Book review: The Business Blockchain

Book cover for The Business Blockchain by William MougayarIn addition to working in technology, I enjoy observing trends and watching up-and-coming technologies. Blockchain is one of those new technologies that I’ve been watching closely over the last couple of years. General, as well as my interest in blockchain has risen due to cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum. While I’m not a fan of cryptocurrencies (a rant I’ll post some other time), I am fascinated and keenly interested in blockchain. So much so that I felt it was worth the effort to read a book on the subject, which led me to The Business Blockchain: Promise, Practice, and Application of the Next Internet Technology by William Mougayar.

A lot of people mistakenly think that blockchain is just another name for cryptocurrency. In reality, crytpocurrencies are just one application that is made possible because of blockchain technology. Blockchain enables cryptocurrencies. So if I’m not a fan of cryptocurrencies, why am I interested in blockchain?

Blockchain is compelling in my view because of the application and the problems it can solve. Here are just a few applications it can be used for in addition to cryptocurrencies:

  • Cardless transactions – think Square, Paypal, or Venmo without needing a bank account of credit card backing it
  • Inventory management – track everything from clothing to fruit to cars
  • Transaction coordination and management – escrow functions in real estate transactions
  • Identity management – decide which online service can access your personal information, how much they can access, and how much you get paid for it
  • Healthcare – control what and how much medical information to share with doctors, insurance companies, family members
  • Banking – extending cryptocurrency applications to handle all banking needs

While all of these can be done today in the physical world, the problems are that the underlying information and data is centralized and under the control of a single entity that reaps a disproportionate share of value compared to the user that supplies it. The centralized control by a single entity also creates single point of failure and security issues. If the control point is compromised (hacked) or goes away (business disruption or bankruptcy), all of the users’ data is affected by the breach. We’ve seen this happen with instances of hacking at Equifax for credit reporting and Anthem for health records.

In the Business Blockchain, Mougayar goes into more detail on the benefits of blockchain, its use cases, and what the future holds for the technology. The book is good, but it can be hard to follow at times. He does a good job of explaining the technology, why it’s an important foundation technology, and its applications. What wasn’t clear from the book was how we will get from where we are today, point A, to where we will be tomorrow, point B. Mougayar paints the picture in broad strokes, but brushes over the details.

The Business Blockchain is a high level overview of the technology. For me, it was a little too high level. I would have preferred to get a deeper look into the implementation details for blockchain and the nuts and bolts of the technology, but I have a feeling that I am not the intended audience. On the other hand, if you’re new to blockchain and would like to get a better understanding of why and how it will become a critical piece of our technology infrastructure in the future, then The Business Blockchain is for you.