According to Gartner’s top 10 strategic technology predictions, 2020 will be a bumper year for everything from the Internet of Things (IoT) and edge computing to human augmentation and automation.
It will also see the beginnings of maturity for a technology that has been gaining momentum for almost three decades while being the focus of intense hype, skepticism and confusion over its potential applications.
In 1991, Stuart Haber and W Scott Stornetta proposed the idea of a series of append-only, cryptographically interlinked ‘blocks’ in their paper How to Timestamp a Digital Document. Although Haber and Stornetta’s work remained theoretical for another 17 years, this was the birth of blockchain.
“Blockchain is a type of distributed ledger, an expanding chronologically ordered list of cryptographically signed, irrevocable transactional records shared by all participants in a network,” describes the Gartner report.
In an eight page paper, released in October 2008, someone (or someones) operating under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto released another paper. Bearing the title Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, the paper detailed a blockchain-based, “purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash”. The proposed purpose was to eliminate the need for funds transferred electronically to pass through a financial institution acting as a trusted third party. “The network timestamps transactions by hashing them into an ongoing chain of hash-based proof-of-work, forming a record that cannot be changed without redoing the proof-of-work,” wrote Nakamoto. “The longest chain not only serves as proof of the sequence of events witnessed, but proof that it came from the largest pool of CPU power. As long as a majority of CPU power is controlled by nodes that are not cooperating to attack the network, they’ll generate the longest chain and outpace attackers.”
Nine years later, a single Bitcoin was worth $17,900 and – although…