The Curse of Blockchain Washing

Not so long ago it was impossible to escape the word “Cloud” in any technology supplier’s marketing material. So much so that the term “Cloud Washing” emerged, I even wrote about this at the time (slightly dated perhaps; over 6 years ago!) frustrated at the blatant attempts by some vendors to jump on the bandwagon.

Fast forward to present day; according to Gartner, we are nearing the end of the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” where Blockchain is concerned. I think we can all breathe a sign of relief if this is actually true. Unfortunately I think we have a fair way to go yet.

It’s particularly disappointing that by simply adding “blockchain” to one’s company name is profitable; “blockchain washing” of epic proportions, far exceeding the cloud washing efforts of technology vendors over the past 10 years.

The main problem with blockchain washing is that some of the very valid use cases are being drowned out by the useless noise and veritable blockchain mania.

Distributed ledger technology is a fantastic technological innovation that can provide significant benefits when being used appropriately. However, it is wholly unsuitable for some of the purposes that I have encountered.

Perhaps best exemplified by the recent PonziCoin parody.

Unfortunately, the joke was too well-executed; too realistic for a number of eager “investors” experiencing FOMO and ending up being out of pocket. A quick scan of the FAQ’s would have revealed:

Q: Is this a scam?

A: Yes, it's as much a scam as 99% of the ICOs out there, but it's more transparent about it :)

Be warned – blockchain is not suitable for everything! There are many scenarios where it would be a bad idea to use blockchain technologies. These include:

  • A significant number of ICO’s; they may be profitable as investments due primarily to FOMO but the use of tokens and blockchain is frequently dramatically overstated
  • Scenarios where a traditional relational database is well-suited and blockchain would provide no security, scalability or trust advantages
  • Real-time high volume read/write requirements, or large volumes of data

There are plenty of valid existing architectural patterns that have served us well to date, but there are also some clear examples where blockchain technology would provide a far better option.

So aside from cryptocurrencies what are the good use cases for Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) or using a blockchain?

  • Digital Identity – evidence that the attributes have been verified (e.g. by using a hash) – I’m not suggesting that the core attributes of ones identity should be stored unencrypted on a public database of sorts. The valuable aspects of digital ID are the attributes and the fact they have been verified by a trusted party so they can be shared with selected others.
  • Audit Trails – ensuring that a record of activity is immutable.
  • Tokenisation – representation of physical objects in the digital world. For example, house deeds or other documents. Registers of assets, for example.

There are other scenarios of course, as with all technology choices, it’s important to weigh up all the pros and cons.

At Atam ID we are building identity solutions that leverage blockchain technologies to ensure that attributes can be re-used appropriately, with the user in control of their identity.

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