Blockchain at CES 2019 – What a Difference a Year Can Make

Blockchain sessions and projects still abound at CES this year, but the bloom is definitely off the rose. At last year’s sessions it was standing room only, but this year it was no problem finding a seat. Given that cryptocurrencies are down 82 percent since last year at this time, I guess it’s no surprise. The good news, however, is that with a lot of the hype and “quick buck” mentality deflated, there’s a lot of good work and investing still being done. Unlike last year, which was one ICO announcement after another, this year was much more subdued and focused on products that address real business needs.

Companies could no longer capitalize their business on token sales, and instead, needed to show real business value to get VC funding. And VC companies continue to invest in blockchain companies.

VC luminaries such as Tim Draper (Draper Associates) and Jonathan Johnson (Medici Ventures) couldn’t be more bullish on the ability for blockchain to have a huge impact on almost every aspect of our lives. They’re investing in a broad spectrum of companies and services from banking to healthcare to identity to supply chain.

One of the most exciting announcements was from Devvio, which brands itself “THE Enterprise Blockchain” and claims to have solved all of blockchain’s current implementation issues. These include: stability, scalability, security and privacy. The company claims its Devv blockchain tech can support 8 million transactions per second (compared to Bitcoin’s 7 transaction per second average). Further, Devvio states that its transaction cost is 1/100,000th the cost of an Ethereum transaction.

Obviously, all of this still needs to be tested and proven. But, at that rate and cost, direct-to-consumer implementations for content become possible and cost effective. This could have significant implications for Media & Entertainment, and open up new distribution models.

Another interesting company is Pundi X. Based in Singapore with offices in Jakarta, London, São Paulo, Seoul, Tokyo and Shenzhen, it has an ambitious strategy that includes both hardware and software. The company provides point-of-sale XPOS devices for retailers that allows them to both sell and accept cryptocurrencies from their stores.

Pundi X also announced a blockchain cell phone (the XPhone, below), that provides secure voice, text and web browsing functionality using blockchain. Their software (including a modified version of Android OS for their phone) has a digital wallet (XWallet) application for both Android and iOS, as well as all the backend infrastructure to support their ecosystem.

Ultimately, they hope to be able to use an installed base of PoS and phones to provide a truly distributed blockchain infrastructure that uses the compute power on those devices and doesn’t rely on a centralized set of servers to provide that functionality.

Finally, there was a session — “Cities Flirt with Blockchain” — that discussed the implications for blockchain in that environment. For local governments, blockchain offers a number of potential benefits, including: identity, e-voting, homeless/refugee management, improved efficiencies and access to IoT devices and city data.

As cities become “smarter,” so must the ways in which they provide services and interact with their residents. Blockchain, while not a silver bullet, provides unique capabilities that could improve they way in which all of us interact with agencies and services that cities provide.

Despite the lack of media attention it once received, the future looks bright for blockchain and its ability to fulfill its promise to change the world.