Are blockchain startups revolutionising the tech space in Singapore?

Singapore is known to be a fertile ground for startups, especially with great government support and a strong industry appetite for innovation.  Blockchain in particular is an area that startups are focusing on given its hype and potential across various industries.

Ernst & Young (EY) defines Blockchain as:

 “The first native digital medium for peer-to-peer value exchange. Its protocol establishes the rules — in the form of globally distributed computations and heavy duty encryption — that ensure the integrity of the data traded among billions of devices without going through a trusted third party.”

Blockchain is a technology disruptor and have impacted the business models, processes, supply chains and even customer relationships especially of those in traditional organisations. Given its impact, blockchain is now one of five key technologies —automation, robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) that is driving the next industrial revolution, Industry 4.0. Of all mentioned, the IoT market has faced the greatest positive impact from the integration of blockchain given the challenges that with security and transparency.

How is blockchain assisting IoT?

Blockchain represents a new paradigm for the way information is shared. This includes digital records to be secure and tamper-proof, the creation of smart contracts and many others. All of these have a big enabling impact on the development of IoT ecosystems. IoT and blockchain technologies in fact, complement each other – blockchain’s attributes solves the challenges IoT face, and thus could become the underlying infrastructure for many IoT networks.

Today, IoT networks face a security challenge given the number of small devices with valuable data distributed across them. They also face a management challenge in coordinating and acting on the information the network produces, and an accounting challenge in determining and sharing the value created by network participants. Certainly not least is the trust challenge, as most IoT networks have ecosystems of cooperating partners, not single corporate entities. Blockchain’s trust, security and smart contracts elements could potentially address all these challenges.

Blockchain technology is designed from the ground up for holistic security. It provides inherent security related to:

  • Endpoint protection

  • User identity

  • Transactions

  • Network communications

  • Inept or malicious insiders

  • Compromised nodes

  • Server failures

Security and protection is the value-add that blockchain startups have compared to technology firms, and IoT in particular. However, this may also be perceived as a threat to tech giants who are comparatively more passive in their adoption to blockchain.

 

Are blockchain startups a threat to big tech firms?

With all the positivity and anticipation of the opportunities blockchain can bring, it is interesting to note that some are not as receptive.

It is difficult to think of any revolutionary technology that giant tech firms like Amazon, Google, Apple, or Facebook are laggards in experimenting with. From cloud technology, AI, big data, voice assistants, augmented reality, self-driving cars, and even deep learning – all of these have been embraced and even pioneered by these companies. But when it comes to blockchain, the enthusiasm did not seem to live up.  

Some of the reasons include their initial hesitation to restructure their business models which would be required when adopting blockchain technologies. This requires commitment from the management team to evaluate the ability for blockchain technologies to be integrated into their business as a lack of preparation will result in a myriad of risks with security and privacy regulations.

Currently leading the way – Microsoft and IBM who are already functioning on a cloud infrastructure to build custom blockchain for its customers. Facebook recently announced its intention to go into blockchain technology and Amazon has also opened up that it is partnering with Kaleido, a startup built on Ethereum blockchain.

As startups take advantage of blockchain to drive greater transparency and veracity across the digital information ecosystem, they’re boosting awareness of the technology while encouraging accountability and transparency of businesses today. Most importantly, it is key to note that the value of blockchain startups is not limited within the tech industry, but to any sector or field where trust and security are paramount.

What are some of the top blockchain startups to look out for in Singapore?

  1. TenX - TenX is the only company worldwide that makes any cryptocurrency spendable anytime and anywhere by offering a debit card payment system to its users.

  2. Zilliqa - Zilliqa is the world's first high-throughput public blockchain platform - designed to scale thousands of transactions per second. It hit its billion-dollar market cap in May this year, and have forged partnerships with Mindshare, a global media agency, to address challenges within the digital advertising industry.

  3. aelf - aelf is a decentralised cloud computing blockchain network. Zhuling Chen, the CEO and founder of aelf next generation blockchain platform, stated on this matter that they aim to attract small business owners as well as big companies alike to incorporate blockchain into the traditional way of doing business.

For all its demonstrated potential, blockchain technology is still subjected to changing needs of the technology sector. Nevertheless, the optimism within the industry will definitely allow us to see the greater potential of what blockchain can bring.

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