Engineering and the financial sector may not have the strongest connections in the world, but with Bitcoin reaching record highs in 2017, the race is on to see how the two can come closer together. For those with a keen on eye on the movements of currency, the first quarter of 2017 has been bullish for the leading cryptocurrency, Bitcoin.
Despite having its ups and downs since it was created in 2009, the early part of the year saw it break records and even surpass the price of gold. At one time in its history, a single bitcoin was worth less than £5. Today, through a combination of increased usage, improved technology and better understanding, a single bitcoin is worth more than £1,000. In fact, on March 2, the price reached a record high of $1,270/£1,035 on some trading platforms.
Part of the reason for the latest surge in price is the pending decision by the Winklevoss twins with regards to bitcoin becoming an ETF (exchange traded fund). Although the jury is still out on whether this will happen, the mere possibility that it could be traded like other stocks and assets has sent the price skyward in recent months. However, to get to the point where the financial traders and regulators are considering it a potential commodity, something must have clicked.
Increased Usage Gives Bitcoin a Boost
“Stock Photography – Canadian Coins” (CC BY 2.0) by MorboKat
One undeniable reason for the growth in popularity of the virtual currency is its increased usage. Today, even those without an idea of the technology behind it, can use bitcoins to pay for all manner of goods and services. From flights and holidays to online gaming entertainment, bitcoin payments are becoming mainstream online.
For example, people who want to play online casino games such as blackjack and roulette can now use Bitcoin. When they go to BitCasino.io, they’ll have the ability to deposit, play and withdraw funds in BTC and nothing else. For individuals, playing games like Satoshi Baccarat, this is great because it eliminates issues such as currency conversion charges and, importantly, helps protect their identity.
Similarly, gamers on the other side of the gaming spectrum can now pay for Xbox Live credits via Microsoft. Beyond gaming, online retailers like Overstock give consumers the ability to buy everything from electronics and computers using the cryptocurrency. As if that wasn’t enough, Virgin Galactic, Baltic Air and even British Airways will all take you on a flight to faraway destinations without you needing to use your pounds or pence.
Blockchain Holds the Key to Industry Advances
“Worksheets” (CC BY 2.0) by ingeniarius’
However, it’s not simply the proliferation of bitcoin payments that’s helped the currency. Blockchain technology, the technology powering bitcoin transactions, is also finding its way into industries and that’s where engineering comes in. Blockchain, in essence, is an online ledger or distributed database that maintains an ever-growing list of blocks. Each block written into ledger is encrypted and time stamped which basically makes it resistant to change.
This ability to process and store data in a more efficient and secure way is where engineering could benefit. According to the Lloyd’s Register Foundation programme for data-centric engineering, data considerations are at the core of engineering design and blockchain technology could help improve this process. Indeed, during a meeting of minds at The Alan Turing Institute back in January 2017, the idea of using blockchain technology was floated.
Focusing specifically on data-centric engineering and its two core assets – the physical and the digital – the workshop discussed how assurance between these two outputs could be enhanced. Using blockchain technology to better process the latter could result in enhanced performances from the former. Although the adoption of blockchain technology by the engineering world is still in its early stages, the cogs are starting to turn. However, just as the medical world and even the music industry have started exploring blockchain, it now seems as though engineering is firmly on the bitcoin and blockchain bandwagon.