From steam power to the internet, electricity to AI, history shows that there is always a very long time lag between the launch of a new technology and its widespread adoption. A time interval in which the technology is declared ‘dead’ and ‘unnecessary’ several times, in which legislators provide clarity for further maturation and investors provide the necessary scale capital. From cryptos to NFTs, metaverse to CBDCs… The current and expected developments are unprecedented. In this article the most important developments surrounding blockchain that I expect in the coming year.

“Cryptos are dead”, yet the world’s largest asset manager wants to give customers the opportunity to invest in them in the very short term and global adoption continues to increase. “NFTs are worthless and dead”, yet one of the world’s largest media brands (Disney) has just announced that it will be extensively working with them and the Chinese government is also increasingly recognizing them.

“Metaverse is a ghost town and dead”, yet the largest online store in the world (Amazon) announced last summer that it would be taking major steps in this area and the Korean city of Seoul set up an entire metaverse city. “Blockchains don’t work”, yet one of the largest payment services (Paypal) has stated the following: “Blockchains Are the New Financial Rails”. And in the past year, dozens of major well-known companies have announced successful integrations with the technology.

Recently, due to the media frenzy surrounding generative AI, everything surrounding blockchain technology seems to have disappeared (in the background). But nothing is what it seems. The investments continue to flow in, adoption and cool use cases increase and technological developments are launched.

The great interface shift

But why do we hear so little about it? In 2019, I already wrote about missing a ‘killer app’. The lamp ensured the worldwide acceptance of electricity. Web browser Mosaic was the one of the Internet, and email preceded iTunes and social media. In that respect, we are really missing a ‘killer app’ for blockchain.

Also missing is an easy-to-use dashboard / interface. The browser suddenly ensured that every layman could use the Internet. ChatGPT does this with AI technology. People quickly turn away from technology if it is not easy to use.

So I also understand why many people do not yet use many solutions, because they are simply too difficult. A while ago I organized an NFT Gallery around the international art fair TEFAF and here I also had a ‘POAB Disc’. If you tap this with a phone with an NFC scanner (most new phones have it), you will automatically receive a message that you could claim an NFT. But then you had to have a wallet and copy-paste a long strip of numbers/numbers. Nice gimmick, but most people declined it.

First let’s look back!

I have been writing trend blogs around blockchain technology since 2018, including last year’s trend article.A theme that I predicted then has been discussed a lot recently; decentralized social media. And not just because X owner Elon Musk posts anti-Semitic messages on his own channel and has driven away some of his biggest investors in the past month. Also consider parent company Meta (Facebook and Instagram), which has presented a payment variant. This literally makes it take it or leave it. Pay or agree to personalized ads.

We still have to wait and see whether this is even allowed in line with European legislation and regulations. But the company has already postponed the launch of its new Threads app because it fears the app will break EU rules. I recently organized a meetup to discuss, among other things, decentralized social media. This variant of social media corrects many flaws in the current central social media.

The Dutch party DeSocialWorld is taking major international steps in this regard. It inspired many people to create and use an account when the party showed how it could get $50 for making one social media post. It is really one of the positive sides of ‘DeSo’. Content creators are paid and benefit from the success of the content, rather than just the platform.

Major technology companies & blockchain

It also remains very special to see how the large technology companies in the broadest sense have been working on blockchain technology in the past year, as I predicted. Special, because the basis on which the technology is built is based on decentralized power and wants to take power away from the large central parties. But also special because they go much further than just implementing them yourself.

In my conversation on stage at the Dutch Blockchain Week, I had an extensive conversation with Google’s head of blockchain. The tech giant appears to be the largest investor in blockchain technology companies worldwide. In addition, just like cloud competitors Amazon and Microsoft, it offers a very broad package of services and platforms with which you can easily and quickly build blockchain applications.

In my opinion, we just couldn’t get enough of NFTs last year. If we look through the chocolate letters of the traditional newspapers, we have seen countless wonderful developments in the past year. The focus on just ‘expensive monkey pictures’ has now really shifted to practical use and new solutions that were not technically possible before. More about that in the trends I foresee in the coming year.

A good example of convergence is a new collection from sportswear brand Adidas. It had an AI algorithm generate countless cool sneaker design options, then printed them on the shoes with a 3D printer and turned each pair into an NFT. Not only for the owners to verify the authenticity, but also to provide all kinds of additional benefits.

  1. It’s a make or break situation for the Digital Euro

Since Meta introduced its world currency ‘Libra’ (and later stopped as a project), governments worldwide have been busy with their own ‘Central Bank Digital Currency’, which I already wrote about here in 2021. 98% of global central banks are now working on this at various stages. Four have already been launched, 64 countries are already developing them and in Europe 2024 will be an important year.

Because after years of research, the European Parliament will vote for or against a European CBDC in the coming year. President of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde clearly indicates that no final decision has yet been taken, but that a direction will have to be chosen next year.

If the decision is made to develop a CBDC, the next phase will take approximately three years. The main focus here will be on drawing up rules and selecting providers who must develop the necessary infrastructure.

  1. We’re getting a lot of metaverse momentum again

Rarely have I seen a technology that rose in popularity so quickly and then fell again when you look at attention in the press and from investors. In a short time I received calls from parties ranging from retailers to multinationals and governments about what they could do in the metaverse. But after a short time, interest almost disappeared. It turned out to be much more difficult to work with it, but visitor numbers and the graphics used by colleagues were also quite disappointing.

But even though the candle seems to have gone out for many parties, there are also many major developments going on in the background, which could provide a lot of momentum in the coming year.

You can say a lot about the company, but Facebook gave developments surrounding social media, a digital world currency and virtual worlds a big boost. The company invests billions in it and employs tens of thousands of developers to immediately launch products on the market at scale.

The company was punished at the stock exchange and in the press for this, but has recently surprised everyone with its updates. Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently appeared on the Lex Fridman podcast, not as a person but an avatar. It looked so real that channels like X/Twitter exploded with enthusiasm.

Now there is always a sharp comment to be made about this. The company did use its own consumer headset Quest 3, but Zuckerberg’s recordings were done by specialized technology with more than 100 cameras.

Long-awaited headset Apple

While Meta is continuing to build its Metaverse platform, we will also receive the long-awaited Vision Pro from the other tech giant in the coming year; Apple. Even though it will come a little later (expectedly in March, instead of January), expectations are extremely high.

According to experts, this headset could give a whole new definition of what that means in the metaverse. But it could also cause a major shift in the way users experience the metaverse. It is expected that many developers of apps for the device (there will also be a special app store for the Vision Pro) will say goodbye to the complete isolation in which you sit as a user. The focus will be much more on how Apple also describes the glasses; ‘mixed reality’. So truly seamless interactions between both the physical and virtual worlds.

But the technology of glasses goes much further. A developer who has worked on it for years at the tech giant recently shared several technological possibilities that have now also been patented. One of the things that really stood out to me? The glasses will soon be able to predict many of your actions using AI. Whether you are interested, distracted or afraid. But also use numerous vital properties for the operation of the device, such as brain activity, heart rhythm, muscle activity, blood pressure, etc.

During experiments, this meant that something was clicked on behalf of a user before he or she could do so himself. But it can even adapt your entire virtual environment to this. It creates an environment that helps you learn/work/relax, always based on all your personal wishes and reactions.

The downside

I personally have mixed feelings about this technology. Two years ago I already wrote about the possible abuse that tech companies can make with this. With a whole new wealth of data, which is even better for, for example, running personalized advertisements, than the data we currently give companies. Fortunately, Apple has ‘privacy’ as a major core value. And so I have a little more confidence in what Meta plans to do with the data coming from the glasses.According to Stanford research, 20 million data points are used per 20 minutes per person.

Yet I am also happy with these personal experiences that are facilitated ‘on the spot’. Because lately I’ve been playing around in the metaverse a lot. I have visited many cool worlds, researched them and looked extensively at the possibilities for customers. It’s addicting; I always have to set an alarm to stop on time and not disappear for hours.

But I also notice that if I wear the glasses for more than half an hour, my eyes really start to hurt, I get a bit dizzy and even a bit overwhelmed. They are also reasons why, according to major research by Forrester, only 2% of professionals see themselves working in the metaverse.

  1. Let’s stop talking about NFTs

The ‘financially free vloggers’ stumbled over each other with paid courses. About how you could be a millionaire in an hour by using generative AI to generate an entire collection of digital art to put up for sale as NFT with a few simple clicks. As Steve Bannon put it; ‘flood the zone with shit’.

It is wonderful that nowadays anyone can launch entire digital art collections without technical knowledge and little creativity, but it has also done a lot of damage to a concept such as NFTs. I previously wrote about the many crazy examples, such as an image of a stone that sold for 100,000 euros.

After a rapidly growing hype, the concept suddenly faced a lot of headwind. According to research among 74,000 NFT collections, 95% of them now have a value of $0. The American stock market watchdog SEC is pursuing all kinds of lawsuits against makers of NFT collections and the American tax authorities want to tax the ownership of NFTs very sharply. The trading volume of NFTs fell by 95% and the number of active digital wallets, where NFTs are stored, fell by 50%.

Show, don’t just tell!

Looking to next year, all I can say is: let’s stop talking about NFTs. Why? Because most people misunderstand exactly what it means. They still have the negative association with overpriced pieces of digital content. While you can do so much more with these digital ownership certificates.

For example, parties such as watchmaker IWC and ticket giant Ticketmaster use NFT tickets to give owners access to virtual communities (token-gated content). Major clothing brands such as Adidas and Lacoste use them to strengthen their digital community. Brands like Dior and Dolce & Gabbana use NFTs to connect physical garments with virtual variants that users wear in virtual environments. Many such brands use NFTs to make it easy for owners (of expensive clothing items, for example) to verify authenticity.

But more and more new business models are also being set up. Gucci, Porsche and Nike use NFTs to offer all kinds of cool new products with their IP. Estee Lauder, Starbucks and Scotch & Soda are using NFTs again in their loyalty programs.

Cool new brands and options

That’s really the crux. Many large organizations such as Starbucks and Lufthansa already work extensively with NFTs, but simply do not call them that. On the one hand, because they are often not yet known. Recent research shows that more than 75% of people still do not understand what it means at all. But also the negative association that people have with technology.

In the coming year I expect a very strong upward trend of very cool new brands and options that will work with NFTs. Often without explicitly mentioning this. While technology is the connecting and facilitating factor. Cool collaborations such as Adidas and Bugatti, but also a brand like Lacoste, which has created a complete clothing collection together with its community through a very broad use of NFTs. Or Beatport, which offers a very comprehensive NFT platform for countless musicians.

My colleagues at the World Economic Forum recently launched a comprehensive report on NFTs and also concluded that the opportunities with NFTs are significant. But there is still a lot of work to be done in making it more accessible to the end user.

  1. New rails, new rules

Even though I often hear people say ‘blockchain, not bitcoin’; let’s focus on the technology and not the speculative cryptocurrency trading. In the coming year, crypto could have a very positive impact on blockchain technology. As I wrote in my trend article about crypto; we go from most boring to significantly important year.

This is due to the possible approval of a so-called ‘Exchange Traded Fund’ (ETF) from the largest investor in the world; Blackrock. This suddenly makes it very easy for many traditional investors (such as pension funds) to invest in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Bloomberg analysts now expect with 90% certainty that this will be approved at the end of December or January. A ‘flight to quality’ according to the CEO of Blackrock.

In addition, the reward for the so-called ‘miners’ (the parties that maintain the Bitcoin network, for example) will be halved in March/April.

New spectrum of investments

Historically, with every halving you always see a new ‘All Time High’ (ATH, record price) arise. Finally, the European cryptocurrency legislation and regulations ‘MICAR’ will largely come into effect. Something that will not only bring a lot of confidence to the market, but in my view also a whole new spectrum in terms of investments.

Many large investors that I work with, such as family funds and pension funds, clearly indicate that they will wait until the MICAR comes into effect before investing in it.

Why will these developments surrounding cryptocurrencies have such a tremendous positive impact on the underlying blockchain technology? First of all, because you can clearly see every time that when cryptocurrency prices rise, investments also increase very sharply. And vice versa. But also the attention of the press and adoption from both consumers and companies.

  1. The never-ending game

As I wrote earlier this year; I am really happy with the ‘Brussels effect’. The fact that the European Union always makes positive headlines for setting up, developing and launching groundbreaking legislation and regulations. In my opinion, it will really bring about a very positive movement within the ecosystem next year. More clarity for builders, more confidence from investors.

The European Union is already working on follow-up steps, the first outlines of which we can see next year. Last year I wrote about the next evolution of the internet; web3. From a handful of central parties that dominate to a decentralized environment where everyone has power over their own data again. And is rewarded fairly for his contribution to the web. Where the motivations of owners, participants and developers are fully aligned.

Already working on web4

Now the developments of web3 are still in full swing and developing and less than 5% of people understand what it even means. Really driven by blockchain technology, which makes all this technically possible. But the European Union is already working on web4. Web4 is an even more decentralized version of the web with a higher level of integration between humans and machines. It is also called the symbiotic web and is still an evolving concept with no real clear definition.

The dream of the symbiotic web is symbiotic interaction between people and machines. More advanced interfaces, such as mind-controlled interfaces, for example what I expect Apple’s Vision Pro to offer.

With the extremely rapid developments in technology, the European Union does not want to wait very long with legislation and regulations this time. For example, the MICAR only came into effect 15 years after the creation of BItcoin and blockchain. This is because we are seeing more and more convergence of technologies, such as blockchain, AI, metaverse and IoT.

The EU wants to play an increasingly important role worldwide in the field of these types of technologies and cooperation and sees that clear legislation and regulations can be helpful in this regard. It has already started exploring the developments and required legal frameworks for this. We will see in the coming year what impact this will have.

Still a lot of work to be done!

When I write or speak about blockchain, I do so with great enthusiasm about all the possibilities and developments. It provides solutions to the major problems of our world, it restores confidence in countless vital parts of our society and provides many ways of working, earning money and distributing money fairly. Despite all the booms and busts, I’ve always been convinced that the hype would eventually fade and “real” use cases would prevail.

But we’re not there yet. In 2019, I already wrote about the decentralized dream, which seems to be falling apart. All those decentralized thoughts are nice, but 95% of crypto assets are stored centrally and not by users themselves in a virtual wallet. You see a lot of concentration of power and money with large blockchains. For example, a number of large investors own a third of Ethereum. Many DeFi (decentralized finance, which I wrote about here) can be controlled, censored and stopped by their owners through a ‘God mode’.

Developments that will make an impact

Yet, in my view, the many cool developments that have and will have a real impact in the coming year really have the upper hand. I am very curious whether the predictions regarding blockchain will come true again this year and will of course continue to follow them with enthusiasm!