This paper presents an assessment of blockchain technology based on the Emerging Technology Analysis Canvas (ETAC) to evaluate the drivers and potential outcomes. The ETAC is a framework to critically analyze emerging technologies.
The assessment finds that blockchain can fundamentally transform the world. It is ready for specific applications in use cases such as digital currency, lightweight financial systems, ledgers, provenance, and disintermediation.
However, Blockchain faces significant technical gaps in other use cases and needs at least 5-10 years to come to full fruition in those spaces. Sustaining the current level of effort (e.g. startups, research) for this period of time may be challenging. We also find that the need and merits of decentralized infrastructures compared to centralized and semi-centralized alternatives is not always clear. Given the risk involved and significant potential returns, we recommend a cautiously optimistic approach to blockchain with the focus on concrete use cases.
The primary contributions of this paper are a use case centric categorization of the blockchain, a detailed discussion on challenges faced by those categories, and an assessment of their future.