In our inaugural episode of the Product Hacker podcast, we’re joined by Arcwebers Shahrukh Tarapore and Mark Hughey as we dig into the ups and downs of harnessing blockchain for everything from healthcare data to mortgages. Is it going to transform the way we handle data and commerce, or just make everything really confusing?
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Our 2018 tech outlook
We kicked off our 2018 emerging tech outlook by selecting three technologies to explore in this (and future) episodes – blockchain, wearables/IoT, and voice interfaces. We also called out two technologies we decided not to pick – augmented reality and machine learning (gasp!).
Why didn’t augmented reality and machine learning make the cut? Well, in the case of augmented reality, it remains a solution in search of a problem.
According to Shahrukh, the hype around augmented reality and virtual reality seems to exist on a 7-to-10 year cycle, with investment and utilization waxing and waxing in turn – but the tech itself never quite gains traction. He doesn’t see any reason this time will be different.
“The ability of augmented reality and virtual reality to be integrated into our daily lives – and into the types of activities that we want them to improve – there’s a disconnect,” explains Shahrukh. “We still haven’t solved the critical social aspects of how these technologies get integrated into our lives.”
Machine learning is another matter. While it holds enormous potential that’s already beginning to be realized, it’s not in-and-of-itself a “technology” – rather, it’s a whole family of technologies, including predictive analytics, natural language processing, and other disciplines, any of which are a topic unto themselves.
Blockchain apps vs. blockchain platforms
Most people know blockchain as the secret sauce that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.
As Mark explains in the episode, “There’s a distinction between bitcoin as a product and blockchain as a platform.” And so while Bitcoin is the most famous implementation of blockchain, there are hundred of other cryptocurrencies – as well as dozens of broader blockchain platforms that can each support their own subordinate applications, including Ethereum.
This presents something of a challenge for blockchain adopters – namely, selecting a platform that’s going to stand the test of time.
“The marketplace hasn’t answered the question of ‘What’s the platform?’” explains Mark. “As a consequence, every application built on blockchain technology runs the risk of becoming obsolete if they pick the wrong platform.”
Blockchain: Go now or wait for it?
So, is blockchain ready for widespread business adoption?
According to Mark, it depends on what you plan to do with blockchain. “If you’re someone who has a really good idea for a blockchain platform, I think you go for it – because that’s the question that the marketplace is trying to answer right now.”
But if you’re planning on building an app? Well, you might want to hold off – or run the risk of being obsolete in a year or two.
Shahrukh, on the other hand, encourages businesses to start looking into blockchain now in spite of the platform issue – largely due to the complexity of understanding the technology and its applications to business.
“I say ‘go now’ because it’s going to take a long time to wrap your head around the business problem and how solutions need to adapt to utilize blockchain,” he says, adding that companies that opt to wait a few years for the technology to mature will find themselves at a disadvantage compared to early adopters – even if it takes time for those efforts to bear fruit.
“Let go of all the hype around cryptocurrencies,” urges Shahrukh. “Distributed ledgers, distributed trust, anonymity – if these are things that have been holding you back from being able to offer new value to users, then you need to be looking at blockchain.”
This is part 1 of our 3-episode series on emerging technologies to consider in 2018. Check out episodes 2 and 3, where we explore wearables/IoT and voice interfaces.
1:10 – Meet Mark and Shahrukh
1:40 – Augmented reality, machine learning, & why we’re not talking about them
5:20 – How our tech outlook works
7:10 – Is 2018 the year that blockchain “happens”?
8:40 – Using blockchain to eliminate the middleman (and what to do if you ARE the middleman)
11:20 – Is technology or bureaucracy holding back blockchain?
17:50 – Blockchain platforms vs. blockchain apps
19:40 – Should you start using blockchain now or wait for it to mature?
Shahrukh Tarapore, Head of Engineering @ Arcweb Technologies | LinkedInShahrukh has 15 years of experience in research and development and delivering software technology to both startups and large corporations. At Arcweb, he leads the team of engineers and sets technology strategy for the company and its clients.
Mark Hughey, Project Manager @ Arcweb Technologies | LinkedIn
Mark has spent his career consulting with organizations of every shape and size. At Arcweb, he helps customers establish digital product strategies and tackle business challenges with the help of our integrated agile design and development teams.