Next year could be another exciting one for blockchain as many projects mature and focus on interoperability. In 2019, the technology under development may see implementation across business and consumer technology stacks.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency investors have had a year likely full of concerns over token price performance. Many are ready to see their investments, supporting this new technology, finally deliver. For the different blockchain networks vying to be the foundational technology that other organizations build their blockchain platforms or applications upon, blockchain is a constant innovation.
All are innovating and vying to be the blockchain of choice for new dApps and enterprise developments.
Ethereum wants to scale faster
The Ethereum blockchain is already widely used, with hundreds of traded tokens, or cryptocurrencies, based on the Ethereum blockchain. Further, the Ethereum blockchain boasts over 2,000 dApps built on its infrastructure.
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Ethereum is now working on updates to fix issues of speed and scalability and improve the functionality of smart contracts. For a first chain like Ethereum, there must be constant evolution as smart functionality increases and issues like interoperability and increased privacy are answered.
Ethereum’s forthcoming update, titled Constantinople, has just been delayed, probably until 2019, according to the team. The Constantinople update is planned to improve Ethereum’s efficiency, reduce block rewards for miners, and make the blockchain more resistant to ASIC miners.
The update was recently trialled for workability on the Ethereum test network, the pilot didn’t go as planned and Ethereum’s core development team agreed to postpone the full update until January 2019 while further development and off-chain testing is performed.
The planned efficiency improvements will speed up the blockchain, allowing dApps to function faster. They will also change how smart contracts are stored on Ethereum, making smart contract development and use on Ethereum cheaper for enterprises and organizations.
As the update goes ahead, block rewards for miners are being reduced because the Ethereum blockchain will become easier to mine, meaning the reward from successfully mining a block will become more frequent.
Lastly, ASIC miners, a new more powerful blockchain mining machine used by cryptocurrency miners, are pricing out smaller miners. Ethereum is working to prevent larger mining pools from mining more Ethereum and having too much power over its blockchain.
Casper and sharding
A second update is planned for Ethereum later in 2019. Ethereum 2.0 will include the Casper upgrade and add sharding to the Ethereum blockchain.
Casper will move Ethereum from a proof of work (PoW) blockchain, where blocks are mined by cryptocurrency miners, to a proof of stake (PoS) mechanism. PoS works on a principle of ownership of stake in the blockchain, usually through token or coin ownership. Staking participants help to govern the blockchain, improving decentralization. PoS also removes the threat of large cryptocurrency mining operations holding too much sway over a blockchain.
By adding a concept called sharding, the Ethereum blockchain will be able to improve the number and speed of transactions. This will make it more able to cope with hosting many different dApps and tokens and to perform well as these use-cases process more and more transactions.
Cardano is looking to add more use cases
Cardano’s “Shelley” blockchain mainnet is expected in 2019 and is highly anticipated by the blockchain space. Cardano could deliver advanced smart contract functionality, enabling companies to do more with blockchain.
Cardano has evolved from blockchain science, its team is substantial and includes some of the brightest minds in blockchain engineering and development. Mathematician Charles Hoskinson is a co-founder of Ethereum and founding chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation’s education committee. The Cardano blockchain will be PoS from the outset and aims to protect privacy but also meet regulatory requirements.
From day one, the Cardano platform aims to solve issues of scalability, speed, and decentralization faced by existing blockchains today. The Cardano community expects “Shelley” to deliver an enterprise-ready blockchain that can cope with the high transactional demand such a user base will expect.
For blockchains, transactions are not just monetary or figurative exchanges. Smart contracts enable the exchange and update of contextual and numeric information. For example, if Facebook was a dApp, every post or comment would trigger a “transaction.”
Currently Cardano has testnets running for developers who can begin to trial the technology for their own use cases.
OmiseGo wants to solve the unbanked crisis
The overarching goal of OmiseGo is to bring financial services, via its cryptocurrency and payments systems, to the world’s unbanked.
OmiseGo uses the Ethereum protocol for its blockchain and will be interoperable, or compatible, with Ethereum. It plans to deliver wallet-to-wallet transactions of cryptocurrencies and fiat currency, enable peer to peer payments, and deliver a scalable decentralized exchange.
The next step for OmiseGo, which may arrive in 2019, is to deliver a network that will be able to support the same volume of transactions as traditional financial services models. The “Tengen” milestone on the OmiseGo roadmap is the achievement of a decentralized exchange with “cash-in/cash-out capabilities and interoperability with different blockchains.”
Hyperledger wants to build a multifaceted commercial blockchain
Hyperledger is an open-source project originally created by The Linux Foundation. Now, with enterprise blockchain technology collaborators like IBM and Intel, the organization is focused on building a suite of projects for commercial and financial application.
While open-source, non-profit, and independent, Hyperledger is being adopted quickly by large organizations seeking blockchain and smart contract building tools. The organization now has ten key platforms of blockchain software in its portfolio, applicable to many industries.
Over 700 unique code developers from over 150 organizations have helped to develop Hyperledger’s blockchain technology stack. Hyperledger claims over 270 members – many of which are powerful global organizations.
Like other smart contract platforms, Hyperledger is working to answer issues of privacy, scalability, and interoperability.
For interoperability, Hyperledger is now working with Ethereum and the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance (EEA). The Linux Foundation and the EEA are now members of each others’ organizations.
“The open-source, standards-based, cross-platform collaboration between the two organizations will contribute to accelerating mass adoption of blockchain technologies for business,” said the recent announcement.
“For anyone who ever put a ‘vs.’ between Ethereum and Hyperledger, this collaboration shows it’s now ‘Ethereum AND Hyperledger,’” said Hyperledger Executive Director, Brian Behlendorf.
Both organizations hope developers will share their respective open-source projects for the greater good of blockchain development. Given that, 2019 will see them working together across industry special interest groups, working groups, meetups and conferences. This will help to deliver interoperability of the Hyperledger and Ethereum blockchains.
It will also serve to reassure enterprise users that their blockchain investments will become usable platforms which work for customers and consumers as seamlessly as today’s business platforms.
Polkadot hopes to use blockchain to return data sovereignty to individuals
Polkadot is building a completely interoperable blockchain, where organizations developing their own chains will be able to run them simultaneously with the Polkadot chain. Backed by Ethereum and Parity Technologies’ co-founder Gavin Wood, the blockchain hopes to become the foundation of “Web3”, the decentralized internet.
Developers and enterprises will be able to build on Polkadot after the blockchain’s scheduled launch in Q3 2019.
Interoperability will allow different blockchains, platforms, and dApps to communicate with each other more efficiently than the very different, vertical, blockchains being created today. In order to work for the mainstream, though, the Polkadot blockchain will have to work in the same way as we are able to use Windows, Gmail, banking applications and games; all on one device with those applications communicating fluidly with each other or running at the same time, without issue.
The decentralized internet could deliver applications and platforms which are no longer controlled by big corporations like Google, and hand user data back to the users themselves.
2019 – A year of speed, dApps, and interoperability
These developments, from some of the largest blockchain projects launched to date, are only a handful of examples of what is happening in the space. 2019 will hopefully see more blockchain projects reach maturity and turn into real world applications.
To achieve true maturity blockchains must answer the problem of scalability and become able to process transactions as quickly as today’s platforms and payments models.
These very different blockchains need to evolve to work together, to become interoperable, so that the end user has a fluid user experience between all the various technologies.
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