Uncovering the Mystery of Blockchain in 2 Minutes

By: Trevor Brown, Senior Project Manager

blockchain

So Blockchain…what is it? Let’s start with what it isn’t. The term is tossed around quite a bit, as it relates to Bitcoin, on sites such as The Silk Road. Blockchain, at least in some circles, seems to be synonymous with nefarious activities and shady online personas,  but that shouldn’t be the case. Blockchain technology, in all of its forms, has many reasonable and perfectly legitimate business, government, academic, and social applications. So while Bitcoin certainly uses Blockchain technology, that particular cryptocurrency is a very small example of the overall power of Blockchain.  

Now, what IS Blockchain? Most of the time, people are talking about distributed ledgers, i.e. a list of transactions that is shared among a number of computers, rather than being stored on a central server. A decent working definition is “a distributed database that maintains a continuously-growing list of data records hardened against tampering and revision,” according to The Economist.     

Confused yet? Yeah, the concept, and the underlying technology, can each be a bit obtuse. Let’s use an example to illustrate:

I think one of the best commercial applications would be an aggregated rewards program, maintained in a closed Blockchain system by a series of horizontal industries that do not compete in a direct manner, but rather share many clients across a spectrum. The rewards, we’ll call them “MagaPoints” for simplicity, would be used to buy services at all participants. Picture a car rental company, a national coffee chain, an airline, and a hotel chain.  

One customer will likely use this collection of services during a single trip, whether for business or leisure. So within the confines of the closed network, a client could use their rewards points from a coffee purchase to upgrade a flight or use the rewards points from a car rental to acquire a hotel room.   

The client has ease of transaction, without having to juggle multiple rewards programs, while having peace of mind, knowing that at no time was their personal information utilized. Therefore, saving them from exposure to identify theft or fraud. The entire transaction, and all of its parts, are stored in an open public forum, allowing for a seamless transaction that was 100% transparent.

The storage functionality of Blockchain is literally without limit. It could store your car title, the information on postal packages, or your bank records – just to mention a few uses. Because the technology is stored on a decentralized ledger that is accessible to nearly everyone, each of those would be nearly tamper-proof. This is because changes to the ledger are added instantly and are accessible by any user. So where does it go now? The technology has endless possibilities across data storage, monetary transfer, government transparency, and more. I say embrace it and enjoy the ride…

A New Toy for the Designers, a 3D Printing Pen

Though we already have Nerf guns, and a remote control helicopter was spotted around the DC studio last week, soon our studio will have a chance to try our hand with yet another toy, the 3Doodler. A pen that allows drawings (if they can be called that) to be constructed in three dimensions, the 3Doodler was a Kickstarter project we chose to support. The team behind this innovation, WobbleWorks, more than surpassed their fundraising goals, raising $2.3 million to launch their product.

Continue reading A New Toy for the Designers, a 3D Printing Pen

Checking in on the Noun Project

Creating, Sharing and Celebrating the World’s Visual Language: The Noun Project likes to remind us that we, humans, have been using symbols to communicate for over 17,000 years because they are one of the few languages everyone can comprehend.  This particular non-profit collective has set about building a global visual language that everyone can understand.  

Continue reading Checking in on the Noun Project

We Made the Cut! America’s Top ArtPlaces 2013

Last month the prestigious art advocacy consortium, ArtPlace, confirmed something we’ve long suspected — our neighborhood, Adams Morgan, ranks among the top vibrant and artistic communities.

Continue reading We Made the Cut! America’s Top ArtPlaces 2013

The President’s Call for 3D-Printing

On Tuesday night during his State of the Union speech, President Obama outlined his views for the future of the economy and America’s foreign policy as expected. What may have come as a surprise was how he jumped aboard the bandwagon of a technology that is revolutionizing the future of design.

Continue reading The President’s Call for 3D-Printing