Blockchain was once a bold experiment, but today it has evolved into a revolutionary and mature tech that is entering more and more spheres of life. Businesses and investors now need to keep pace with this innovation to overtake their competitors and stay ahead of the game.
The blockchain was invented in 2008 as a technology to serve the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. In 2018, Bitcoin reached the peak of its popularity, and this became the starting point for the recognition of the technology itself.
Since then, Bitcoin has constantly been in the news as this cryptocurrency’s rates are always changing. In April 2021, the price of Bitcoin climbed to $63,729.50, according to Coin Metrics. This figure became the highest in the entire history of the existence of this cryptocurrency. What we can say for sure is that millions of people now bitterly regret not buying Bitcoin a decade ago when it only cost a couple of bucks.
As for blockchain, the technology has managed to get out of Bitcoin’s shadow and disrupt numerous industries such as finance, healthcare, supply chain, government, legal, and others. Most of the existing use cases are not even related to cryptocurrencies. Now, blockchain technology provides practical solutions for businesses and private individuals while inventing new use cases such as NFTs, blockchain-as-a-service, digital identities, and asset tokenization.
Read on to learn about the latest trends in blockchain technology that are shaping the future of businesses across the globe.
Blockchain statistics for 2021
Before diving into each blockchain trend, let’s look at facts and statistics showing blockchain growth and how this technology is transforming multiple industries and becoming a part of our lives.
- There are 74.74 million crypto wallet users worldwide
- The total market cap of all cryptocurrencies is constantly growing and as of July 19, 2021, was over $1.2 trillion
- More than 650 million transactions have been performed on the blockchain
- Global spending on blockchain-powered solutions is projected to reach $6.6 billion in 2021. The number will reach $19 billion by 2024
- According to Accenture, financial companies can save as much as $12 billion a year by using blockchain
- According to Gartner, by 2023, blockchain will support the global movement and tracking of goods and services worth $2 trillion annually.
NFTs revolutionizing digital art
NFTs are non-fungible tokens, which means they are one-of-a-kind and not equivalent to each other. A single copy of a unique digital asset can be turned into an NFT and then sold, purchased, and collected. One thing to keep in mind is that NFTs cannot be replicated.
NFTs were originally popularized by CryptoKitties, released in 2017. This Ethereum-based game allows players to buy, collect, breed, and sell virtual kittens. Each of these cats has its own unique appearance and traits.
Here we are, four years later, and the NFT blockchain trend has literally blown up. Media around the world has been “flooded” with news of token sales for eye-popping sums of money. For example, Mike Winkelmann, known as Beeple, sold his “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” work of art as a non-fungible token for $69.3 million at Christie’s.
What can be an NFT? Almost anything: works of art, video clips, GIFs, collectible cards, social media posts, concert tickets, and even in-person meetings.
Thus, blockchain technology and non-fungible tokens are transforming the perception of digital works and rights.
Interested in NFTs? Check out our NFT development services and enter the market with us
Blockchain helping to track and distribute vaccines
The successful development of COVID-19 vaccines has become the light at the end of the tunnel for people around the world. The next challenge for governments – safe and effective vaccine distribution to the public.
On the whole, blockchain has proven to be a great tool in supply chain management as it brings transparency, accountability, enhanced security, and trust to the process. These days, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of countries have started to use blockchain to track the distribution of vaccines.
The reason why they’ve opted for blockchain is that the tech offers benefits such as:
- Real-time visibility
Blockchain-powered systems record information at every stage of vaccine delivery and it’s impossible to change or delete it. This data includes times, schedules, transportation details and storage conditions, as well as information about the manufacturer and the recipient government agency.
- End-to-end traceability
Blockchain allows supply chain participants and in many cases even ordinary people to track the delivery of a vaccine from production to administration and end-users – the public. This will serve to increase people’s confidence in vaccines and governments and help defeat the coronavirus faster.
- Lower risks and timely vaccine recall
When the vaccine is on the way to the patient, some unexpected events may occur. This can result in spoilage, violation of storage conditions, supply chain disruptions, and other problems. Blockchain helps to detect these incidents and notify supply chain members about them so that the vaccine batches will be recalled on time.
There are several successful real-life use cases. For example, one of the first such initiatives in the world was launched in the UK. Here, two hospitals are utilizing blockchain to track and monitor the storage and supply of temperature-sensitive COVID-19 vaccines.
“We can absolutely verify the data that we’ve collected from every single device. We make sure that data is accurate at source, and after that point, we can verify that it’s never been changed, it’s never been tampered with,” said Tom Screen from Everyware, a company that monitors vaccines and other treatments for the NHS.
Blockchain helps these healthcare facilities provide safe patient care as well as speed up the vaccination process, thereby contributing to overall victory over the dangerous and destructive (and annoying) COVID-19.
Even if we finally get rid of this coronavirus, the use of blockchain in this area won’t stop. The tech will be applied to track the delivery of other vaccines, drugs, and medical equipment.
Stablecoins keep growing and attracting attention
While Bitcoin and Ether are definitely the most attractive and hyped cryptocurrencies, everyone is aware of their one big drawback – they’re extremely volatile. On the one hand, cryptocurrency holders can capitalize on volatility when currency rates rise. On the other, prices can fall dramatically and you can lose a lot of money.
As for stablecoins, the name speaks for itself. It is also a blockchain-based coin, but its value is pegged in a 1:1 ratio to a traditional currency such as dollars, euros, or rubles. Stablecoins can also be backed by commodities like gold or oil.
Basically, stablecoin is a hybrid of crypto and fiat currencies that combines the benefits of both digital and real assets. Just like crypto, stablecoin is easy and fast to transfer, and like traditional currencies, its price doesn’t suddenly jump or fall.
At the moment, the largest stablecoins by market capitalization are Tether (over $61 billion), USD Coin (over $26 billion), Binance USD (over $11 billion), Dai (over $5 billion), TerraUSD (over $2 billion), and True USD (over $1 billion). In total, there are about 200 stablecoins. Most of them have already been released, and others are still under development.
There are several reasons why stablecoins backed by fiat currencies are becoming one of the most popular blockchain digital trends:
- The FinTech and DeFi sectors are booming, so demand for stable cryptos is growing as well
- The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic downturn have led many people to lose trust in their national currency, so they are choosing to save in dollars or euros. At the same time, some governments are restricting foreign currency transactions. People have found a way out; they buy and convert stablecoins, which are accessible and stable
- Big institutional players are entering the blockchain space. They need digital money that is instant, cheap to transfer, secure, and stable. Visa, for instance, decided to test transactions in USDC, a regulated stablecoin backed by the US dollar and transacted over the Ethereum blockchain.
Thus, thanks to stablecoin’s stability (tautology won’t hurt anybody), users don’t need to worry about frequent currency crashes. Given the constant and rapid growth of stablecoins, it is safe to say that this blockchain trend will keep developing and strengthen even more in the coming years.
Blockchain serving environmental, social, and governance goals
Helping countries around the world achieve their environmental, social, and governance goals is one of the blockchain adoption trends in 2021 and 2022.
Blockchain offers solutions that can help energy producers trade electricity without intermediaries and enable governments to run recycling programs. In addition to that, blockchain implementation simplifies supply chain management and traceability and even assists in monitoring, verifying, and reducing carbon emissions.
Let’s see how all these things have become possible.
Traditionally, power grids are centralized and often don’t allow for efficient energy distribution. The use of a peer-to-peer energy blockchain system helps reduce the need for long-distance transmission and storage of electricity, as those having surplus energy can sell and move it locally. It is an especially good solution for those using renewable energy.
SunContract, for example, is one such platform. This blockchain-based P2P energy trading system offers customers the chance to buy and sell solar and other renewable energy without intermediaries. The main idea behind this marketplace is that electricity should be traded directly between those who produce it and those who consume it.
People already consciously recycle various items, but they would be even more motivated if they could get rewarded for it, right? Several blockchain-powered recycling programs encourage people to recycle by rewarding them with cryptographic tokens.
A prominent example is the Plastic Bank project that is based on the blockchain platform. The project’s team and volunteers set up collection centers in developing countries where people, especially those in need, can collect and donate plastic in exchange for currency, services, or necessary items. Thus, Plastic Bank is working to clean up plastic waste while also fighting poverty. Plastic Bank has opened 558 collection points and has 26,733 registered members who have helped to recover over 22 million kg of plastic to date.
Governments and politicians have moved from studying blockchain and its application in reducing emissions to promoting the use of this technology in this area. The European Commission (EC), an institution of the European Union (EU), for instance, has announced that it supports the adoption of blockchain technology to improve the transparency, accountability, and traceability of carbon emissions.
Beijing-based Energy Blockchain Lab and IBM have joined forces and created a blockchain platform for carbon emissions monitoring and trading in China. This efficient system allows organizations to control their emissions and meet quotas by purchasing carbon credits from low emitters. The use of this blockchain system is expected to result in a 20-50% reduction in carbon emissions.
Since climate change is an issue that future generations will also struggle with, this blockchain trend will still be relevant for many years to come.
Find out more about blockchain technology and its climate change applications
Enterprise blockchain about to go mainstream
Enterprises are mostly interested in permissioned blockchain because it only allows authorized users, in this case, company employees, to access the network. Permissioned blockchain-based systems also provide an access control function, which means that access to certain documents and information is role-based and customizable.
Companies that choose to implement enterprise blockchain get to enjoy enhanced security, transparency, workflow automation, and higher efficiency.
A study conducted by Deep Analysis predicts that the total enterprise blockchain technology sales market will grow from $2.9 billion in 2019 to $13.2 billion in 2024.
In 2021, blockchain technology is slowly but surely becoming a mainstream solution for enterprises. The Deep Analysis study says that from 2023 we may see blockchain projects disappearing from the news headlines as the implementation of blockchain-based systems will become the new normal across many spheres, especially in government, legal, supply chain, healthcare, insurance, and media.
DeFi apps transforming traditional finance
Decentralized finance, or DeFi, is a movement that is currently revolutionizing traditional financial products and services by “relocating” them to the blockchain.
Among the services and products that DeFi is bringing innovation to today are insurance, currency exchange, and loans. One of the most popular forms of DeFi that has gained traction in 2021 is its lending platforms. How do they work? A potential lender creates an account on a blockchain platform, where they buy coins and lend them out at interest. As a result, the lender earns money, and the borrower gets easy access to loans.
DeFi also enables millions of people to enter the financial world and become investors, as DeFi products offer barrier-free entry options and thus make markets accessible to a wide range of people from different countries.
Generally, DeFi products give users access to:
- Alternative savings
- Lending and borrowing
- Fast, cheap, and secure payments
- Crypto and fiat currency trading
- Affordable insurance
- Asset tokenization and management
Potentially, decentralized financial platforms can outperform banks, because they let users interact directly with each other, without any intermediaries claiming their share.
DEXs getting even more recognizable
Decentralized exchanges (DEXs) are blockchain-powered platforms that allow their users to securely buy and sell cryptocurrency without any third parties.
This year, May became the peak month in terms of the volume of crypto transactions on DEXs, with the DEX Trading Volume exceeding $173 billion. The year is not over yet and this number may go even higher.
One of the most prominent decentralized exchanges is Uniswap. This DEX is built on the Ethereum blockchain and enables the swapping of ERC-20 tokens. At the moment, the Uniswap decentralized exchange has 64.1% of the market share.
Decentralized exchanges offer many benefits, such as complete control over funds and private keys, security, privacy, and the ability to trade all kinds of tokens. They also constantly evolve and improve their mechanisms.
Taking into account these facts and statistics, it’s obvious that decentralized exchanges will soon make full entry into the financial world.
Dive even deeper into decentralized exchanges, their pros, cons, and essential features, and see some examples
STOs: tokenization of bonds on the rise
STOs, Security Token Offerings, are not a new phenomenon in the crypto space, but they have received a lot of attention this year. According to the Security Token Market Report, the total security token market cap in March 2021 was over $613 million with monthly growth of 21.64%.
STOs represent an efficient and regulated way to invest and raise capital, and all the processes are recorded on the blockchain. Security tokens are cryptographic tokens that are backed by assets like bonds, corporate stocks, real estate, and even cars. They are subject to securities laws and regulations and are considered to be investments.
One of the most attractive assets for tokenization today is real estate. As of May 2021, the market capitalization of tokenized real estate was $32.9 million.
The popularity of real estate tokenization can also be attributed to the fractional ownership option. One property doesn’t need to be sold as a whole but can be divided into multiple tokens. The issuer can offer these tokens at a lower price, which opens up investment opportunities for a larger number of people and makes typically illiquid assets more attractive.
Blue Karma Secrets Hotels & Resorts in Bali, the Beachfront hotel in Phuket, and the St. Regis Aspen Resort in Aspen, Colorado are just a few of the projects currently running STO campaigns.
Crypto players going public
This year, after Bitcoin prices got to record highs, Coinbase, the largest US cryptocurrency exchange, hit the spotlight and announced plans to run an IPO campaign in 2021.
Instead of using a traditional IPO, Coinbase went public through a direct public listing. Coinbase hit the Nasdaq on April 14 and closed the day with a market cap of around $62 billion.
Coinbase’s public debut has become a historic moment for cryptocurrencies and the whole crypto community. Today, the platform has approximately 56 million users and serves 8,000 institutions in over 100 countries.
The next crypto giant likely to follow Coinbase is Kraken. In April this year, Jesse Powell, Kraken’s chief executive and co-founder, shared that the company was also considering making its public debut in 2022 through a direct listing. Bakkt, BlockFi, and Gemini are planning to go public as well.
May Ethereum be with us
Ethereum has been a major player in the crypto space since 2015. These days, Ethereum serves as the basis for an enormous number of blockchain projects, platforms, solutions, and tokens. It is also the second-largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin: one ETH is currently worth over $2,000 (compared to $336 in July 2020).
Recent trends in blockchain technology such as asset tokenization, STOs, and NFTs are particularly impacting Ethereum’s popularity, as its ERC-20 and ERC-721 standards are the most actively used protocols for creating tokens. The former allows the issuance of fungible tokens such as voting tokens or digital currencies, while the latter enables non-fungible tokens.
At the same time, Ethereum promises to upgrade its blockchain to “radical new heights” in 2021 and 2022. The Ethereum 2.0 development team is planning to implement the new changes in three stages:
1. Deploy the Beacon Chain
The Beacon Chain went live on December 1, 2020. It coordinates the network and introduces the Proof-of-Stake consensus mechanism.
2. “Merge” with the Beacon Chain
This stage is estimated to take place in 2021 and will represent the official switch to the PoS consensus.
This step will completely change the game, as previously Ethereum was using the Proof-of-Work consensus which is associated with energy inefficiency and hence slow transaction speeds and high costs. PoS will help reduce expenses and make this blockchain more sustainable.
Bad news for miners and good news for the environment, we guess…
3. Introduce sharding
This part of the upgrade will occur sometime in 2022 and will solve Ethereum’s scalability issue. Sharding will reduce network congestion and significantly increase transaction speeds by creating new chains – “shards”.
Let’s wait for the launch of all three phases and see how successfully this blockchain will solve its existing problems. But even with today’s Ethereum, we can’t underestimate its contribution to the development of the blockchain and the crypto world.
Blockchain creating secure digital identities
The introduction of digital IDs has been a hot topic for at least five years now. We recently watched blockchain-based digital identity pilots launched in countries like Switzerland, Estonia, and Japan. These days, the creation of eIDs has also become a necessity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused a massive shift to online services.
A Juniper Research study has shown that the number of eID applications in use will grow significantly in the next five years, from 1 billion in 2020 to 6.2 billion in 2025.
The study has also analyzed what role blockchain will play in the development of digital identity apps. It says that blockchain will be an important tech for the future of eIDs. Moreover, 16% of all third-party identity applications will be blockchain-powered in 2025.
Indeed, blockchain provides secure access to data, transparency, and trust, and makes sure that citizens’ sensitive information is safely stored and shared. So, it is only natural that this technology will impact positively on the entire digital economy, as well as contribute to the creation of digital identities.
For example, in the spring of 2021, Microsoft announced it was launching a public preview of its “Azure Active Directory verifiable credentials”. The technology giant will test the verification of diplomas, certificates, and other professional credentials using blockchain technology.
One of the pilot blockchain projects is being implemented by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). NHS workers can verify professional certifications and provide healthcare institutions with access to them (or choose not to).
What’s so special about that? Well, previously it could take months to verify workers’ credentials before they could start to treat patients. Now, it’s a matter of minutes! In addition to this, thanks to blockchain technology, healthcare professionals don’t need to worry anymore about the safety and security of their information.
Check out Blockcerts – a secure blockchain platform that makes it easy to issue, share and receive official credentials
Rising interest in Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)
The concept of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) was proposed a decade ago. But, as often happens with cool inventions, real fame only came to CBDC a while later.
In simple terms, a central bank digital currency is the fiat currency of a specific country in digital form. CBDC is usually powered by the blockchain, but unlike cryptocurrencies, it is regulated and backed by a central authority – the country’s central bank.
This phenomenon is still in its infancy and countries across the world have just started launching their CBDC pilots. The Indian government, for instance, has proposed a bill to launch its own digital currency. The Monetary Authority of Singapore has started a “technical” competition, where entrants need to propose solutions to 12 unresolved challenges associated with CBDC adoption. This fall, the Central Bank of Nigeria is planning to launch a CBDC pilot based on the Hyperledger Fabric blockchain.
A survey by the Bank for International Settlements has found that 86% of central banks are actively researching the potential, benefits, and drawbacks of CBDC, 60% are already experimenting with the concept, and 14% are planning to launch pilots. England, China, Canada, Sweden, Thailand, and Uruguay are also among the countries looking to try out the CBDC concept.
Growing demand for federated blockchain
Federated blockchain (or consortium blockchain) is basically an updated version of the traditional private blockchain. While a typical private network is operated by one organization and new participants need permission to access and add data, a federated blockchain offers the same approach but is managed by multiple consortium members.
A federated blockchain is more centralized than a public one, yet more decentralized than a private network. This makes it an ideal solution for business groups where power is distributed among multiple decision-makers.
This “hybrid” model can boast of high scalability and enables easy and convenient collaboration. In addition to this, it’s more secure as all the nodes can constantly watch each other.
Hyperledger, Corda, and Quorum are three great examples of federated blockchains. We are seeing growing interest in and demand for these platforms from various businesses these days.
Generally, federated blockchain has great potential in banking, healthcare, supply chain management, insurance, and other industries where security, trust, and privacy are essential.
This was one of the hottest blockchain technology trends in 2020 and we are seeing it continue to grow in 2021 and 2022 as well.
Tech giants offering Blockchain-as-a-Service
Blockchain-as-a-Service, or BaaS, is an easy-to-use cloud service for designing, and later managing, smart contracts and decentralized applications with blockchain technology. BaaS is currently utilized by established businesses of various sizes as well as startups.
Many world-renowned companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, Alibaba, and SalesForce now provide Blockchain-as-a-Service. It enables enterprises to access the software, leverage the technology, and make the most out of it without the huge upfront financial and time investment needed to develop their own infrastructure and learn new skills.
Alibaba’s BaaS in particular offers out-of-the-box services, which means that it supports quick and easy blockchain deployment. This BaaS provides advanced protection using chip encryption technologies and high stability, as it utilizes highly reliable data storage.
Some other features that BaaS platforms typically include are easy configuration, platform architecture management, modular networks and infrastructure, a dashboard for viewing chaincode, and verifiable records.
Blockchain transforming media and entertainment
Blockchain and entertainment no longer seem like a weird combination. Famous athletes, celebrities, gamers, and influencers have already drawn the world’s attention to the blockchain by tokenizing their assets and turning them into NFTs. Now, blockchain technology is ready to make its mark on social media.
Blockchain social media
Another big trend we have to mention is “Blockchain for social networking”. Statistics show that as of July 2021, there are 4.48 billion active social media users around the world, which is around 57% of the global population.
Almost all of us use platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. They are free to use and offer exciting features, but they are also centralized systems that store, censor, and share our data. If there are any security breaches, our accounts may be compromised.
Decentralized blockchain-powered solutions come to the rescue. Blockchain has the potential to address pressing social media problems such as lack of user control over their data, data security concerns, and “floods” of ads. By using blockchain, users can track where their information goes and how it’s used, capitalize on their work and content, and get rid of irritating ads, as a blockchain social network has no central owner who would decide what the user sees and when.
An interesting example of a blockchain social network is Steemit which is essentially a decentralized blogging platform.
Another promising project, Minds, offers a decentralized social media platform that rewards users with tokens for creating and sharing quality content and participating in various activities.
Click here and get answers to all your questions about blockchain social media
Content streaming with blockchain
Content streaming using blockchain is another trend in blockchain technology that we will be watching in 2021, 2022, and for years into the future. This is not something that we only expect to see or dream of; this is the real thing happening right now. Here are several companies providing blockchain-based solutions for video streaming:
Livepeer is a decentralized video streaming platform powered by the Ethereum blockchain. This video infrastructure system can be used by developers for creating apps that include live videos, by users who would like to stream their content, and by broadcasters such as Twitch to reduce infrastructure and streaming costs.
The Theta blockchain offers an end-to-end infrastructure for decentralized video streaming. This blockchain project offers rewards to many of its 1 million monthly users in exchange for unused bandwidth.
The VideoCoin network helps creators securely share their content and aims to revolutionize video streaming with blockchain technology. The platform enables users to reduce costs by deploying unused computing resources and provides increased privacy through decentralized end-to-end encryption.
Solving blockchain interoperability problems
Interoperability is one of the problems slowing down the massive adoption of blockchain technology. Blockchain is like a foreigner who speaks only their native language and finds it hard to communicate with locals, in this case, other networks. This means that it’s nearly impossible for users to move their assets or data directly across different platforms.
The perfect scenario: users are able to make cross-network transactions and exchange information without any unwanted delays or additional fees set by intermediaries. Many of the leading market players are now focusing on tackling this issue.
The largest and so far the most successful interoperability initiatives to follow in 2021, 2022, and beyond are:
This is a layer-2 protocol and dApp network that integrates Ethereum and Bitcoin sidechains to facilitate interaction between the Echo, Bitcoin, and Ethereum platforms. With these sidechains, you can use ETH, BTC, and ERC-20 tokens in the Echo blockchain and easily transfer them between networks.
Cosmos aims to create the “Internet of Blockchains”. This ecosystem unites many independent but compatible platforms called zones. A new zone is free to have its own consensus mechanism, but it must comply with the uniform standard. This innovation enables users to exchange data and assets freely and easily across different blockchain networks.
This blockchain ecosystem consists of parachains (individual networks) and a central hub called the Relay Chain. All parachains share the same consensus mechanism.
As we can see, developers are actively working on solving the interoperability problem and will continue to take further steps in this process during 2021.
To sum up
We could actually go on and on listing blockchain trends as the number of blockchain use cases and platforms grows by leaps and bounds every year. Nowadays, ideas like using blockchain for content streaming, NFTs, vaccine distribution, central bank digital currencies, digital identity, and even environmental protection are no longer theoretical but have become reality.
It’s the year 2021, and we can leverage blockchain technology to secure personal information, customize access to it, tokenize any kind of assets, and boost company performance and revenue. Soon we will probably stop talking about blockchain as a new and revolutionary technology because it will have become the standard.
However, these days, blockchain project implementation is still a complex task. You will need to partner with an experienced blockchain development team that has a solid portfolio of successful projects. Blockchain professionals will help you understand all the aspects of this technology, evaluate its benefits and drawbacks, and offer a solution tailored to your business case.
Don’t get left behind – embark on your blockchain journey today!