Businesses are becoming increasingly interested in adapting to innovative blockchain technology. In 2017, the global blockchain market was about USD 340 million and is forecast to grow to USD 2.3 billion by 2021. 2018 is considered an important evolutionary stage for blockchain, as enterprises move from proof-of-concept to full blockchain deployment. The pressure is on, as boardrooms across the globe are beginning to demand successful real-world use case results.
While some companies compete to deploy, the fact is, the vast majority do not have the resources to see the task through. We are still in the early stages of the blockchain wave, and as great as interest may be, the obstacles to entry and deployment are still prohibitive for the average enterprise.
The cost of developing a new software architecture system from scratch, hiring talented developers to code, deploy and maintain your blockchain vision, is extremely costly. Talented blockchain developers with years of hands-on-experience are thin are the ground and those who are available can charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for their service. Blockchain simply has not been around long enough for the talent pool to catch up with demand. This is why it is commonly said in the industry that no-one knows a good Ethereum developer who isn’t a millionaire.
While there is a clear shortage of skills in the blockchain space and undoubtedly, educational institutes and time will address the problem, in the meantime, other solutions are emerging. Primarily, the creation of developer tools to simplify the complexity of working with blockchain technology.
Enter the Blockchain-as-a-Service (BaaS) model. A client pays a BaaS provider to set up and maintain a blockchain and nodes on their behalf, as well as to handle the complex back-end of their business. Microsoft was one of the first vendors to enter the space in 2015, offering BaaS services on its Azure cloud platform. Since then, other industry giants have thrown their hat in the ring, including Amazon, Hewlett Packard, Oracle and IBM.
Chain Factory and NULS
Another interesting development is in the area of blockchain modular software architecture. Innovative companies like Chinese blockchain company NULS are focused on a more direct approach to solving the blockchain technology entry problem. This week, we interviewed Yang Lin, angel investor and key code contributor to the NULS project.
According to Lin, NULS are building an innovative software system which will help enterprises build blockchain solutions inexpensively without the need to understand complex cryptography and blockchain programming. “We named the product Chain Factory, and aim to deliver it to market by December 2018,” he says.
Not surprisingly, the NULS head office is based in the city of Chongqing, which has a government-designated digital hub for blockchain and big data companies in the Yuzhong District. The hub project is called “chain island” and authorities hope it will attract CNY 10 billion (USD 1.5 billion) in investment, and deliver an output of CNY 20 billion yuan (USD 3 billion) over five years.
We put some direct questions to Lin.
Yang Lin, NULS
What is Chain Factory and what problem is it solving?
Lin: Chain factory is technically a software system we are building which will basically offer a pluggable modular system to enable people and enterprises to build their own blockchain without the need for complex programming. The advantage of Chain Factory, is that developers won’t need to understand blockchain base-level technology, which is quite difficult. The demand for base-level tech is huge, and a professional platform which offers a mature set of base-level tech, which is well thought out and quick to market, will have great impact.
It sounds like the WordPress of blockchain?
Lin: Yes, it has been called that, and from a software perspective, it is kind of like WordPress. It has pluggable components and independent developers can develop modules to add to the technical repository library. These could be industry specific modules, for example in medical data, logistics, insurance, gaming or digital music. Our aim is to eventually build a repository which covers 80% of industries in the blockchain field.
However, our vision does not end with the development of a popular software. We also want to create a holistic ecosystem, one which connects and interlinks, where for example the cross-chain module makes it possible to link your blockchain with others in the NULS ecosystem. This will promote cross-trade, partnerships, reliable data transmission, trust and value. Projects from different geographical regions in the ecosystem could decide to collaborate on joint projects, for example, agreeing to jointly support the launch of a particular Dapp or product. In so doing, they could pool resources, and provide instant access to a global market, which traditionally would be prohibitively expensive.
What initial industries will you target?
Lin: Our priority is the gaming industry because they will be the fastest to implement blockchain technology. The gaming industry has serious incentive and momentum; in 2017 there were 2.2 billion active gamers in the world, generating USD 109 billion in gaming revenue. China is still number 1, revenue-wise, followed closely by the US and Japan. Recently, NULS established an investment department under the watch of our director Gavin Weihua. We are targeting ambitious projects, particularly in the gaming industry who are open to building on our platform.
How do you plan to market Chain Factory?
Lin: In practice, an innovative product which solves a major market problem, shouldn’t require forced marketing. We foresee Chain Factory gaining popularity quickly by word of mouth. Our talented CEO Liesa Huang will take the lead on branding and establish some good use cases, and our expanding international team will be involved in raising awareness in the community and media.
How do you see the future in blockchain?
Lin: The future is unpredictable, which is why we are creating a blockchain architecture which is flexible and upgradable. We are not in the business of predicting the future, only in facilitating it. Personally, I am very interested in combining IoT (internet of things), AI (artificial intelligence) and blockchain because I want to change people’s lives.
Imagine a time when all data can be continually collected through internet devices and analyzed accurately by an AI system which is self-learning, quick to spot emerging patterns and can make intelligent decisions faster than any human ever could. This would not only help businesses deliver better customer service, but it could transform the way we live and work. For example, we might wear an IoT health device which monitors and records our vital signs securely on the blockchain. The AI learns to spot patterns and reacts when it sees an anomaly. Perhaps it books an appointment with your doctor or orders medication for you. Who knows! The future is bright, and the future is blockchain.
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Image Courtesy: NULS