In many respects, blockchain can be considered a mature technology. Though it hasn't yet reached its ultimate market penetration or even realized bitcoin's original ambition of endowing greater financial freedom, it's now caught on with developers, startups, and even long-established businesses. Blockchain isn't new anymore, and it's lost the novelty it once commanded to a degree. This means that real value must be brought to the table by innovative blockchain companies to advance the trend.
One of the first advantages that blockchain brought to the public was also its first idea: cryptocurrency. By denominating value safely and digitally, remittance and settlement of cross-border payments became largely costless, and it helped many transactional business models lower their overheads by running leaner and meaner on the blockchain. It is reminiscent of the way that the internet reduced customer service and operational costs for businesses, but also of their universal rush to adopt web-based models regardless of their relevancy. The market is now past its earliest days, and there are multiple blockchain competitors in every industry seeking to be the driving force behind a major disruption.
Accordingly, the mere addition of cryptocurrency payments to an eCommerce website, for example, are no longer enough to suffice. Blockchain developers are quickly unlocking deeper benefits of the young technology, and are using it to build services that employ cryptocurrency, but go beyond it as well. Here are a few of the nascent industry's best examples.
GOeureka – Hotels and Travel
Everyone is familiar with websites like Kayak, which aggregates travel arrangements and accommodations from thousands of sources the world over before displaying them on a convenient interface that people can order from. The benefits of such sites are undeniable, but they also do damage to the industry that they've allegedly improved. As one-stop-shops for travel, they take payments via credit card that rack up processing fees and add commissions for their service. Accordingly, both the hotels and airlines providing services alongside their customers are impacted by a model that puts them square in the middle.
Blockchain platform GOeureka uses cryptocurrency and blockchain to transfer funds at no cost and does not take commissions from the hotels on its platform. Hotels are free to seamlessly plug their available inventory and even their loyalty rewards programs into the blockchain with GOeureka, and take advantage of a more equitable, comprehensive marketplace model. Benefits are passed onto customers with features like re-booking, which reads the ledger and deposits money if a cheaper booking is found. Loyalty points are also interoperable on the GO platform, meaning that they're more flexible and can be used to accumulate different rewards.
Blocklancer – Remote Work
Cryptocurrency has a ripe opportunity when it comes to remote work and freelancing websites such as Upwork, Freelancer.com and Fiverr. Universally, these sites justify taking upwards of 20% from workers' pay just for being the authorities that process payments, arbitrate disputes (poorly) and act as "business development" interfaces. Companies like Blocklancer are self-defined "Distributed Autonomous Job" marketplaces, or DAJs.
Apart from offering faster, low-cost cryptocurrency payments, Blocklancer also employs smart contracts to reduce the cost of arbitration. First, all payments are released when work begins, but are held in escrow on the blockchain until it's finished. If a worker or employer has a dispute, the system will elect users willing to be the "tribunal" that arbitrates it, and pays them in the platform's cryptocurrency.
AverSpace – Short-Term Rentals and Real Estate
Renting rooms on AirBnB is cheaper than a hotel, usually, but fees eat into the cost and impact the profitability of the landlord. Blockchain platform AverSpace is a similar concept, but it uses cryptocurrency payments in place of credit cards to lower the model's overhead. There are also extra tools built on the AverSpace blockchain that help it lengthen its lead on AirBnB's value proposition, such as the DTA (Digital Tenancy Agreements) module, which supports easy remote signing and contract management.
In addition, renters will appreciate AverSpace's built-in capacity to pay instantly via the application, regardless if it's their rent or bills. They can also contact the landlord for building repair requests and discover deeper functionalities that are designed to streamline a sometimes-awkward relationship. So far, the platform has found a loyal audience in high-tech societies like Singapore, with ambitions to spread across the planet.
Blockchain's Powers Must Be Coaxed Out
It's important to look for blockchain platforms that offer deeper functionality and engage with their users on a level that goes beyond simple payments. Blockchain, smart contracts and tokenization can be used very creatively, but they're neglected by companies who just want to jump on the bandwagon as fast as possible. For blockchain to be taken seriously, companies acting as blockchain's ambassadors must be very conscious of their industry's major pain points while focusing on the sustainability of their own ecosystems.
Blockchain is a slow-rolling revolution, and so it's very encouraging that some companies are getting the recipe right. Inevitably, the best of them will accumulate users en masse, and dethrone prior-generation platforms. Innovation shouldn't stop there, because if anything, blockchain demonstrates that those who don't chase the cutting edge will get left behind faster than ever before.