It seems as though every time we turn on the news there are new stories about enormous data breaches. 

There was the massive 2013 Yahoo breach in which all 3 billion user accounts were compromised, and then there was the 2017 Equifax breach that exposed the personal information of 147 million people. 

Data breaches are becoming more widespread and impactful, with 2019 set to be the worst year on record. It is perhaps not surprising that, according to the Pew Research Center, 70% of Americans feel that their personal information is less secure than it was just five years ago. Businesses and governments are tasked with securely storing mountains of complex and highly-personal data, and they are beginning to turn to a novel technology known as “blockchain” to help.

[With new technology comes new risks. Here’s what you need to know about cybersecurity]

Blockchain is a technology solution that solves some of the problems associated with data storage and security. When an organization is solely responsible for maintaining its database, valuable information may be lost in the event of a breach or disaster. A freak hurricane could damage vital data centers (as happened in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy), or an adept hacker could detect a vulnerability in a government’s website and hold critical data hostage (as happened in 2019 in Baltimore, Maryland). With blockchain, data is securely shared across a distributed network in which all parties have access. The nature of the technology is such that damage to one part of the network does not compromise the rest. For this reason, among many others, businesses and governments are turning their attention – and investments – to blockchain.

For those interested in the investment potential of this innovative technology, there are a few important points to understand.

What is Blockchain?

According to the software company SAP, blockchain is most simply defined as a “reliable, difficult-to-hack record of transactions – and of who owns what. Blockchain is based on distributed ledger technology, which securely records information across a peer-to-peer network.” 

The “block” in blockchain describes the data that is entered into the network, while the “chain” in blockchain refers to the chronological sequence in which blocks are entered. Data is approved for entry via consensus of other network participants, and once entered it cannot be changed. In this way, there is a complete, sequential, and verifiable recordkeeping of the network’s data that is available to all participants.

At first glance, this may not seem like a revolutionary concept, but it is important to note that the decentralized nature of blockchain is highly novel and has far-reaching applications. 

An unknown person (or persons) going by the name Satoshi Nakamoto invented the blockchain concept and shared it with the public in a groundbreaking 2008 paper about a proposed digital currency system. That currency system became known as Bitcoin, and the spread of blockchain technology gave rise to a vast ecosystem of other cryptocurrencies. 

While most people only associate blockchain with Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, the technology has much broader applications across a variety of industries. For instance, logistics firms are turning to blockchain technology to modernize their supply chains. Danish shipping company Maersk recently launched a blockchain-powered logistics platform called TradeLens, which it says will provide improved visibility into the movement of shipments around the world. 

Healthcare is another sector that stands to benefit tremendously from the adoption of blockchain technology. As any adult in the U.S. can attest, healthcare records are notoriously scattered from provider to provider. Implementing blockchain technology has the potential to make critical health data more accessible and secure while eliminating barriers that currently stifle communication between doctors, patients, and insurers. 

Data is at the core of any modern organization, and it seems likely that blockchain will be an increasingly important tool in the modernization of data management practices.

Why Invest in Blockchain?

Blockchain is an extremely valuable technology with significant investment potential. 

As noted by James Wester, Research Director at International Data Corporation (IDC): “Blockchain is maturing rapidly, and we have reached an inflection point where implementations are moving quickly beyond the pilot and proof of concept phase.” 

IDC estimates that global spending on blockchain solutions will reach nearly $2.9 billion in 2019, an increase of nearly 88% from 2018. IDC expects annual spending to climb to $12.4 billion by 2022, with a 76% annual growth rate between 2018 and 2022.

Investment in private blockchain companies is also quite robust. In the U.S., for instance, investments reached about $1.1 billion in 2019 – a healthy figure considering recent corrections in cryptocurrency markets.

Big technology companies understand blockchain’s potential and are adjusting their services accordingly. Companies such as IBM, SAP, and Oracle offer blockchain-as-a-service to help businesses create their own blockchain networks. Companies that are prepared to offer innovative blockchain solutions are well-positioned for the coming changes to the data management landscape, and startups researching blockchain solutions are likely to garner significant interest from established companies. These market dynamics are likely to create a rich environment for outside investment.

Governments around the world are also taking notice of blockchain’s enormous potential. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is investing heavily in blockchain startups because of the technology’s cybersecurity advantages in making digital systems more resilient. The Republic of Georgia recently partnered with Bitfury, a Netherlands-based blockchain technology company, to digitize and migrate the country’s land registry onto a blockchain-based network. Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping recently announced that China will make blockchain a top priority in the country’s new innovation push, a move that may galvanize more investment and research in the West.

In this space where both business and government recognize blockchain’s potential, savvy investors are well-positioned to capitalize on novel applications of this innovative technology.

How to Invest in Blockchain

But, despite all of this potential and recent growth, blockchain remains a very early-stage technology. It has only existed in its current form since 2008, and the industry that has sprung up around it is even younger than that. With that youth comes volatility, which investors are seeing in the prices of pure-play blockchain stocks. However, investing in a mutual fund or ETF that offers exposure to blockchain can be a way to temper some of this volatility. A search on Magnifi suggests that there are a number of funds available today for those investors interested in investing in blockchain technology without buying shares in the associated companies themselves.

Magnifi is changing the way we shop for investments, with the world’s first semantic search engine for finance that helps users discover, compare and buy investment products such as ETFs, mutual funds and stocks. Try it for yourself today.

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