When the concept of a blockchain was introduced as the underlying technology behind Bitcoin back in 2008, it was dismissed as another fad that would quickly lose steam. While it hasn’t achieved the same ubiquity as the Internet, it still remains a relevant topic of conversation more than a decade later, extending even beyond the talk of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.
In fact, the development of blockchain has expanded in such a way that it’s beginning to be seen in everyday life. And this isn’t limited to payments made in cryptocurrency—blockchain startups all over the world are finding more and more use cases that benefit from the security, immutability, and transparency provided by blockchain technology.
In many startup hubs across Asia-Pacific, tech startups are developing and growing their blockchain-based projects and applying them to real-life use cases. These innovations are not only disrupting their respective industries, they’re also providing comprehensive solutions to the region’s most fundamental problems.
How is blockchain growing in relevance throughout Asia? Here are five ways it’s becoming part of everyday life.
Of course, many of the blockchain-enabled products being used around the world today revolve around its original use case: revolutionizing the delivery of money. By removing the need for formal financial institutions, transactions become safer, smoother, and even cheaper to execute, which can prove beneficial for various types of financial services.
One startup leveraging these benefits is Coinone, a South Korean cryptocurrency exchange that recently introduced a digital remittance service called Cross. Through its web platform and mobile app, Cross users can send money from South Korea to several countries such as India, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam with the click of a button.
While Cross’s users are sending over fiat money, these transactions are all powered by blockchain technology in the back end. This not only makes these money transfers faster and safer, it also allows Cross to offer much lower processing fees than traditional remittance centers.
Having only launched last year, Cross has already secured large partnerships across Asia such as Siam Commercial Bank in Thailand and Cebuana Lhullier in the Philippines. It also plans to expand its reach by allowing its users to remit money to China.
Blockchain-powered physical payments
With the advent of digital crypto wallets as well as new crypto tokens, more and more people are carrying cryptocurrency in their pockets alongside their fiat money. However, most of them are only using their crypto wallets in digital platforms such as e-commerce sites and mobile apps, while they stick to their physical cash and debit cards when making purchases offline.
But Pundi X, which was founded in Indonesia but is now headquartered in Singapore, is erasing that distinction. Pundi X partners with brick-and-mortar retailers all over the world to install its XPOS, the world’s first blockchain-powered point-of-sale device.
If retailers are equipped with the XPOS, their customers are able to accept payments made in cryptocurrency. Customers will be able to use their crypto assets in real life, allowing them to experience more secure and more seamless transactions.
Aside from the XPOS, Pundi X is also making blockchain-powered payments more accessible through two other features. Its mobile app, XWallet, allows users to easily store and use their crypto assets from their phones, while its physical card, XPASS, enables near-field communication transactions with the XPOS.
Pundi X has shipped its XPOS devices to over 30 countries worldwide. In Asia, it can be found in merchants across Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. The company aims to distribute 100,000 XPOS devices by 2021.
Blockchain-powered rewards programmes
While crypto payments were becoming more and more common with the increasing popularity of Bitcoin and the advent of new cryptocurrencies, they aren’t the only transactions that can be made on the blockchain. Other startups have even used the model of crypto transactions and applied it to processes beyond the typical financial services.
LoyalCoin, a Philippine-based tech startup, is using blockchain technology to provide a different approach to company rewards programs and loyalty points. Through its own crypto token of the same name (LYL), LoyalCoin allows users to earn a single type of rewards point across multiple merchants.
This means that if a user earns rewards points from one of LoyalCoin’s partner merchants, those same points can be redeemed and used in a different partner merchant. The model gives the users more flexibility with their rewards points, and it exposes the merchants to a broader audience of customers. These are all tracked through LoyalCoin’s mobile loyalty app, the LoyalWallet, which shows how many LYLs you’ve earned and used.
LoyalCoin currently has over 30 partner merchants in the Philippines, ranging from restaurants to airlines to resorts. The blockchain-based structure also allows LoyalCoin to integrate with any merchant around the world, making for a more unified and holistic rewards program.
While the massive opportunity for blockchain to revolutionize the financial services industry cannot be overstated, the technology has seen use in other industries as well. With a distributed ledger bringing with it the promise of a safer and more trustworthy platform, various startups have espoused the use of blockchain to improve processes outside of the financial sector.
One of the startups making these efforts is DACSEE, which stands for “Decentralized Alternative Cabs Serving & Empowering Everyone.” As the name implies, the Malaysia-based startup offers a ride-hailing service powered by blockchain technology. But beyond allowing passengers to pay for their rides with cryptocurrency, all bookings and trips made on DACSEE’s platform are recorded on the blockchain.
Aside from making the platform more secure and transparent, bringing the ride-hailing process to the blockchain also makes DACSEE a friendlier service to drivers and passengers alike. As the blockchain eliminates the middleman in transactions, it enables DACSEE to charge much lower fees. This gives the drivers more income for each trip they take while also reducing the fares for passengers, providing a win-win situation.
It’s proven to be an effective model, as DACSEE has partnered with over 30,000 drivers so far. Moreover, the startup was valued at US$100 million at the start of the year. It aims to offer its decentralized ride-hailing services to other Southeast Asian countries in the near future.
Companies like DACSEE prove that even relatively new and innovative ideas like ride-sharing can be improved further with the integration of blockchain technology. It’s a trend seen in a number of blockchain startups around the world today, and some such as Singapore-based Electrify are improving their own game-changing ideas by decentralizing them.
When Electrify was established in 2017, it already disrupted the Singaporean electricity market by allowing users to find the best rates for their power needs. It built Electrify.SG, the first retail electricity marketplace in Southeast Asia, which lists the different electricity rates of the country’s power providers. In the last two years, Electrify was able to transact over 60 gigawatt hours of electricity through its marketplace, providing the electricity needs of both commercial and industrial customers.
But the startup is improving its services even further, and one of the developments it is currently making is the implementation of blockchain technology into its business model. By decentralizing its marketplace, users will be able to transact with lower fees as well as be ensured that they’re getting a legitimate deal for their electricity.
Electrify seems to be going all-in on blockchain, as it’s already raised US$30 million through an initial coin offering (ICO) with its ELEC token. Later this year, it will launch the beta of its decentralized marketplace called Synergy, which will focus on making Singapore’s renewable energy sources more accessible.
These five startups only represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the possible use cases for blockchain technology. With the benefits of decentralization becoming more and more apparent, startups are continuously innovating and finding out how blockchain technology can be applied to different industries.
With many more startups across Asia-Pacific creating their own use cases for blockchain technology, we’re slowly but surely moving towards a future where every aspect of everyday life will be enhanced through decentralization.
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