Bitcoin’s Highs and Lows: Where to Next?

Since the critical acclaim of Bitcoin and digital currencies in 2017, there has been a lot of talk about its future. Bitcoin was the first digital currency to attract mainstream attention, and after that, 2018 was less than glamorous, with the price plummeting. Are cryptocurrencies a thing of the past already, or a Hard Trend of the future?

Since the critical acclaim of Bitcoin and digital currencies in 2017, there has been a lot of talk about its future. Bitcoin was the first digital currency to attract mainstream attention, and after that, 2018 was less than glamorous, with the price plummeting.

Are cryptocurrencies a thing of the past already, or a Hard Trend of the future?

A Bitcoin Overview

Cryptocurrency uses peer-to-peer technology, similar to the file-sharing technology of the early 2000s. Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency, it being virtual and decentralized. This means no one is in charge of it and it isn’t backed by the government. Bitcoin’s value is protected only by a distributed network that maintains its ledgers and protects its transactions by means of cryptography.

The concept behind Bitcoin first emerged in 2009 by an anonymous programmer (or programmers) using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. A single Bitcoin is today valued at $8,204, while the market cap is now at $145.66 billion.

Every Bitcoin is connected to an address and every Bitcoin is sent or received by a digital wallet attached to the address. Names aren’t associated with the transactions, creating a system that is wholly transparent while remaining functionally anonymous.

Bitcoin: A Soft Trend?

What exactly can you do with Bitcoins? It’s digital currency, so saving or spending them seems to be the immediate answer. However, in order to spend them, individuals and, more importantly, businesses must accept your Bitcoins. While a growing number of businesses accept Bitcoin, such as Overstock.com, most popular merchants and service providers including Amazon do not.

Let’s first discuss my Hard Trend Methodology and the differences between Hard Trends and Soft Trends to assess Bitcoin’s longevity.

A Hard Trend is a trend that will happen and is based on measurable, tangible, and fully predictable facts, events, or objects. They are future facts that cannot be changed.

A Soft Trend is a trend that might happen and is based on an assumption that looks valid in the present, and it may be likely to happen, but it is not a future fact. Soft Trends can be changed.

While Bitcoin itself grew in popularity, its future success is still a Soft Trend. During 2017, Bitcoin was treated by many as more of an investment than actual currency and likewise faced backlash when it was used for illegal online transactions.

However, the concept of cryptocurrencies is a Hard Trend, and here’s why:

Cryptocurrency: A Hard Trend

Cryptocurrencies are here to stay, including the underlying technology (blockchain) that enables them to function. Cryptocurrency, as well as blockchain, represents a radically new idea in finance: a decentralized system for exchanging value. Due to its open-source nature and its copyright-free core program, there will always be room for improvement. Programmers around the world have already developed military-grade encryptions and new ways to trade, thus stabilizing the prices.

Cryptocurrencies exist as mere entries in a blockchain-enabled accounting system. That system acts as a transparent public ledger that records transactions among “addresses.” Owning cryptocurrency isn’t analogous to having paper money in your pocket. Instead, it means a personal claim to an address, with your own password, and the right to do with it as you see fit. Over time, this will increasingly disrupt traditional models and global currencies, playing a role in a number of future digital transformations.

The Future of Currency: Digital Payments

Imagine you want new shoes, and your favorite shoe store accepts some form of cryptocurrency. If you don’t already possess cryptocurrency, you purchase some from a crypto-currency kiosk or an online exchange and assign it to your online account, known as a “wallet.”

When paying for your new shoes, you open your “digital wallet,” which is unlocked with passwords and/or biometrics, and the currency network is publicly informed that you’ve transferred $100 worth of cryptocurrency to the store. This happens fast, and there are almost no fees and no personal information divulged. Compare this with the slow debit or credit card counterpart, often with a third party involved. The benefits become more clear.

Other Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin was the first digital currency, but not the last. A large number of cryptocurrencies now exist, and the list is expanding. Litecoin, for example, was launched back in 2011 on the same blockchain as Bitcoin and was meant to improve it. Ethereum was created in 2015 by Vitalik Buterin and is a blockchain-based platform that can be used for developing decentralized apps and smart contracts. The list of cryptocurrencies is actually quite large and, as I said earlier, growing. And the enabling technology, blockchain, is being applied to a rapidly growing number of industries creating both disruption and new opportunities.

In Conclusion

Bitcoin versus the technology category of cryptocurrency gives us a clear example of the difference between Soft Trends and Hard Trends. Cryptocurrencies will continue to evolve and integrate into our economy and everyday life, as will the enabling blockchain technology, making cryptocurrency a Hard Trend, while the future success of individual cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is a Soft Trend: It may or may not have a bright future. When you’re able to distinguish between the Soft Trends that might happen and the Hard Trends that will happen, you will dramatically improve your ability to understand and manage risk as you become more anticipatory.

Learn how to accurately manage risk with my latest bestselling book The Anticipatory Organization.

Beyond Bitcoin: The Future of Blockchain Technology

Unlike bitcoins, blockchain development has showed no signs of slowing down and represents a Hard Trend that will continue to grow. The rapidly evolving technology of blockchain holds enormous promise for game-changing disruption across any number of industries and fields.

Bitcoins were introduced in 2009 to great fanfare. Although there had been predecessors, Bitcoins were framed as the first form of cyber currency.

Shortly after Bitcoins were introduced, I labeled them a Soft Trend—one whose future was looking good, but not a future certainty. I also labeled cyber currency a Hard Trend that would continue to grow, predicting that there would be many more cyber currencies.

Since then, I’ve seen no need to change either designation, as there are now more than 100 different cyber currencies. At the same time, as Bitcoins struggled to gain widespread use, blockchain—the technology Bitcoin transactions are handled with—were growing.

Unlike bitcoins, blockchain development has showed no signs of slowing down and represents a Hard Trend that will continue to grow. The rapidly evolving technology of blockchain holds enormous promise for game-changing disruption across any number of industries and fields.

O’Reilly Media presciently noted in early 2015: “The blockchain is the new database—get ready to rewrite everything.”

Blockchain Explained—Security in Numbers

A blockchain is a system of decentralized transaction records. This means a transaction is created without any input from a controlling entity. A blockchain also employs cryptography to keep exchanges secure, incorporating a decentralized database, or “digital ledger,” of transactions that everyone on the network can see. This network is a chain of computers, needing exchange approval before it can be verified and recorded.

The Game-Changing Opportunity in Financial Transactions

Roughly $20 billion in gross domestic product is currently held in blockchain form, according to a study by the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council. However, projections show blockchain use will increase significantly in the next decade as banks, insurers and technology firms embrace the technology to boost transaction speed and security, and trim expenses. This is already taking place, for example, with Swiss banking giant UBS and banks such as HSBC, Santander and BBVA, which launched corporate venture funds to make equity investments in financial technology companies.

More Than Just Money

The future of blockchain is exciting. Outside of its use solely in financial transaction applications, it can transform several other industries. Other examples include:

  •      Data Storage—Current storage services using cloud technology are centralized around a single provider. A blockchain lets users store data and information via a decentralized platform, improving security and lessening reliance on any one provider.
  •      Voting—A blockchain voting network is inherently more reliable than paper or electronic ballots, since changing one vote would require changing multiple votes simultaneously. A blockchain voting network has already been used—Denmark’s Liberal Alliance employed a blockchain for internal voting back in 2014.
  •      Military Use—The U.S. Department of Defense and NATO are actively investigating the use of blockchain. Among other applications, they’re interested in messaging platforms capable of transferring information by way of a secure decentralized protocol.
  •      The War on Terrorism—In May 2015, the Isle of Man implemented the first government-run blockchain project, leveraging it to create a registry of digital-currency companies operating on the island. The system also counters money laundering, helping prevent terrorist financing since the flow of money can be traced specifically to the source of the transaction.
  •      “Smart” Contracts—The idea behind a smart contract is that it self-manages the fulfillment of the agreement and is verified programmatically via the blockchain instead of a third party. Two or more parties agree on terms, program those terms into the blockchain, and allow for payments and other transactions once those terms are fulfilled and validated by the blockchain.
  •      Regulation—Because a blockchain cannot be changed without a majority of participants agreeing to do so, the underlying technology might be used in place of a variety of regulations, such as those mandated by Know Your Customer (KYC).
  •      Identity Management—Labeled the first comprehensive blockchain-based identity service, Onename allows users to create tamper-proof digital identities for themselves called Passcards that replace conventional usernames and passwords.
  •      The Music Industry—In October 2015, Ujo Music unveiled a working example of how blockchain-based technology would allow consumers to purchase registered works directly. We can also pre-solve the problem of legalities, where artists publish policies on how their music may be used to avoid legal action against misuse.

More Reasons for Excitement

Blockchain use is largely restricted to private forms of transactions, but when looked at in an anticipatory way of thinking, blockchain could be used for anything that requires proof of identification, the exchange of goods or verification of contract terms.

One executive involved in the development of blockchain summarized its potential in a framework we can all appreciate: “‘Check it on the blockchain’ will be the phrase of the twenty-first century. It will be as commonplace as people saying ‘Google that.’”

When it comes to blockchain, get ready to rewrite everything.

Embracing the Power of Blockchain Technology

We often forget just how much technology has changed our lives in the last few years. Therefore, it should be no surprise that our love of cold hard cash could be the next twentieth-century casualty to fall by the wayside.

During the digital transformation, we have witnessed traditional forms of physical media fall out of favor as users abandoned their treasure trove of CDs, DVDs, books, magazines and even photo albums to partake in an entirely clutter-free life. Digitally optimizing our lives has enabled us to remove shelves, cabinets and dust magnets while we get our entertainment fix from the likes of Netflix, Spotify and the endless list of streaming alternatives.

We often forget just how much technology has changed our lives in the last few years. Therefore, it should be no surprise that our love of cold hard cash could be the next twentieth-century casualty to fall by the wayside.

Over in Europe, Denmark and its Scandinavian neighbors Norway and Sweden are leading a charge toward a cashless society that will see the end of tooth fairy payments for children, but will equally wave goodbye to a world of money laundering, fraud and tax evasion. The bonus of replacing scrambling around for loose change for a purchase, or riding public transportation with contactless payment by swiping a card or smartphone, is incredibly appealing for most users.

The concept of handing over a handful of silver coins in exchange for any product or service can feel quite primitive in our modern world dominated by technology. However, contactless and smartphone payments are not the end-all, be-all payment options, as there is another game changer in the form of a cyber currency. But does this technology disruptor have the power to transform our traditional banking system?

Blockchain is the digital ledger software code that powers Bitcoin. As this system has grown in popularity, the CEO of Digital Asset Holdings, Blythe Masters,has her sights set on changing the way banks trade loans and bonds in a way that could dramatically change the way we look at both business and banking. Blythe delivered a massive wake-up call to finance leaders when she compared the influx of changes to the arrival of the internet when she advised, “You should be taking this technology as seriously as you should have been taking the development of the internet in the 1990s. It’s analogous to email for money.” The speed in which technology trends can go viral illustrates how an internet of finance could become a reality sooner rather than later.

The interesting aspect of Bitcoin is the ability to buy and sell without the need for an intermediary. This represents a paradigm shift in the management and structure of the financial services industry. However, adopting innovation and changing entire ecosystems is not something that the notoriously cautious financial industry and affiliated regulation committees are famed for.

Because this technology has the potential to reduce the role banks play in the lives of individuals, it is understandable why financial institutions are skeptical. However, these developments cannot be written off just yet. They could save consumers and the financial industry billions of dollars while also removing their reliance on middlemen to offer a speedier, modern and more efficient banking experience.

The ultimate goal is to move payments globally much faster while simultaneously becoming more transparent and lowering costs. We will likely begin to witness early adopters making waves in the private market before the ever-cautious big players speak of standardization and implementation. However, there are already a few of them dipping their toes into the water.

According to the PwC, there are already over three hundred technology startups developing ideas that will allow blockchain to revolutionize the financial industry. Big players like Visa and Nasdaq are already investing heavily into a blockchain startup, and there are also plans to modernize the London Market. Lloyds is looking to blockchain technology to improve its data access and reduce costs associated with administrative paperwork.

There are daily stories of heavyweights within the financial industry becoming increasingly eager to capture the tamper-proof benefits offered by a future web-based cryptocurrency. Technology leaders such as Microsoft also have thrown their hats into the ring to demonstrate the possibilities that blockchain technology can offer.

There is exciting potential to completely revolutionize the way in which the finance industry works. But in its infancy, many will continue to exercise great caution before rushing into a shiny electronic cash system that is fully peer-to-peer. The future of cash and pockets full of loose change is indeed looking numbered, as many wonder if in just a few years we will be looking back at our quaint primitive payment methods in the same way many do with physical media now.

Cryptocurrencies that thrive in a transparent environment might seem like a foreign concept today, but the rise of blockchain technology is one Hard Trend that will quickly prove to be impossible to ignore.

Finance trends can be anticipated – when you know how to look. The Anticipatory Organization Model has the power to shift an organization’s operating mindset from the default of reacting and responding to changes coming from the outside in, to a place of empowerment by anticipating and shaping the future from the inside out.

How bitcoin mining works

The popularity of bitcoin is growing day by day, but even today it is still difficult to understand some ideas about bitcoin. The prime purpose of bitcoin as envisaged by its elusive creator, Satoshi Nakamoto—is to provide a way to exchange tokens of value seamlessly without relying on centralized intermediaries like banks. Instead, all the needed record keeping is virtually decentralized into an always-expanding ledger ‘block chain ‘that stores the history of all transactions of  bitcoins in circulation.

But when there is no inter medial authority, then who decides whether or which transactions are valid and which ones are not and which ones should be added to block chain and which ones should not? And what ensures that the system is not cracked, for instance by using similar bitcoin twice? Our answer is mining. So, what is bitcoin mining really?

What is bitcoin mining?

By mining bitcoin, you can earn crypto currency without necessarily having to put down money for it. That means that you don’t have to mine bitcoin to have it, you can buy bitcoin using fiat currency and trade it later using other forms of crypto. You can also earn bitcoin by playing video games or publishing blogs for sites that pay with bitcoins.  There are so many ways that you could earn bitcoin without mining. However, if you can invest in the right equipment, then mining bitcoin should be your to-go method. Bitcoin mining is, therefore, the process of verifying, securing and storing bitcoin transactions. It’s pretty apparent that there is more to it than just that as bitcoin is entirely different from other currencies. Those who mine bitcoin are referred to as bitcoin miners— ‘people using computers to mine bitcoin.’

The mining computers (nodes) have to be quite powerful as bitcoin requires a lot of computer power to mine. They run a software that connects them to the bitcoin block chain that solves mathematical problems. Every time these mathematical problems are solved, a new transactional data is verified and stored on the bitcoin block chain. This is the crucial part that explains why bitcoin doesn’t need banks or credit card companies to verify its transactions because the bitcoin miners verify those transactions, Therefore, no third party not brokers to trust or rely on.

Bitcoin miners are rewarded with new bitcoin. It is the only way new bitcoins can be created. Remember that only a total of 21 million bitcoin can be mined and when all the 21 million have been mined, then no new bitcoin can be created. Currently, there are 17,225,338 mined bitcoins. The reward for mining a full block is about 12.50 worth of bitcoins.  To explain more about blocks and all the technology put in bitcoin mining, let’s look at how bitcoin mining works.

How bitcoin mining works

We already know that bitcoin uses ‘block chain’. Well, that’s where the term ‘block’ comes from. Bitcoin transactions happen simultaneously.  All transactions that happen at the same time are put in groups termed as ‘blocks. It is these blocks or groups of transactions that bitcoin miners must verify—they verify them in groups instead of individually. That is why miners have to have powerful computers, lots of electricity and a reliable internet connection to verify the blocks. Once a block has been verified, it is then added to the chain of blocks which have already been verified. And that is why the technology behind bitcoin is called BLOCK CHAIN.

What you need to mine bitcoins

We have already mentioned some of the necessary materials that you need in order to start mining such as internet, electricity, and nodes. One of the main things a miner should focus on is the mining hardware. Back in 2009 when bitcoin mining began, primary computers could easily do the mining using the central processing unit (CPU). Nowadays, miners are using powerful computers using graphics processing units (GPU) to solve mathematical problems.

The next essential step is joining a bitcoin mining pool. You can choose to do it as solo mining or join groups called mining pools where the miners combine power to mine bitcoins and then share the bitcoin reward. You will also need to download the mining software into your computer. The mining hardware is useless without the software. You will need the software every step of the way as it will also help you to join a mining pool.

Last but not least is a bitcoin wallet. Well, after all the hard work of getting a hardware, downloading a software, joining a mining pool and eventually mining your bitcoins, you will need a storage to store your rewarded bitcoin—a bitcoin wallet as bitcoins cannot be stored in bank accounts.