Everything you need to know.
You’ve read about, heard it through the grapevine and have probably seen a series or documentary about it (check out Amazon Prime if not). But before everyone gets caught up in shares, trading and taking over the internet as we know it – let’s evaluate the evolution of this disruptive albeit fascinating industry.
We’ll establish who is responsible for blockchain, what is actually possible, where is it headed and most importantly, can we trust it?
Going back in time
A pretty brief history lesson here but important nevertheless. It is accepted that blockchain’s founding father is Satoshi Nakamoto, (often identified as not just one individual but rather a group) and the first ever blockchain was created in 2008, although blockchain as a concept dates back much further to 1991.
This newly-formed digital technology became transactional shortly after in 2012, so when we look at this timeline – it’s actually been around a lot longer than what people may initially think. However in more recent years, and thanks to the odd Amazon documentary or celebrity endorsement, its actual application and development has peaked significantly.
Fast-forward to 2020 and you’ll see a significant uptake in blockchain’s capability with new API’s – still largely dominated by the fintech sector. You would be wrong to assume these are simply neobanks.
In recent weeks we have seen VISA reveal its roadmap for a crypto software programme set to launch later this year. Other sectors catching up include healthcare and the legal industry who are well past piloting blockchain API benefits as explained further below. And only yesterday a global band announced their album release via blockchain so others are getting on board.
But it’s not the currency or transactional element that makes this possible, it is down to the technology.
Get your B’s in order
Blockchain, Bitcoin and banking – and that order is just fine. But let’s be very clear. Blockchain is the enabler, the doer, the cogs that get things in motion. Bitcoin, other crypto and digital currencies or companies can hop on board but none of it would be possible without the blockchain to begin with.
Putting it simply, blockchains are formed by individual blocks that are joined together and as a result, chains are formed. Each block carries a different piece of information or data, crucial to the usage of said blockchain in its application. Each block is positioned purposely to reference content held in the previous block and so on. What makes blockchains different, is how the data is stored.
It uses a decentralised network to ensure that every transaction is accurate and once a block is verified, it cannot be altered therefore ensuring that the blockchain contains only the most precise information. More global centralised services typically use numerous data sources.
That covers the basics.
Then have a look at our Blockchain Page Resources and browse through our extensive Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Books library for you to get further insights.
What are Blockchain APIs used for?
Blockchain APIs are increasingly being used by developers (and you can onboard a blockchain API agency or developer if you don’t have the resource in-house) to support owned programmes or connect with others through the network. API’s are nothing new and we know how they can be implemented but when it comes to cryptocurrency, blockchain API’s will provide companies with a number of benefits.
At the moment, these are largely centred around sending or receiving payments which become much easier, having a blockchain wallet service (needed to withdraw money) and being able to integrate with other third-party API’s relevant to your organisation. The ability to trade comes here too and these blockchain API’s pride themselves on real-time transparency.
Specific blockchain API’s have been created and some of those dominating the space are Coinbase, Bitcoin and Ethereum. When it comes to derivatives and other financial instruments, Argur is one to watch. But you can always check out this handy web API’s marketplace to compare courtesy of AIKON.
In case these blockchain API’s sound a little unfamiliar to you, and there are more popping up daily, we mentioned above that VISA has announced its financial roadmap for the year which will undoubtedly include API’s but Barclays is another recognised banking institution that has launched several technological offerings based on blockchain.
As a result, integrating with other sectors will become more accessible and trusted. But not everything that blockchain API’s offer relates to banking.
Sectors leveraging blockchain capabilities
The legal industry is already benefiting from blockchain API’s to safely secure data for ‘smart contracts’ and for simplified conveyancing. The automation, time stamp element and advantage of measuring or reviewing everything digitally, not to mention globally, provides a secure system for lawyers.
Similarly in healthcare, a sector drowned in patient records, claims and medical information, can benefit from blockchain API’s that connect disjointed systems that don’t speak to each other. While there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes, ultimately patients would not need to keep providing their medical information every time they visit a new hospital, surgery etc. Blockchain API’s will help to reduce lost data, missed test results or other information that goes into a medical black hole.
Within this new network and digital technology, API’s are significant because of the capability to hold and maintain private data through online transactions. Layers of APIs are used to increase security which makes it highly appealing to many sectors that handle data but have the need to handle it securely.
In short, blockchain API’s provide the basis of communication for each block with the network it intends to connect with through a service or transaction. For example, the exchange of a digital currency and the application that collects the data from that transaction.
Can we trust blockchains?
Users may still want to know if the network can be totally trusted.
And this is the million-block buster question. There has been some fairly negative press around blockchains and digital currencies, but like it or not – as the technology is not owned by any banks or government institutions, rather peers, and anyone in the world can be part of the network without physical verification – this allows users globally to be connected online instantly.