Blockchain Tracker: Technology’s In Retail

Blockchain technology is slowly slinking through the aisles of retail business. Walmart is using it for tracking product and pork, and analysts are placing side bets on Overstock using the technology.

“Blockchain saw much wider overall acceptance in 2016, especially since Bloq’s announcement that they were working with Visa,” said Bill Shihara, CEO of Bittrex, Next Generation Cryptocurrency Exchange. “More and more blockchain startups launched in 2016, and investors are starting to seek out companies incorporating blockchain technology.”

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As blockchain crawls into other industries, analysts are already predicting that the technology will show up more glaringly in the retail space.

“Ultimately, payments will continue to become cheaper and faster,” said Shihara. “As private blockchains are built, transaction fees go down and both sides benefit.”

But before blockchain and retail pair up too quickly, Shihara said there are indeed some drawback to the combo.

“For companies looking to develop their own unique blockchain solutions, identity verification could become an issue, as well as dealing with price volatility with digital currencies,” said Shihara. “These drawbacks can partially be offset by using blockchain payment processors.”

However, regarding what did do well and stand out in terms of retail and blockchain technology in 2016, Shihara said Dell, Overstock and Microsoft stick out to him the most.

“At Bittrex, we’re able to run our company with bitcoin,” said Shihara. “We use Bitcoin to pay for hosting on Microsoft Azure and computer equipment through Dell. Overstock has also been at the forefront of blockchain and bitcoin adoption and helps with our everyday needs.”

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2016 could indeed be a blockchain’s jumping-off point. Peter Loop, associate vice president and principal technology architect at Infosys, said 2017 will no doubt be blockchain’s shiniest year.

“Despite misconceptions that blockchain is years away, we’ll see full deployments in financial services, insurance and health care industries next year,” said Loop. “This will completely disrupt our payment systems on an international scale — revenue models and other processes will become obsolete, and payment methods will become faster, cheaper and safer.”

He caveated that because blockchain is becoming mainstream, it can no longer be ignored that the major hurdles need to be overcome.

“For example, banks must define a clear path to adoption for blockchain and collaborate on a global standardization,” said Loop.

But specifically looking at the next year, Loop added that standardization will be blockchain’s biggest priority.

“As blockchain becomes more widely adopted, a standardized method for interaction will be critically important,” said Loop. “There are complicated and political processes preventing this — industry organizations have competing interests, and businesses enjoy having a perceived advantage.”

As blockchain implementations begin, he said a paradigm shift will occur toward standardization and consolidation as organizations that were once in competition realize the benefits of a unified approach, including accelerated trade processes, enhanced detection and better data management.

What will be left?

“There may be only a couple of viable blockchain consortiums left standing in 2017,” said Loop.

Technology advancement is clearly at play. And historically more change can happen in technology in one year that over a 10-year period, depending.

Loop said that’s the case here, especially when it comes to financial services.

“FinTech is causing massive change, everything from a single payment to how global finance operates is being disrupted,” said Loop. Blockchain and machine learning will combine to accelerate existing processes and optimize efficiencies, and lending networks could become one of the hottest areas of blockchain, he added.

And, as flip as it sounds, Loop said that emoticons could be the transactions we’ve been waiting for.

“Emojis as payments will become used more widely as payments from mobile devices become increasingly secure,” said Loop.

As for if all of that will occur in 2017, many experts say yes. But (Father) time will tell.


Exclusive PYMNTS Study: 

The Future Of Unattended Retail Report: Vending As The New Contextual Commerce, a PYMNTS and USA Technologies collaboration, details the findings from a survey of 2,325 U.S. consumers about their experiences with shopping via unattended retail channels and their interest in using them going forward.

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