When Bitcoin began its meteoric rise in both value and notoriety in 2007, you could be forgiven if you missed its true significance. I’m not talking about the billions of dollars in wealth that the new kind of currency seemed to have created out of whole cloth overnight. I’m talking about the fact that it was also the debut of blockchain technology, which has since turned out to be the real standout of the cryptocurrency revolution.
For businesses, blockchain represents a flexible technology that can be adapted for a variety of use cases. Already, major corporations have put it to use doing everything from tracking shipping containers across the globe to making sure that the produce we buy at the supermarket won’t make us sick. Smaller businesses, however, still haven’t taken much advantage of the power of blockchain – mostly because they’re not sure how to approach it and what it could do for them.
As it’s been said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, the most sensible place for small businesses to begin is by understanding some of the available major blockchain platforms and what they’re being used for. Let’s dive in.
For most small businesses, choosing a blockchain to work with won’t mean much if they then struggle to put together the technical know-how to use it. That’s what makes the IBM Blockchain such an attractive platform. Since it’s backed by one of the most well-known and storied tech companies around, businesses that choose the platform have a built-in reservoir of experts that can help them get their blockchain initiatives up and running. More importantly, IBM’s blockchain platform is already in use in a variety of real-world applications ranging from Walmart’s food tracking platform to the We.trade small business finance organization. So far, participants in those projects have lauded them for their ease-of-use and shallow learning curve, highlighting what a perfect fit IBM’s blockchain is for small businesses.
For businesses that want all of the flexibility that comes with a major blockchain platform like the one offered by IBM, but without the attachment to Big Blue that it requires – there’s Hyperledger Fabric. It’s the open-source version of the same system IBM itself offers, which means it has many of the same features and capabilities of its corporate cousin. In fact, Hyperledger itself – which is part of the Linux Foundation – is an umbrella group founded to advance blockchain as a technology all around the world. Forex Academy reports that Hyperledger Fabric is behind a variety of real-world projects already and is well suited to small business blockchain projects of all kinds. Best of all, everything produced by Hyperledger is released under the Apache 2.0 license, so it is and will always remain free to use – and what small business wouldn’t like that?
Unlike the previous two options, which exist solely as development platforms, small businesses also have the option of building their projects using Ethereum. It’s a well-known blockchain platform and cryptocurrency ecosystem that is the second largest in the world (behind only Bitcoin). It’s real value, however, is that it enables businesses to develop apps that rely on blockchain smart contracts and that don’t require sophisticated programming to get up and running. A great example of how powerful this can be is the recent project Basic Attention Token, which aims to create a digital advertising ecosystem that pays users for their attention. It’s a response to the rise of ad blockers, which now drain the revenue of traditional advertisers. Small businesses can apply the same kind of logic and use Ethereum to power their own paradigm-shifting applications.
The Blockchain Bottom Line
The three blockchain platforms mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg, of course. There are more blockchain platforms than one could hope to list in one place. Still these three represent the large mainstream options that should suit the vast majority of small businesses. From a development perspective, the only difference between them comes down to what type of project the business seeks to build. For complex, enterprise-scale applications, IBM’s platform is a great choice. For powerful, low-cost development, Hyperledger is perfect. If the goal is to build out a blockchain project with the shortest possible lead time, Ethereum is the way to go.
That means the next step in the process for small businesses is to dream up the application they hope to make into a reality with blockchain. Then, all that’s left to do is build it and reap the rewards it provides!