Blockchain for Mobile App Developers: How Is It Useful?

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Carlos is an international relations' analyst specializing in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. Since 2017, Carlos has written extensively for UseTheBitcoin and other leading cryptocurrency sites; with over 2,000 articles published.

If you’re a mobile app developer, or a development company executive, the explosion of interest in blockchain technology won’t have escaped your attention. That doesn’t mean, though, that you’ve already got the idea of how useful it can be for your business.

To some degree, the answer depends on your role. For example, if you develop apps for your company’s internal use, it’s likely that you will identify some high-value use cases for blockchain-related apps soon enough.

If you provide mobile app development services, or build apps for the marketplace, blockchain development will be an important—and perhaps lucrative—capability to grasp sooner rather than later.

Let’s take a deeper look from either perspective, at how and why blockchain will be useful in the development of mobile apps.

The State of Blockchain and Its Business Applications

It is early days for blockchain from the enterprise perspective. As shown in the chart below, only a small percentage of companies, particularly outside the financial services sector, are actively experimenting with the technology.

Source: Gartner

That is the reality right now, but while the percentage of enterprises exploring blockchain may be low, it still equates to a lot of R&D and proof-of-concept (PoC) activities. According to UC Berkeley, there is the venture firm tracking enterprise blockchain activity, with nearly 300 companies on its records. Of the 300, some 140 are at the PoC stage, and at least 15 are in the process of patent application.

Meanwhile, there are more and more use cases for blockchain (some of which are shown in the image above) and over time, it’s likely that more of them will be turned into reality. In this age of digital mobility, it would be a mistake to limit blockchain access to desktop devices only, so mobile app developers will inevitably need to know how to build solutions on blockchain.

Blockchain for Enterprise Mobility

If you’re wondering whether your own enterprise should begin to make use of this distributed ledger technology, you should first consider if there are any problems in your existing IT environment that blockchain could solve.

Distributed Databases with Mobile Access

Some of the questions to ask can be the following: do you have digital processes requiring collaboration between business partners? If so, are those processes constrained by the need to maintain a central database?

If you can answer “yes” to the two questions above, then a mobile app with a distributed database could remove bottlenecks, allowing all partners to contribute data in a way that’s verifiable and accessible to everyone anywhere, anytime. If you develop supply chain management apps, for example, blockchain could provide your company and its partners with greater real-time visibility and traceability.

The same is true if you currently have mobile solutions accessing a database via some form of a gatekeeper or a layered authorization system. If you can transition to a blockchain-based app, the gatekeeper or authorizations will no longer be necessary. This change could reduce costs and improve process efficiency, making blockchain a useful tool indeed.

Making Contracts Smarter

If your company has the ambition and the fortitude to develop and implement smart contracts, this too is another way to improve processes and cut out the intermediary. However, smart contracts are technically complex to develop and at this point considered to be high-risk.

Blockchain for Service Vendors

Your enterprise might be one that develops mobile apps for sale, or perhaps you offer development outsourcing services. If so, blockchain may be something of a golden opportunity, provided you have the necessary development capabilities—or can invest in them.

It is no secret that demand for mobile app developers with blockchain skills exceeds the available human capital. In fact, the lack of available talent might well be contributing to the low percentage of enterprises actively working on blockchain projects. A recent TechCrunch article reports that for every one of the blockchain engineers currently trained and active, there are as many as 14 relevant job openings.

As with any form of talent shortage, the cost of hiring blockchain specialists is high. Given the environment, it’s safe to assume that as more enterprises decide to invest in the technology, the demand for outsourced development services, already considerable, will continue to grow too.

Building Mobile Apps for the Developing World

If you’re more interested in developing mobile apps on your own account instead of building them for somebody else, there will probably be no shortage of markets to break into.

There is an opinion that many of these markets will lie outside of the technologically rich regions of North America and Europe. Blockchain technology, especially when applied to financial transactions and contracts, offers possibilities to improve the life of small businesses, and even consumers, in less developed countries.

The Philippines: A Country in Need of Blockchain

Consider, for example, a country like the Philippines, where bank accounts and credit cards are luxuries afforded only to the affluent. At the same time, all but the very poorest Filipinos are in possession of smartphones, albeit the cheap Chinese models operating on prepaid tariffs.

Add a third ingredient into the mix—the presence of widespread corruption—and you have an environment crying out for blockchain apps that would help people conduct international money transfers, manage digital payments, and execute incorruptible contracts. There is also a vast population of Filipinos working outside of their country, currently paying a high price to send remittances home to their families.

Source: Stanford Social Innovation Review: Digital Currencies and Blockchain in the Social Sector

Blockchain to Help Developers Enter New Markets

Mobile apps connected to cryptocurrency or blockchain remittance solutions could help workers from developing countries to reduce their money transfer costs by eliminating intermediaries’ fees. Such apps may also make it easier for beneficiaries to receive remittances and convert them into the local fiat currency.

This is just a single example highlighting one country in East Asia, a region that receives more remittances from overseas workers than any other. There is a far bigger potential market for mobile apps that solve money transfer problems, presenting ample opportunities for developers who can tap into it.

Blockchain Mobile Apps: Useful Today, Essential Tomorrow

The marriage of blockchain and mobile technologies can enable new processes that are both more secure and more efficient. Such combination is likely to bring a wealth of new opportunities to hire out blockchain development expertise, and may help innovators deliver a new genre of mobile apps to a decentralized world economy. So if you don’t yet have blockchain development skills in your portfolio, either as an individual or within your business, now is probably a good time to fill this gap.

The value of blockchain is clear, and whether you are a developer in an enterprise’s IT department, an independent development specialist, or an entrepreneur looking to build the next WhatsApp, there’s little doubt that blockchain will be essential to meet your objectives—if not right now, then certainly in the near future.

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