentralized blockchain is incredibly challenging. Imagine this: instead of having to break into one house to get away with valuables, a thief would have to break into every home in the neighborhood at the exact same time without anyone noticing. In addition to being incredibly secure, blockchains are also fast, reliable, and transparent when compared to their traditional centralized counterparts.
How are businesses using blockchain?
As the technology enters the market, businesses are implementing it in a variety of ways, proving blockchain’s diversity of applications. Walmart is using the technology to trace food back to its origins nearly instantly. If a salmonella outbreak occurs in animal products, Walmart can discover not just which farm the infected product came from, but what pen, and even which specific animal the contaminated product came from. And they can find all that out in less time than it takes to read this sentence. JPMorgan Chase is using blockchain to settle international transactions more quickly and efficiently. AT&T, Beyer, and others are using blockchain for better advertising validation in an attempt to limit ad fraud. And Nestlé has partnered with IBM to use blockchain to provide transparency to its supply chain and make it easier than ever to trace a product’s origins.
What makes blockchain different from bitcoin?
You’ve probably heard the word blockchain in the same sentence as the word Bitcoin, but these two terms should not be confused. Bitcoin – the digital currency – lives on a blockchain, just like a website lives on the Internet. In the same way that the Internet is capable of much more than just hosting websites, blockchain is capable of hosting much more than just Bitcoin.
After addressing the fundamentals, we turned to our two panelists, Luke and Fennie, for a deeper dive. Luke painted a compelling picture of a digital ad landscape where users have full control their privacy and data, while brands gained full transparency into their media placements and ad spends. Brave has forged ahead building this world – led by their CEO/previous co-founder of Mozilla, Brendan Eich – and launched their slick and promising Brave browser a few years ago. Brave is a browser that takes a privacy first approach for users and uses blockchain to make things more efficient for all parties: advertisers, publishers and users. The project has been heralded by many in the industry as the blockchain solution for digital advertising, and if our conversations were any indication, they’re well on their way to being just that.
Stepping outside of advertising directly, Fennie, shared interesting anecdotes about her introduction to the blockchain space during her time as an attorney, as well as her interest in blockchain as it relates to nonprofits. She envisions a world where 501(c)(3) organizations and major brands work together and use blockchain to quantify an investment’s impact, and ultimately reward the brand and its participating fans with cryptocurrencies or utility tokens.
In all, the session demonstrated how blockchain technologies work and why they’re poised to have a major impact on so many industries, advertising notwithstanding.
We’re incredibly grateful to our panelists for joining us in this exhilarating discussion, and will continue to identify opportunities for our clients and partners to capitalize on this new technology.
Still looking to learn more? Catch the full discussion on our Facebook page.