Bitcoin, Blockchain and Smart Contracts

  • Posted by: Haaroon Yousaf
  • Category: Big Data, Blockchain, Insights
Bitcoin logo

Blockchain technology has taken the planet by storm ever since one of the first projects, Bitcoin [1], was released in 2009. Using this technology one can send digital currency to others directly without a third party, meaning no fees from banks or money transfer entities. All transactions are recorded on a distributed ledger, which in its entirety allows users to track the full history of all coins. The transparency enables users to identify where they obtained their coins from. Its strong cryptographic security ensures that coins are spent once and gives users uncensorable control. This forms the basic definition of a cryptocurrency. It was one of the first ecosystems that was able to conceptualise and bring together a wide variety of technologies through the lens of a decentralised financial system. But it’s not the only tool in the shed. 

The 11 year old Bitcoin project has, in terms of market cap, retained market dominance against others. But despite this, it since has paved the way and incited interest in a latitude of research fields and many new variants of the technology with new ways to put it to use. As of June 2020 there are over 5,540 flavours of cryptocurrencies which all have a combined market cap of a smudge over $227 billion dollars [2]

A screenshot of the top two cryptocurrencies as of 5th June 2020.

But it is not just simply cryptocurrencies that are a part of this ecosystem. Blockchain has brought upon technologies which look to innovate and build upon areas outside of the financial scope. Such includes digital identity, decentralising digital trust, tracking the movement of goods within a supply chain and digitising assets through smart contracts.

Smart contracts are decentralised pieces of computer code which allow independent actors to interact with each other without a third party (authoritative figure). One programs a piece of code with specific instructions which are run when its rules are met. For example in the scenario of digital assets, one could move the ownership of a car deed from one person to another, digitally signing this on a blockchain. In terms of supply chain management, one could use smart contracts to track the lifetime of goods from assembly all the way to distribution. By tracking the movements of the items one can identify potential bottlenecks over time to help improve efficiency of their system or perhaps raise alerts when a given process takes longer than expected. One of the most popular smart contracts platforms to date is the Ethereum Project [3]

First released in 2015 (conceptualised in 2013), Ethereum is the second largest cryptocurrency platform with a market cap of over $23 billion [2]. It enables anyone to program and create smart contracts which can be used for creating digital tokens to decentralised games. The full history of the Ethereum blockchain is over 4TBs [4] in size and has recorded over 700 million transactions [5]. In comparison to the Bitcoin blockchain which is over 280GB and has recorded over 530 million transactions [6].

What does this data look like? How can you download it? What tools can be used for analysis? Well you have to wait until our next blog post. Alternatively you can contact us via email


Author: Haaroon Yousaf