Blockchain and cryptocurrency are relatively new. Most people might even think that Bitcoin — invented just in 2009 and probably the most popular blockchain-based cryptocurrency out there — is the only one of its kind. But blockchain is more than just Bitcoin.
Blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions. It’s public and is not governed by a central body. As such, there’s a relative level of transparency coupled with security through cryptography. In other words, it’s safe and reliable, and monitored by hundreds of miners who keep these ledgers. It’s quickly becoming of interest to not just existing financial markets, but humanitarian and sustainability efforts.
At the moment, blockchains are most frequently used for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. But it has other uses — like what distributed public blockchain network Ethereum does. Instead of focusing on just digital money like Bitcoin, the Ethereum blockchain runs the programming code of decentralized applications, allowing for enterprise use. Transactions in the Ethereum network rely on a crypto-token (also known as security tokens) called Ether.
Now, Hong Kong-based cryptocurrency research and development company IOHK wants to open new doors in blockchain research. IOHK was established in 2015 by Jeremy Wood and Charles Hoskinson, one of the founders of Ethereum. They’re planning to invest up to $1 million in two facilities for research: one at the University of Edinburgh, and the other Tokyo Institute of Technology.
The labs will cover topics such as cryptography, smart contracts, and how to upgrade cryptocurrency systems. Best of all, their research will be open source and accessible to everyone. “This is commonly not done in the startup setting,” Hoskinson told Business Insider. “Usually, this is something you do if you’re a company like Microsoft — Microsoft has research campuses at many major universities.”
Hoskinson also said that setting up these research labs can provide perspective and better understanding of the growing blockchain technology. “After having discussions, they [the experts] said, actually we don’t have answers to a lot of these fundamental questions,” explained Hoskinson. “We said, how do we get those answers? And they said, we need to write some papers, we need to do some basic research. Over time we started moving into the university research space.”
We already know that blockchain is more than Bitcoin, but now that there will be research labs dedicated to understanding its potential, the future of the technology is bound to develop rapidly. The days of digital cash becoming globally dominant could arrive sooner than we think.