12 min read
How to Build a Blockchain App—Leveraging New Technology
Anyone keeping up with new and emerging technologies has likely heard of blockchain.
It’s the buzzword you want to know about, but it can be a fairly complex topic—learning what it is, how it works, and most importantly, how you can use it.
In this article, we’re diving into the world of blockchain and how you can leverage this increasingly popular and powerful technology when building a mobile app.
Table of Contents
- What is Blockchain?
- Why Blockchain Technology is Important
- Why You Should Use Blockchain
- Popular Apps that Use Blockchain
- Building Your Blockchain Mobile App
- Does Your Idea Work with Blockchain?
- Picking Your Platform
- How Will You Be Using Blockchain?
- Developing Your App
- Selling Your Blockchain Mobile App to Users
Chapter #1: What is Blockchain?
What comes to mind for most people when hearing about blockchain is Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
While this is one way of utilizing blockchain, there are so many other uses for it.
But what exactly is it?
A blockchain is a decentralized, distributed ledger that records transactions on multiple computers so that the record can’t be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the consensus of the network.
In simpler terms, it’s a database that’s managed by a network of computers rather than a single entity.
Each block in the chain contains a record of multiple transactions, and once a block is added to the chain it can’t be altered.
This makes it a secure and transparent way to store and transfer data or value.
Blockchains are often associated with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but they have many other potential uses, including recording financial transactions, supply chain management, and even voting systems.
Let’s say you pay for something with Bitcoin.
When you make that transaction, it becomes a block on the chain once it is confirmed.
The address that sent money, the address that received money, the amount sent, and the time at which it occurred is all stored within a block.
Each block is added sequentially to the chain, creating a linear ledger of data that can be referenced. This is why it’s called a blockchain.
You can view live updates of every transaction on the blockchain for Bitcoin, which is publicly available.
1.1 Why Blockchain Technology is Important
At face value, blockchain doesn’t seem directly applicable to new technology. A new way of storing information in a ledger may not seem game-changing to many, after all.
But there are actually many benefits to using it. Let’s look at a few.
1. It’s fast
How fast blockain is really depends on a few things, like the amount of transactions that are being processed, the complexity of the transactions, and the number of computers in the network.
Some blockchain networks, like Bitcoin blockchain, can process a fairly small number of transactions per second, while others, like the Ethereum blockchain, are able to process a larger number of transactions per second.
2. Blocks are almost completely non-editable
Once you’ve created a block and put it on the blockchain, it’s almost completely uneditable. While editing a blockchain is technically possible, it’s extremely difficult to do and it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to.
This means that you’ll have an accurate recording of information that can be referenced.
The blockchain will always have high integrity, which is valuable to any business.
3. Executed automatically
Blockchains don’t require users to manually add new records. With the use of smart contracts, a new block is added once certain conditions are met.
This can be anything you would need to record, like a transaction.
1.2 Why You Should Use Blockchain
From the advantages listed above, you can probably tell that blockchain technology is incredibly powerful for business use.
Despite being adopted early on by privacy enthusiasts and shady individuals on the internet, this technology has grown to facilitate business in our rapidly advancing world.
With the features mentioned above and a few others we have yet to touch on, blockchain is perfect for nearly any business application.
It’s not too difficult to implement, either.
And best of all, there are platforms that allow for blockchain integrations into an app, but we’ll get into this more in the next section.
1.3 Popular Apps That Use Blockchain
There are a wide range of apps, many of which you probably use, that use blockchain technology to better serve you and other users.
Many of these apps use blockchain in ways you wouldn’t have even considered.
One of the best examples of unexpected usage of blockchain is Spotify.
Spotify is currently one of the most popular music streaming apps in the market and they effectively use blockchain technology to better connect artists with licensing agreements.
This allows for better and more accurate payments to each artist.
Rather than using blockchain as a feature, Spotify uses the technology because of the security it provides to legal agreements.
Even Nationwide Insurance is using blockchain to better help its customers.
Sectors Currently Using Blockchain
The blockchain provides an accurate and available way to find proof of insurance for each customer.
Because blockchain is secure and easily accessible, it provides the perfect tool for companies needing to verify and distribute information.
Chapter #2: Building Your Blockchain Mobile App
Now that you have a basic understanding of blockchain and how it works, let’s take a look at how you can get started in incorporating blockchain into your mobile applications.
2.1 Does Your Idea Work with Blockchain?
While blockchain is a new(ish) and exciting technology, it’s not for everyone. There are plenty of applications that have no need for this kind of tech.
Before deciding to use blockchain, ask yourself if it’s necessary for your specific project or if it can enhance the purpose of your project in any way.
If you’re using complex databases with multiple relationships, transactions, or recording data for public use, blockchain is definitely a great choice.
You also want to ensure that your ideas will attract users to your application on the blockchain. Blockchain is more than just a buzzword and should be used in a way that will attract new users.
After all, blockchain won’t help you much if you don’t have anyone interested in your project.
Users who would use a blockchain will likely be interested in an app that values privacy, decentralization, and reliability.
Remember, there are many use cases for blockchain technology, so make sure you have a good understanding of its applications and where your app fits in.
2.2 Picking Your Platform
Some app developers have gone the route of creating their own blockchain from scratch or on top of existing technology.
While this is a great option, it’s certainly not for everyone as it adds some unnecessary complexity to an already complex project.
Building your own private network requires a good bit of tech know-how and a whole lot of dedication. If this is your first project, you may want to start smaller.
Luckily, there are several great platforms available that can help you along the development process. Some of these platforms include IBM Blockchain, Ethereum, and Ripple.
These providers and platforms offer responsive and relatively simple solutions to your blockchain needs and are a great base for your mobile application.
Just keep in mind that some of these services favor certain uses over others.
For example, Ripple specializes in managing transactions and other finances, while IBM Blockchain is more centered on supply chain management.
It’s important to pick the provider or service that best fits your business model, so consider it carefully.
2.3 How Will You Be Using Blockchain?
Similar to the two points above, you need to determine how you’re going to use blockchain before you begin development.
Your idea may be a great fit, but how will it incorporate blockchain in a way that’s seamless and benefits both the user and your business?
What are your goals when building an app and how can blockchain technology help you achieve them?
These questions play a lot into smart contracts. As mentioned earlier, smart contracts are preset conditions that automatically execute once those conditions are met.
Smart contracts play a huge role in getting your application to work seamlessly and automatically with the blockchain you’re using.
Different environments will treat these differently, like Azure’s method, so you need to choose your platform wisely.
A big step you need to take when incorporating blockchain technology is finding what conditions are needed for your smart contracts.
For example, if you have a finance app idea, your conditions might include transactions of funds.
You could even use more than one smart contract at a time, but this isn’t as common.
2.4 Developing Your Application
There are many layers involved when it comes down to using blockchain technology for your mobile app, and it can get complex.
Fortunately, there are platforms that include development tools to help you create your blockchain application.
Both Ethereum and Ripple include developer platforms in their website, making your development process much easier.
You can also use the more typical development environments like Node.js or Ganache.
Each development environment can incorporate blockchain differently, and some environments may not fit your vision.
Depending on your goal, creating a blockchain app could be a long and arduous process or a fairly simple and straightforward development cycle, depending on the route you choose to take.
Either way, you’ll be needing a solid application that makes users want to use your blockchain.
Chapter #3: Selling Your Blockchain Mobile App to Users
Even if you create a top-notch mobile app that beautifully incorporates blockchain technology, it’s nothing without an audience.
This is one of the more difficult components of mobile app creation.
The biggest issue with including blockchain in your app is that the majority of people have no idea what it does or what it means for the product.
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