In a time like this, on a planet like this, in an era like this, there’s a growing need for technologies to come out of the hype cycle and mature into technologies adopted by the masses. Blockchain is one such technology that has the potential to be scaled beyond the confines of specific ecosystems such as the digital currency ecosystem. The lack of interoperability between different Blockchain systems and networks is most often seen as the single biggest deterrent to mass adoption.
At a basic level, interoperability simply means the ability of different blockchain networks and systems to communicate with each other and view, share and access information without a centralized platform or an exchange.
Its not only the integration with other Blockchain systems but with other software & systems that make up for critical functions in the world. Whether its transactions or deployments, a blockchain network/system should be able to integrate seamlessly to a non-Blockchain system or software.
For the world to realize the full potential of enterprise Blockchain, especially in industries where the value chain is an important factor, Blockchain interoperability is a must. Let’s look at an example of why Interoperability is important, by looking at a scenario from the healthcare sector.
Imagine, a person needs to be hospitalized and he or she is in an ambulance going to the hospital. At the same time, the hospital digitally requests for the medical records of the patient from the regular clinic where the patient visits.
Unfortunately, the blockchain where the clinic stores the data, doesn’t match with the hospital’s ledger and they cannot access the patient’s files. This puts the hospital behind the curve while coming up with a best treatment plan when the patient reaches.
Non-interoperable Blockchain systems are not only risky for healthcare, but also in the realms of aviation, supply chain, trade finance, logistics and real estate to name a few.
Its ironic that a technology where the core functional attribute is decentralization, Blockchain networks and systems are inherently closed and they can’t communicate between each other.
In fact, majority of Blockchain projects have different characteristics in terms of hashing algorithms, consensus models or the type of transactions.
Add to that, there are certain networks which have different governance mechanisms, regulatory controls and different technology versions leading to siloed systems which defeats the purpose of Blockchain being a technology standard.
The potential of Blockchain evolving as a technology standard is far away from reality. True interoperability will be a massive leap for Blockchain as it will pave the way for Blockchain to become a technology standard.
The issue of interoperability is as much a technology problem, as it is a governance, business, and process problem. In a general sense, interoperability is the ability of computers to exchange information, but in the context of Blockchain, it involves consistent transfer of real assets between different systems.
To an extent, crypto exchanges represent some form of interoperability, but have been plagued by security concerns pertaining to depositing digital currency on a wallet and therefore they haven’t been adopted on a mass scale. However, given the push by different industries to develop interoperable Blockchain protocols.
Promising cross-blockchain projects in the works may prove to be game changing for the technology and we can safely assume that we are at the crossroads when it comes to Blockchain evolving to become an industry agnostic technology standard.
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Sid has been a content solutions evangelist and a digital marketer for 10+ years. Having written for brands such as IBM, Infosys and other technology corporations and startups, he is always at the cutting edge of researching & writing about emerging technologies.
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