Along with other technology
trends like Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality, blockchain has become
a buzzword in Silicon Valley and beyond. Blockchain is the distributed ledger
that powers bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Now it’s proving its potential
in other fields including the Internet of Things, supply chains, finance and
Tech giants such as IBM and
Microsoft are starting to invest in blockchain and plan to incorporate its
features and innovations into their businesses. Experts believe that blockchain
will be a defining factor in the future of the Internet and online business.
Consequently, knowledge of
blockchain use cases and development can help your business in the long run,
and your career as a technology expert and software developer.
What Is Blockchain?
At its core, blockchain is a
distributed data store. As opposed to traditional data repositories, which
store data in centralized servers and server clusters, blockchain creates
copies of its ledger and stores it on thousands and millions of computers, also
called nodes. A reasonable number of nodes must validate every new record
before it is registered. Once confirmed, the record is stored in the ledger and
propagated across the network of participating nodes.
What makes blockchain
special? As the culmination of decades of cryptography and cybersecurity
research, the mechanism underlying blockchain makes it a reliable and
tamper-proof platform for exchange of sensitive information. As the blockchain
relies on no centralized point of access, it has no single point of failure and
is virtually hack-proof.
With the advent of bitcoin,
blockchain overhauled the online financial landscape and enabled the secure
transfer of monetary value in trustless environments, without reliance on third
party brokers such as banks and payment platforms. Blockchain fixes a number of
problems that stem from the ephemeral nature of virtual currencies, such as
independent ownership and double spending. A number of platforms are using
blockchain as a cybersecurity tool to prevent attacks on data stores and
Smart contracts, programs
that are automatically run on the blockchain after transaction completion,
further expand the capabilities of the technology. Smart contracts enable the
development of autonomous organizations and companies that can be run via crowd
consensus and control.
Who’s Hiring Blockchain
Beyond the world of
cryptocurrencies, blockchain is showing promise in a number of industries. A
few examples follow.
- In the music industry,
blockchains are creating new possibilities by creating direct relationships
between artists and fans and putting power back into the hands of those who
create the art.
- In manufacturing and
distribution, blockchain is enforcing greater transparency into the supply
chain, making it easier to audit and verify the provenance of goods and the
true cost of production.
- In the gaming industry,
blockchain can support the virtual economies that have emerged in the past
decade, giving players more control over their assets inside and outside games.
It is also making it easier for indie developers to compete in an environment
that is becoming increasingly polarized and controlled by bigger players.
- A number of institutions
that handle sensitive information, such as the military and healthcare
organizations, are considering blockchain as the key to maintaining the
integrity of their information and infrastructure.
These are just some of the
fields where you can expect to find a well-paying job if you have solid
blockchain development knowledge. Blockchain is slowly finding its way into
other domains and industries as well. Wall Street is heavily investing in
blockchain, creating lots of new jobs.
What are the Leading
There are currently two main
blockchain platforms: bitcoin and ethereum. Most applications are built on one
of the two. There are other less popular blockchains, and some companies create
their own proprietary blockchains.
While these blockchains are
public, which means all users and applications share the entire ledger, other
blockchains such as Hyperledger, provide private, permissioned blockchains for
a limited and defined number of users. These are more useful in industrial and
niche sectors where a limited number of parties take part.
How do I Get Started in
Blockchain is an
infrastructural technology, which means it will underlie other software such as
web and mobile applications.
Fortunately, as the
technology becomes increasingly popular, the tools and applications that
facilitate its use are increasing in number.
As open-source projects, the
source code for popular blockchains is available for reuse and adaptation.
Getting involved in the projects and different forks will require experience
with GitHub, where the developers share and discuss their code.
Since most of these projects
have been developed in C++, having solid knowledge of the language is almost
fundamental. However there are libraries available in easier programming
languages and platforms. Here are a few resources to help you get started:
- If you're a web developer,
The Marmelab Blog will get you started in understanding the dynamics of the
technology. It gives a hands-on example in Solidity, a language that resembles
- If you're a C# programmer,
Blockchain Programming in C# is an in-depth and free book that will get you
started on blockchain programming.
- DApps for Beginners is a
blog that gets you started on Decentralized Apps on the ethereum blockchain.
- IBM Blockchain 101 is a good
resource for learning blockchain development. It's mostly focused on IBM's own
Bluemix platform and coding for Hyperledger Fabric with Go and Java, but the
base knowledge can be applied to other platforms too.
Blockchain as a Service
An alternative to quickly
get started with blockchain technology is to sign up with one of the blockchain
cloud providers. Some of the more popular services are IBM Blockchain and
Microsoft Azure Blockchain.
The benefit of using a
cloud-based blockchain service is that it abstracts away the complexities of
implementation. This can help you harness and master the technology and its
uses without the need to acquire sophisticated skills.
With less than eight years
of age, blockchain is still in its infancy. But what's for sure is that it's
here to stay, and it will have a louder voice in the tech community and other
industries in the years to come. Now's a good time to start on a blockchain