Blockchain is by no means a panacea, however. A key issue is that its response time can be slow; Ethereum, for example, can process sometimes as few as 15 transactions per second. Speed is being addressed in process design, notably by focusing on less cumbersome authentication. Another issue is that in order for a blockchain to become useful to a wide range of participants, a great deal of time must be spent developing standards acceptable to all who participate.
Nevertheless, 2019 is shaping up to be a breakthrough 12 months for the technology. Post says he expects “a large number” of POCs and trials to turn into production this year. “Adoption is widespread but limited in scope today — but will greatly expand and accelerate as companies gain experience,” he says.
Daren Campbell, EY Intelligent Automation leader concurs. “Blockchain’s popularity is expanding and gradually transforming our approach towards automation. Instead of leveraging technology to automate a section of the process, blockchain has the capability to not only automate the entire process, but also make it significantly more effective through reimagining the art of the possible with intelligent event data collection. The technology is rapidly maturing and delivering on numerous organizational benefits”
Kurt Neidhardt, EY Global Co-Leader for Tax Technology and Transformation adds, “Blockchain can be the giant leap that push tax functions towards achieving maximum value and efficiency - it delivers on the modern-day Tax department’s shift towards strategic analysis and almost instantly minimizes resource burden around transactional data capture and reporting.”
Indeed, C. John Langley, Jr., Clinical Professor of Supply Chain Management and Director of Development for the Center for Supply Chain Research at the Penn State University Smeal College of Business, says blockchain’s potential will grow exponentially once it begins to interact with other fast-evolving technologies.
Starting with the Internet of Things (IoT), Langley says: “Digitization and connectivity of sensors mean that we can see where things are and determine their condition along every step of the way. Is this shipment on time? Are foods, drugs — even wines — being transported or stored at the right temperatures? These can be critical considerations within product safety and quality… and blockchain assisted by IoT can track everything within an indelible record.”
The addition of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning could offer a further boost. “We are at the stage where the ability to analyze and respond to what the data can tell us is becoming one of the most disruptive tools available,” says Langley. “Again and again it is being proven, with the right data and the ability to analyze and respond to that data — companies can win. Blockchain combined with other technologies becomes an absolute game changer.”