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Dev Hacks: Preparing for a Decentralized Future with Blockchain Apps

Posted by Elisheva Marcus on May 2018

After co-hosting Ethereum Camp 2018 in Berlin, we’re even MORE focused on new forms of collaborative problem-solving. At “Connect Blockchain to Real IoT Products”, a 4-day hackathon this spring, IoT and blockchain enthusiasts combined forces to develop solutions for actual business and environmental challenges. You can see those impressive results here

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Hackathons provide a concentrated opportunity to apply different design mentalities and co-create products supported by diversified skill sets. Melding diverse talents and resources is also what defines effective company building; it’s a core aspect of venture development at Next Big Thing (NBT), where we build tech companies around connected solutions.

With that collaborative spirit, we're devoting this post to decentralized technology and discussing dApps, because we aim to ‘do our part to usher in a decentralized future.' We'll explore what dApps are, their importance, and how developers can best approach the uniqueness of blockchain.

What's Behind Blockchain

One key area of decentralized tech is dApps, or distributed Apps. Blockchain apps work with decentralized, secure, accessible and verifiable databases. In order to build dApps, it’s best to get familiar with the technology fundamentals behind blockchain and gain some practical experience in a few programming languages that could be used to implement that technology.

Before diving into building dApps, it's also worthwhile to understand what makes blockchain different from the current state of the web. So we’ll focus this post on how developers can prepare for what is unique to blockchain. The capabilities and possibilities of blockchain– simply put, a decentralized ledger– will likely affect much of the Internet, as the technology is already affecting multiple industries.

Nope, at NBT we don’t develop apps; rather, we build companies in the IoT and blockchain space. But we firmly believe in exploring aspects of horizon technologies, especially those which closely relate to what we do. We think attention to design and usability of complex systems will benefit everyone. An example of this force for good is our IoT-blockchain venture, Weeve, who transparently breaks down complexity through their operating system and pays careful attention to token design.

And despite popular claims that blockchain is easily lucrative –mostly due to misinterpreting the technology’s harbinger – Bitcoin, there is still plenty of work to do to build solutions which offer real value. With this post, we want to motivate mobile app developers to think about their approach to blockchain and provide them with helpful tools, and increasingly important - a shift in mindset.

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Accountability and Accessibility

What’s unique about the blockchain that differentiates it from what we know of the web so far? Primarily, blockchain allows distribution of information but disables copying. Sharing is performed on a distributed database where anyone can get access and contribute, keeping information and records public. Coupled with encryption and no central control point, it becomes more difficult to inflict damage on data.

Transparency carries a significant accountability guarantee. Theoretically, blockchain can support systems without errors, keeping everyone involved highly accountable. Its validity has already been proven for finance remittance and shows solid potential for improving logistics for medicine delivery and food shortages, helping people in remote parts of the world. Distributing transactions over several registries is a new way of trading value on the Internet. With blockchain applications, some centralized aspects of e-commerce could easily end up extinct.

This is an exciting aspect for solidity developers; if mobile app developers have limited resources for learning new skills, concentrating efforts in this area could prove a wise move.

Many central public registries that serve large user networks can be improved with blockchain app development, making the role of intermediaries less significant. App ideas that can entice massive collaboration on a peer-to-peer network are both interesting and promising.

Just as PCs powered data exchange across networks, and the Internet facilitated remote distribution of data, blockchain enables wide-scale decentralized exchanges. Clearly, there is potential here. But as with any new technology, key challenges need consideration first.

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Challenging Blockchain Developers’ Skills

In order to build dApps, there are a couple of recommendations to start with: gain the basics of cryptography, computer networking, and languages such as Javascript and Python. Additionally, a change of mindset helps: Rather than seeing them as daunting, new coding techniques can be exciting.

Some advantages of the blockchain are problematic when viewed from a different angle. On the one hand, blockchain computational blocks should be based on a predetermined algorithmic structure. On the other hand, they are made with an open-source code. This makes the blockchain accessible, but also vulnerable. It supports the argument behind why blockchain app development requires dedicated time. Lack of resources to respond to all queries can keep you behind - an unwanted trait in a process where speed counts.

How to Simplify

Using the Ethereum platform, you can use Ethereum as a framework to build dApps. It abstracts away the underlying technical complexities while providing the key benefits of blockchain. Through the new language of Solidity, app developers can start thinking with the vocabulary of smart contracts.

Smart contracts are a simplified method for people across borders to do business without looking for a central bank to complete financial transactions in different currencies, an interpreter to sort out the language differences, or a lawyer to set up a written contract that fits in an international legal framework.

Even as technology takes many players out of the game, it also brings new people in. Among those, blockchain app developers and UX designers have a distinct advantage. They will be sorely needed to make applications more approachable and democratized. Promising industries and areas include finance, security, file exchange and storage, as well as aspects of shared economies which can be decentralized across databases. To learn more about how Weeve’s blockchain-agnostic approach and smart contracts are empowering new marketplaces in the Economy of Things, follow along here.

Designing with Intention

One intriguing area is UX design for blockchain. As Dave Atchley points out, “blockchain needs to overcome its usability problem. User experience design will ultimately have a greater impact on the widespread adoption of blockchain than the technology itself.”

Another relevant piece shows how leveraging basic design principles when dealing with blockchain will have a positive impact: “blockchain technology brings a real transformation, and when aligned with design thinking could be a catalyst for a new wave of user experiences that may very well change how users interact between themselves and via applications.”

Blockchain app development in IoT is unexplored territory where change is waiting to happen. We are excited to see where this goes. Are you attending Blockchain week NYC May 11-14? Get in touch with members of NBT’s IoT-blockchain venture, Weeve!

If all this already sounds super familiar and you have skills that could contribute to coding in the Ethereum virtual machine, just drop us a line here at NBT. We’d love to hear from you and discuss opportunities that challenge you in new ways.

Images courtesy of DLT Camp and 21 Digital

 

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