Blockchain: From Online Hype to Commercial Reality?

November 19, 2018

Blockchain – the most famous of the distributed ledger technologies, or DLT –  has for some time now been a familiar word whose meaning few truly know. As with various apparently seismic developments before it, blockchain has seemed on the tips of countless tongues, the headlines of innumerable think-pieces, and the subject of myriad corporate presentations for a good few years. New and exciting technologies tend to produce evangelism and hype, and blockchain has proved an exemplar in this way.

According to the IDC Spending Guide published in July 2018, worldwide spending on blockchain forecast to reach $11.7 Billion in 2022.  Mobile network operators however are realistic people, who do not alight bandwagons prematurely; DLT’s potential is real, and is clear to many players in the industry, but remains yet at the scoping stage. Wholly fresh technologies with such potentially various applications require prolonged strategic assessment before serious investments and wide-scale deployments can be made.  Operators have already successfully tested DLT in an array of contexts, from identity services TO digital currency, but these remain in their infancy and mass consumer recognition remains low.

As one insightful recent report from Gartner points out, only 1% of CIOs report any uptake of blockchain at all. DLT solutions will only make their way from chat forums to service offerings at scale where they offer demonstrable commercial value, and from a consumer perspective that means simple, predictable, and low-risk payment models – which offer clear advantages over existing cloud-based solutions. The acid test must be something like “if we removed the word blockchain from the product description, would it still be attractive?”. When consumers recognise that DLT offers more effective ways of establishing trust and transferring authenticated data, the answer will be a resounding ‘yes’ – but that time has not yet come.

 

The mobile industry is still therefore at the exploratory stage when it comes to DLT; there is, nonetheless, a good deal of exploratory work going on. Among the most recent products of this work is the GSMA’s comprehensive new report Opportunities and Use Cases for Distributed Ledger Technologies in IoT, which sets out the technical state of play, and shared challenges for operators considering a move into this space. The findings are frank but encouraging – there is much yet to do, but a wide range of use cases are now quickly emerging to which operators can turn their hand – from healthcare and insurance to logistics and consumer devices.

Tracking of supply chains, for instance, can be streamlined immensely by use of DLT to share records between the diffuse parties who make them up – suppliers, shipping companies, customs agents, importers and so on – allowing stakeholders to access records in real time without requiring complex intermediation.  In digital healthcare there are applications already being tested in patient data management, whereby the need for enormous databases can be negated and patients can maintain their own data on devices such as blood-pressure monitors, and allow practitioners and insurers secure access to it.  The energy sector stands to make enormous efficiency gains through decentralisation of storage and production, opening up the prospect of peer-to-peer transactions, and even civic uses such as e-voting are becoming increasingly viable.

All of these applications, and the many more outlined in the report, are spaces in which the mobile industry is already a proven and natural partner.  As existing providers of global connectivity, with the necessary technical infrastructure and expertise in digital identity already in place, there is hardly a more obvious candidate in play to make good on the evident potential of DLT solutions.  A recent report by GSMA Intelligence provides a compendious overview of how this can be achieved, but also a frank assessment of what remains to be done before the rewards can be seen at scale.  One challenge is that improvements still remain outstanding to ensure pairing of devices and users, so verification is truly being achieved of personal identity and not merely of devices. Data analytics platforms, too, do not yet optimally support real time application to assets in transit, as are necessary in logistics – constant updates across highly complex supply chains require a degree of interoperability which is fast being achieved, but is not yet fully there. These present shortcomings are however precisely those identified by the industry itself for resolution, and form the next stage of business planning for operators with a serious interest in monetising the possibilities DLT can offer.

As Telefonica has demonstrated through a recent collaboration with IBM – which saw the two giants implementing the technology to streamline their own internal business processes – blockchain can add real value to these kinds of applications in enterprise, by making device, connectivity and data management functions more efficient. We can expect to see many more such votes of confidence in blockchain from operators and their partners in the medium term.  Deployments through vertical industries in the IoT stand to improve the security and reliability of frequent e-payments, such as those in smart parking, while also enhancing privacy in such sensitive areas as smart healthcare. The burgeoning sharing economy as a whole provides naturally fertile soil for DLT – in car rentals, for instance, where driving records can be stored to allow swifter risk assessments and identity verification.  Where users can ‘carry’ their identities, preferences and payment information securely with them between services without needing to re-register, the efficiency and convenience DLT can add will quickly become evident at scale.

 

Back

LTE-M Commercialisation Case Study: How AT&T and Telstra Connect Milli This paper outlines how two of the world’s leading mobile operators – AT&T and Telstra – are using LTE-M technology to roll out innovative new services. In...

Read more | See all Resources

Connected Honeybee Hive – The Bee Corp, NimbeLink and Verizon Understand how the endangered honeybee stock can be preserved by deploying IoT asset trackers managed by The Bee Corp and NimbeLink on Verizon’s LTE-M network, through moni...

Read more | See all Resources

Introduction to GSMA Internet of Things Programme (Spanish) at Mobile 360 L Watch Stefano Nicoletti, Policy Director, Technology Policy, Government & Regulatory Affairs, GSMA introduce GSMA Internet of Things Programme in Spanish at Mobile 360 Latin...

Read more | See all Resources

On-Demand Webinar: What Next for Mobile Operators in the IoT? With the growth of the Internet of Things, new roles are emerging for mobile operators. Watch this webinar to hear senior operator speakers discuss how they are leveraging new en...

Read more | See all Resources

TED Talk: How the Internet of Things is Helping Solve Real Problems You’re surrounded by things connected to the internet — from cars and smart elevators to parking meters and industrial machines used for manufacturing. Aruna Srinivasan w...

Read more | See all Resources

Opportunities and Use Cases for Edge Computing in the IoT This paper explores the benefits to the IoT of edge computing and some of the different use cases where it could be applied. It explores the potential operator role for IoT edge ...

Read more | See all Resources

5G and Mobile IoT Prove Natural Partners for the Year Ahead Svetlana Grant, IoT Programme Director, GSMA There are times when some in the industry quietly wish 5G had been given another name.  The capability leap is simply not comparable...

Read more | See all Industry News

LTE-M Commercialisation Case Study: How AT&T and Telstra Connect Milli This paper outlines how two of the world’s leading mobile operators – AT&T and Telstra – are using LTE-M technology to roll out innovative new services. In...

Read more | See all Industry News

The Mobile IoT Experience at MWC19 Barcelona Learning, Building, Testing with LTE-M and NB-IoT Fira Montjuic, Hall 8, 4YFN Monday, 25 February – Wednesday, 27 February 09:00 – 20:00 Discover Mobile IoT the immersive way...

Read more | See all Industry News

Blockchain: From Online Hype to Commercial Reality? Blockchain – the most famous of the distributed ledger technologies, or DLT –  has for some time now been a familiar word whose meaning few truly know. As with various appar...

Read more | See all Industry News

GSMA IoT On-Demand Webinar: Industry 4.0 – Optimising Industrial IoT A total of 70 Mobile IoT networks, including LTE-M (Long Term Evolution for Machines) and NB-IoT (NarrowBand IoT), have been launched, enabling a fraction of the 25.2 billion IoT...

Read more | See all Industry News

Mobile IoT Doubled in Range – Without the Need for Hardware Upgrades Barbara Pareglio, Technical Director, Internet of Things Programme, GSMA Mobile IoT has turned a corner: one that makes connection of even the remotest areas, such as those in ru...

Read more | See all Industry News

GSMA IoT Webinar Series: SIM-ply Secure – Leveraging the S January 23, 2019 The SIM is the only common component across all types of cellular IoT devices, providing a trusted and standardised foundation for the Internet of Things. Being hardwar...

Read more | See all Connected Living Events

8th Mobile IoT Summit February 24, 2019 Join the 8th Mobile IoT Summit to hear the latest industry updates from senior IoT experts. Companies include AT&T, Huawei, Nokia, Singtel and Telefonica. Extensive...

Read more | See all Connected Living Events

MWC19 Barcelona Seminar: The Internet of the Skies – Conne February 26, 2019 Tuesday, 26 February 2019, 11:00 – 12:30 Seminar Theatre 1, Hall 1, South Entrance (Level 1), Fira Gran Via This GSMA seminar explores real life case studies, demonst...

Read more | See all Connected Living Events

MWC19 Barcelona Seminar: Future Proofing the Internet of Thi February 26, 2019 Seminar Theatre 1, Hall 1, South Entrance (Level 1), Fira Gran Via Without security, today’s vision for the Internet of Things cannot become tomorrow’s reality. If ...

Read more | See all Connected Living Events

MWC19 Barcelona Seminar: Beyond Connectivity – Operato February 27, 2019 Wednesday, 27 February 2019,  13:30 – 15:30  Seminar Theatre 1, Hall 1, South Entrance (Level 1), Fira Gran Via This GSMA seminar at MWC19 explores new mobile opera...

Read more | See all Connected Living Events