Welcome to the New Era of Blockchain and Digital Assets
Futurist Conference, Canada’s flagship blockchain event, returned to the Rebel Entertainment Complex in Toronto this August. For the second year in a row, the team at Untraceable gathered some of the industry’s greatest minds to share their vision of a decentralized world. From startups and their respective protocols to Bitcoin maximalism, Futurist once again created an immersive blockchain experience.
The space is definitely maturing, following the aggressive wax and wane of 2017/2018. We are long past the endless slew of ICOs, equipped with whitepapers, promises and slogans that all sounded something like, “we are going to tokenize everything and change the world.” Now the blockchain community eagerly awaits the launch of BAKKT, thought to be the herald of institutional money, that is set to launch in late September. Consensus this year saw Gemini and Flexxa come together with the release of the SPEDN wallet, through which many well-known brands will be able to accept crypto as a form of payment. Starbucks is even integrating blockchain technology to track their products from “bean to cup.” As blockchain gains more exposure, the need to transition from vision to action is ever-growing, and the call is being answered. We are entering a new era.
The ability to buy a coffee with crypto is great, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Brands are increasingly taking an interest in blockchain technology that extends far past accepting digital assets as payment. The growing trend of direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketing has taken the world by storm. Wal-Mart, like Starbucks, is already using blockchain for its supply-chain management endeavours but has recently applied to patent a digital coin tied to traditional fiat currency. The suggested technology would allow for cheaper and faster transactions, as well as loyalty features – where transaction information would be overlayed with customer purchase history and savings. Facebook has also entered the blockchain foray with the development of the Libra Project. Despite extensive regulatory scrutiny, if Facebook is successful in launching Libra, it would instantly connect the networks 2.7 billion users, something that no project has yet been able to do – creating a truly dynamic place where brands and consumers can interact in a way not yet seen before.
DigitalBits – The Blockchain For Brands
Speaking of digital assets and brands, enter DigitalBits. We’ve had the pleasure of working with their team before, and I was able to sit down with VP of Operations, Michael Luckhoo, to discuss his thoughts on the future of the industry and what role DigitalBits, the “Blockchain for Brands,” has to play in the development of the token economy.
DigitalBits is a household name at Futurist and among the projects slowly building a blockchain hub in Toronto. A protocol layer blockchain focused on supporting consumer digital assets, DigitalBits seeks to revolutionize the manner in which brands and consumers interact. Led by top-tier executives, industry veterans, and a diverse advisory board including the likes of Julie Lyle, former CMO of Wal-Mart, DigitalBits is poised to attract brands looking to join the technological movement and service the ever discerning consumer.
DigitalBits has championed the concept of brand currencies since project inception in 2017. Brand currencies have existed prior to the birth of blockchain technology – assets such as points and rewards have been issued by brands to transact with consumers for decades. Customers perform services through their actions – buying habits, filling out surveys, reviews etc. and are compensated in the brands in-house currency (points/rewards). These points are then redeemable for different goods and services depending on the program. Core to the DigitalBits mission was addressing the technological archaicness of this industry, evident by the billions of dollars in points that have remained untouched and forgotten on the balance sheets of corporations.
As of 2017, in excess of $100 billion in points sat idle in the United States alone. Additionally, each year across Travel & Hospitality, Retail, and Finance in the US, over $50 billion in perceived value of points are generated, with 33% going unused each year, never to be redeemed.
“Consumers work hard for these points, they pay for them with their buying behaviour, their time, their loyalty. Siloed programs don’t allow for easy value transfer, which means a lot of the time consumers have points that they can’t spend towards the things that they want. At DigitalBits we believe that if you earn it, you own it, and as such, you should have the ability to spend your assets where you wish – this is something we are looking to make a reality,” said Michael Luckhoo. “Alliances and coalitions can natively be built across the world as they connect to the core of a unified blockchain standard. Consumers can choose how they wish to spend their earned assets from the brands and connect with other payment services, or simply trade into another branded currency. The flexibility is endless and this marks a massive shift in crypto adoption!”
Adding to the excitement, the potential for brand currencies stems beyond loyalty programs. With Wal-Mart recently filing for a number of blockchain patents, and Facebook seeking to launch its own cryptocurrency that will power payments within its network, what are the possibilities for assets generated from the relationship between brands and consumers?
A phrase thrown around extensively in the industry is “banking the unbanked.” How do we grant access to the billions of people that are unable to plug into traditional financial systems. Branded currencies could be the solution to this. Many people around the world have insufficient capital to initiate a bank account – which leads to them not being able to generate reliable credit history. These two phenomena unjustly lock many people out of today’s system, aggressively stifling development in the parts of the world that need it most. But it seems that along the way we forgot something – everyone shops, whether it be for food, clothes, toys etc. And buying history… is well, a reliable record.
“Retail brands may be the first major catalyst we have seen in supporting the vision of the unbanked – where creditworthiness, storage of assets, and entering into other financial instruments may all be related to your file on hand, digitally stored with the brand. For those without access to a bank, a major brand may suffice to replace this in the near future and branded stablecoins pave the way for this evolution.” – Michael Luckhoo.
Consumers generate extensive history with the brands that they frequent, so the idea that these same brands could issue them credit is not so far fetched. Branded currencies will facilitate interactions never before seen between brands and consumers, and credit may very well be one of them. Who’s to say that Sally, who has been spending $200 a week on groceries at Wal-Mart should not be able to circumvent the traditional system and apply for credit straight through Wal-Mart. And then maybe, she takes the rewards that Wal-Mart has awarded her and buys coffee at Starbucks? Unlocking the value of the points economy held within the pockets of millions and banking the unbanked? Seems like DigitalBits has their hands full, but after my chat with Michael, it also seems like they have the team to do it.
Check out DigitalBits as they support this next new era of blockchain! They have recently been listed on IDEX and Bilaxy, and despite a small initial market cap, this project has long term vision. We had the pleasure to interview Michael at Blockchain Futurist Conference and here’s what he had to say.
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