Ok, ok... so while Blockchain and geospatial will probably never 'battle' each other out they will definitely encounter each other a lot more in 2017. The intention of this post is to draw attention to Blockchain and to explore how it may make a mark on the geospatial world and vice versa.
It's fair to say that Blockchain is the latest buzzword which many people are talking about without fully understanding.
Essentially, Blockchain is a new way of sharing information and transacting over the internet. It is an open source distributed database system designed for encrypted, timestamped and synchronised record transactions and within this system privacy, transparency, validation and security considerations are prioritised. Blockchain underpins digital currencies such as Bitcoin and is causing a stir in the financial industry since it removes the need for numerous intermediary parties.
Considering all of the above, now is the time for geospatialists to start watching and to start making their mark. First, lets consider a few things..
Just as clocks once disrupted the sundial industry and GIS since disrupted the map filing cabinet industry, Blockchain is now disrupting the way in which we transact with one another. In the digital age, hard currencies are no longer what they once were and nowadays secure information supply and accuracy is what holds true value. This includes location based information which is highly valued in today's world.
The ability to share spatial information is critical in today's age and in the world of open data and sharing economies it makes sense for distributed systems such as Blockchain to emerge. In relation to IoT and Smart Cities, planners, delivery agents, policy and decision makers will require access to real time information regarding the location of people, things and places. By sharing spatial information, Blockchain could assist how UAVs and drones navigate space and communicate with other devices. Blockchain could change how passengers pay for public and private transportation and for the use of physical spaces across the world - for work, rest and play. It could also change how landholders, businesses and communities communicate and transact with governments regarding the use of land in specific jurisdictions.
If the geospatial industry is to involve itself in the discussion around alternative means of transacting between nodes in global networks then it needs to stamp it's own ground on the issue. The financial industry is currently redefining itself using Blockchain technology and there is no reason why the geospatial industry could not do the same. After all, the two industries are not completely unlike one another in terms of how they operate. Both access, create and update large volumes of high value information using databases, servers and APIs and both industries are concerned with the secure flow of validated and up-to-date information to support ongoing collaboration and innovation.
So while Blockchain and geospatial will probably never end up 'battling it out' with each other, both technologies will need to distinguish their value and unique identities.
More importantly, it will require a healthy dose of imagination from those involved.