With Blockchain technology hitting the main stream media with the rapid rise in value of Bitcoin in 2017, the global market for the technology is expected to be worth $20bn by 2024.
What new job opportunities might Blockchain open up?
With the proliferation of Blockchain tech, Empiric holds the view that there is – and will be - demand for a host of new roles. The Financial Times reported that the number of Blockchain-related job ads on LinkedIn has trebled over the last year, while ‘Blockchain’ and ‘Bitcoin’ have been named the second and third hottest freelance skills of 2017. Indeed, last year, PwC’s then-head of Blockchain and smart contract tech noted that the largest challenge facing the field is simply a shortage of talent.
Rupert Colchester, IBM’s Blockchain Leader for the UK and Ireland offered his own insights to Empiric. “Blockchain app developers (writing smart contracts and chain code) and Blockchain architects (who understand how to design and architect a Blockchain network) are the two roles that are now in particularly high demand” he notes.
Other experts add that engineers with full stack development experience and a solid enterprise background – particularly in fintech – are also well placed to get ahead in the field. Holding a computer science or engineering degree, and possessing coding skills in C, C++, Java, Python or Go, meanwhile, will provide a strong foundation.
Of course, having a strong grasp of Blockchain, and its potential applications and benefits, can be a key differentiator for talent looking to break through in this field. It naturally makes sense to demonstrate a strong understanding of ledgers, consensus methods and Blockchain in general, and having worked on Blockchain frameworks and applications in the past can offer proof of both interest and experience.
Coming from a background in cryptography, algorithms and decentralized technologies will also come in useful. For developers hoping to expand their skillset, there are a wide range of courses and resources available both online and offline, suited to all ability levels.
How can this tech be deployed
While many critics observe that cryptocurrencies are widely used by criminals who wish to remain anonymous, Blockchain’s key properties ironically include transparency and traceability.
Applications extend from running payments, without the need for intermediaries, to smart contracts, in which financial transactions are executed as soon as a set of specified criteria have been met. The use cases can also be far wider.
Research suggests that the financial needs of 2.5 billion people around the world are not met by the existing financial system. Lack of access to such services carries a significant financial burden for them – so Blockchain tech could provide a huge benefit. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is currently exploring how Blockchain can be used to help those without bank accounts, for example.
On McKinsey’s insights portal, their senior vice president for growth Liana Douillet Guzmán offers an example of this in action. “I think about somebody who’s sending money home to the Philippines” she said. “The typical send is about $200 and the typical fee for that is $12. That’s a half day’s wage for the average person sending a cross-border payment. You can send it via Bitcoin for a couple of pennies.”
Meanwhile, Russia’s largest airline, S7, is using Blockchain to issue tickets for flights, while Storj is experimenting with edge cloud storage (making use of spare consumer hard drive space), encrypted via Blockchain. Dance act RAC even released an album on the Ethereum Blockchain, purchasable via the signing of a smart contract (giving the artist direct control of their copyright as well as the payment). Blockchain can also be used to identify people, acting as a permanent record of identity and hence combating human trafficking or helping election officials to counter fraud.
Is Blockchain technology scalable?
While Bitcoin can only support a limited number of transactions per second, these constraints do not apply to private, permissioned Blockchains.
“Working with the Hyperledger Fabric ‘protocol’, we have already seen well in excess of 1,000 transactions per second functioning fine across distributed Blockchain nodes,” says Rupert. And Blockchain networks can be readily scaled by increasing the number of nodes used.
While its detractors might once have believed that Bitcoin had a short shelf life, it is showing no sign of going away. Blockchain, meanwhile, is finding an ever-growing range of uses and is now providing trust and transparency in all manner of exchanges.
Juan Blanco, a senior Blockchain architect at Consensys and the founder of Nethereum compares the current state of the technology to the digital gold rush of the late 1990s. “If you think about the internet boom of 1999, there were many ideas. This is what’s happening now and we’re going to have solidification of all these ideas and some of them will disappear and some of them will succeed.”
Rupert Colchester comments, “We need knowledge and understanding at first… but for now I believe businesses need their own practitioners that can work with the likes of IBM to figure out how to integrate existing business processes and technologies with new-world Blockchain solutions [and] Blockchain ‘infused’ applications.”
As Blockchain is embedded across industry, government and the non-profit sector, the most critical challenge is likely to be the development of the skillsets and expertise needed to realise the opportunities that it offers.
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