Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) were the big news in the blockchain scene during 2021. Astronomical prices achieved by artwork such as Beeple’s The First 5000 Days created plenty of headlines, placing the concept of unique digital tokens residing on blockchains firmly in the public consciousness. It’s also firmly taken hold in the music world, with artists including Kings of Leon, Shawn Mendes, and Grimes all releasing tracks in NFT format. But like blockchain in general, the idea has potential beyond it’s first publicity-grabbing use cases. Distillers William Grant and Son recently sold bottles of 46-year-old Glenfiddich whisky alongside NFTs, which are used to prove each bottle’s provenance. NFTs in gaming are starting to take off in a big way – monster-breeding game Axie Infinity allows players to "mint" their own NFT creatures to send into battle and currently has around 300,000 concurrent players (Fortnite, for comparison, has around 3.5 million). Dolce & Gabbana and Nike have both created clothing and footwear that come with their own NFTs. And the metaverse concept – championed this year by Facebook, Microsoft, and Nvidia – brings plenty of opportunities for innovative NFT use cases.
More countries adopt Bitcoin and national cryptocurrencies
2021 saw El Salvador become among the first nations to adopt Bitcoin as legal tender, meaning it can be accepted across the country to pay for goods and services, and businesses can use it to pay their employees. According to many commentators, during 2022, we will see a number of other countries follow suit.
Alexander Hoptner, CEO of cryptocurrency exchange BitMEX, predicts that at least five developing countries will start to accept Bitcoin next year, driven by global inflation and growing remittance fees from financial "middlemen" organizations used to send money home by overseas workers.
National cryptocurrencies – where central banks create their own coins that they can control, rather than adopting existing decentralized coins – are another area where we will see growth in 2022. These projects typically involve digital currencies that will operate alongside existing traditional currencies, allowing users to conduct their own transactions and manage their custody without relying on third-party service providers, while also allowing the central banks to keep control of the circulating supply – keeping the value of the token pegged to the value of the country’s traditional currency. While the UK government-endorsed Britcoin is unlikely to be ready for launch during 2022, others, including China, Singapore, Tunisia, and Ecuador, have already done so, with more, including Japan, Russia, Sweden, and Estonia likely to join soon.
Blockchain and IoT integration
Blockchain is hugely compatible with the idea of the Internet of Things (IoT) because it is great for creating records of interactions and transactions between machines. It can potentially help to solve many problems around security as well as scalability due to the automated, encrypted, and immutable nature of blockchain ledgers and databases. It could even be used for machine-to-machine transactions – enabling micropayments to be made via cryptocurrencies when one machine or network needs to procure services from another. While this is an advanced use case that may involve us traveling a little further down the road before it impacts our day-to-day lives, it’s likely we will start to hear about more pilot projects and initial use cases in this field during 2022. Innovation in this field is likely to be driven by the ongoing rollout of 5G networks, meaning greater connectivity between all manner of smart, networked equipment and appliances – not simply in terms of speed, but also new types of data transactions including blockchain transactions.
Blockchain in vaccine manufacture and tracking