September 4, 2018 Blockchain and Mobile App Development: A Perfect Match?

Blockchain is a very buzzy term in tech. While many are adopting it for a variety of scenarios, is it right for mobile app development? There are pros and cons to designing applications with it. It’s often touted for its security because a blockchain cannot be corrupted and is always transparent. These traits bring both opportunity and challenges. Let’s look at what makes blockchain different and when it makes sense to use it when developing apps.

Blockchain has big players

Mobile app development is still a growing and expanding area of technology with many newer players using blockchain technology. Blockchain isn’t a gimmick; there is even a county in the U.S. now accepting cryptocurrency as payment for taxes.
Also, leaders in tech are embracing blockchain. Microsoft is launching an enterprise blockchain service. LG is working on a blockchain project called Monachain. Fujitsu has a new technology than extends blockchain functionality. And more recently, Facebook seems to be planning something with blockchain as well. Companies like our partner ConsenSys, with its specific spoke companies, are helping more groundbreaking businesses leverage blockchain for essential niche purposes. Two examples are Meridio, which enables fractional real estate buying and selling, and Ujo, which provides a way to transparently share rights and ownership around music.
All of this interest seems to foretell that blockchains will disrupt the mobile app development field. Blockchain offers a new foundational technology for mobile apps to be built, which will open up new opportunities and usher in more change.

How blockchain is different

Blockchain acts as a ledger data structure. While it’s mostly discussed in the context of bitcoin and transaction records, it has many more uses. Blockchain technology does something that other structures cannot. It allows digital information to be distributed, but not copied. It’s the architecture for a new kind of internet. Beyond just a backbone for bitcoin, blockchain development has many uses in the tech world.
With a decentralized app, there is no single authority accountable for the storage, management, and organization of the data. Everything is stored on blocks, which are then distributed on a ledger, ensuring traceability, transparency, and the inability to alter it. It operates autonomously. However, since there is not a single owner, changes are made by the consensus of all stakeholders.

Distributed databases: pros and cons

Blockchain as a tool in development typically consists of a distributed database that contains blocks of data. Each data element has its own timestamp and link to the previous block. The database is usually readable by many but cannot be updated by a single user. It’s a peer-to-peer architecture versus a client/server architecture. Transactions can then be carried out securely without the validation of a third party.
A distributed database can be very beneficial. Actions are coordinated by passing messages between applications or via shared memory. This makes them much more available than non-distributed ones. They also function and perform better when challenged with failures, as it isolates parts of the network.
That all sounds great, right? As with everything, there are pros and cons. One of the biggest drawbacks is keeping data in the distributed database consistent. As it stands, making an update in one area does not automatically mean that update makes it through the system.
For example, in the context of bitcoin, the change not taking place throughout could allow a user to spend it more than once. That doesn’t mean it won’t become consistent. It will eventually, but that may be further down the road. Consistency is key to a “healthy” blockchain.

QA becomes more complex

First, you need to be prepared for the challenges with testing and QA. You aren’t just testing it on a single computer; there is much more involved. Be prepared to encounter some difficulties here, as some bugs will even change its behavior when tested.
Remember you have to test this over a large network with lots of nuances. When you decide to use blockchain for all its pros, you must plan for a longer QA period.

The true value of blockchain

Blockchains support the development of more efficient business processes. The same adaptability, which is the cause of its challenges, is also the crux of what makes it so advantageous as a ledger.
There are both benefits and drawbacks to working with this technology to develop mobile apps. It’s important to note that it’s still in its infancy. So many of the current challenges will probably become less of a hurdle in the future. As with anything in development, it’s a process of continual evolution.
Blockchain has shown its value. A revolution of mobile app development is coming (or may already be here), so time is running out to be an early adopter.

Is blockchain right for your app?

You’ll find that the more your app is like bitcoin, the more likely a blockchain architecture makes sense. Study the details if you aren’t intimately familiar with bitcoin, but don’t assume that bitcoin is the only way to use a blockchain. Possibilities await for those businesses that want to take advantage of the technology and all that it offers.
Just as using blockchain to build apps is disrupting technology, so is the way in which they are being developed. You don’t have to be limited to online marketplaces or development firms in your area. Now you can use a global crowd of experts in blockchain to best leverage blockchain for your app development.

Beth Osborne


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