Blockchain has been described as a significant technological breakthrough of the decade due to its potential of making the world decentralized. As the hype towards the technology is increasing with each passing year, we have seen people learning and focusing on the blockchain industry.
We have come up with a podcast on blockchain app development that will provide valuable insights to innovators, entrepreneurs and governments.
Here are the questions and their answers discussed in the Blockchain App Development Podcast
What is a Blockchain App?
Blockchain apps or dApps are apps built on a peer-to-peer network. If you think about it, the blockchain app is no different than any other app from a consumer point of view.
Blockchain app is no different than other apps like Uber, Netflix, YouTube, or whatever interfaces you see. But, at the fundamental level, how you store data, how the information is captured and how it is being distributed, changes.
To be more specific, the blockchain app needs to be decentralized application built on a network that has no single point of failure. Any record which is kept on the blockchain platform or system is immutable and follows cryptographic security. One fundamental difference in traditional app and blockchain app is that the power interest is not with a single authority. So, what it means is, suppose you have one company holding into all the information. They are keeping information on their servers or warehouse. However, in the case of blockchain, you have nodes distributed on the network and everyone has a copy of the record.
Whenever you save any information, add a new ledger entry or transfer money from one person to another, all those records go into the ledger and get updated on every node. Everybody agrees that this should be captured on the blockchain; this is where the consensus comes into the picture.
So, fundamentally, blockchain app from a consumer point of view has no difference to the interfaces what a user is going to see and how the product looks like. But in the backend, there is a lot of difference in terms of its infrastructure and data storage.
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Why is Blockchain App Development important?
It’s a new kind of internet which is being formed as we speak. If you think about the web that we know so far, all the players on the internet are centralized authorities. For example, Uber is a marketplace which combines the drivers and people commuting from one place to another. Uber gets all the data and decides what the prices are and how they are going to charge people.
On the other hand, if you think about a blockchain app, it is something decentralized. It is not like one company making all the decisions. Instead, it is a community of people involved on both ends, making a decision. For example, as a driver, a person can charge 50 dollars to go from one place to another and the consumer might bid on it to pay for less.
The importance of blockchain app development counts because it can remove a lot of central authorities from different industries. The blockchain is not limited to the only financial sector, but there is a lot that it can solve.
According to Gartner, the business value-add of blockchain will exceed $3.1 trillion by 2030, which is a significant number. Governments and companies are investing in decentralized technology to create applications that can solve many problems.
Who needs to know about blockchain app development?
To be specific, we can classify the audience into three categories:
- CIOs/Business Owners
They should understand blockchain because it can solve problems that exist in the business operations. For example, the issue of traceability in tracking a mango from the farm to the store and paying their vendors on time. All such problems can be solved by implementing blockchain in the supply chain.We have proven how blockchain can solve a problem as we speak. We have worked with various companies and we were able to trace the medical aid sent from big organizations to NGOs of remote areas of Asia and Africa. When you send medicine aid cross border, how do you track how and where it exists. What if the pharmacy company says recall that the medicine batch they sent is not good. How do you get all that information? These are some of the problems that exist in the supply chain.If you are a CIO and thinking about the supply chain, there is a lot of opportunities with just traceability itself. Also, the blockchain presents use cases like handing counterfeit, improving the efficiency, reducing paperwork and paying vendors timely as the farmer gets paid at the end of the whole process.
- Government Authorities
Government Authorities are experimenting with the potential of blockchain to transform the world. For example, Ukraine also tried to conduct regional voting in a system built on the blockchain.
Also, governments nowadays, are creating proofs-of-concept to reduce the complexities of auditing, bring better compliance and perform many other processes.
The new generations of apps and technologies are being formed with each passing year. A lot of technology shift has happened in the last ten years. Startups are now building next-generation products and solving new problems.Let’s think about the internet world. TCP/IP and DNS protocols were created for the internet and the guys who created it never got the benefit. When you send an email to someone, the guy who founded the SMTP protocol never gets paid.However, in the blockchain scenario, you create a protocol and you have an opportunity to tokenize it or build an infrastructure where the incentive is given to the people who contributed to the network. Startups have significant opportunities to develop new products, ecosystems and the next generation of apps.
What surprises companies about blockchain app development?
The first surprise is that bitcoin and blockchain are not the same. A lot of people get confused and assume that bitcoin and blockchain are the same, but it is fundamentally not. That’s one surprise.
Companies also need a little bit more knowledge as they believe that there is a scarcity of developers to build decentralized applications and a high cost of development due to lack of resources. It surprises them, but it is more like a business surprise.
On the other end, with a team of experienced company and developers, their surprise will be that if they created a system, they could not literally modify it. Let’s say you have a good team and you want to build a tax solution on a public blockchain. Once you have added the information to the blockchain, you cannot go back and change it.
We have interacted with so many companies who are looking to build blockchain apps. One company came to us and said what if my employee leaves and I want to transfer all his data that he holds on and become the owner of it. So, we said, “No, you cannot really go back and change his password. It’s a private key that employee owns and they are independent of you as a company. You can create hierarchies and permissions; you cannot take over the data of employees. What you can still do is that you can migrate information saying that Tom held it before and now James holds it. However, the information will always show that Tom was the original owner and now James has become a current owner.”
It’s actually a big surprise for companies when they realize they cannot modify or remove any information using a blockchain product. Although they understand, getting to see that happening in front of them and losing control of information surprises them the most.
What are the key steps in Blockchain App Development?
The blockchain is one of the technologies which is a solution and it is looking for a problem. The first key step in blockchain app development is to identify the right business use case. Many people start blockchain development because it is decentralized and has smart contract functionality which triggers automatic execution. But we should start by analyzing our problem first. For example, we want to pay vendors in the supply chain who source our equipment or raw materials immediately as soon as the item arrives.
The second step is to build a proof of concept to make people understand your idea. Once you have established the proof of concept and shown it to other people, you need to create visual and technical designs.
After you are done with designs, build development platform in smaller sprints and create an MVP. Then, you can launch the platform on the test network; make sure you never launch the platform directly on the production network. Lastly, it is essential to take care of the upgrade and maintenance of the platform that you have built.
For example, you are solving a supply chain problem. Blockchain comes up with five benefits:
If you are thinking of a problem that you want to solve, two of the above components should be a part of your solution. Do you need encryption? Do you require immutability? Do you want the information to be decentralized or distributed? That is a way to think about the problem which you are solving.
The second step is to build a POC. You should keep the proof of concept small if you have to create a smart contract or user interface to prove how end-to-end cycle works. Avoid building a large platform when it comes to POC. Ensure that it should be a 2-4 week process to try how it works.
Once the POC is done, go ahead with Visual and Technical Designs and identify how the platform will look like. The technology side of the blockchain app development is critical as there are multiple DLT platforms available. You have to ensure that you have picked the right one based on the speed you need, consensus mechanism and public or private network functionality. There are a lot of factors to consider when selecting the blockchain platform.
It is clear that the blockchain app first needs to be launched on the test network and then on the production server. At the high level, what matters the most is the quality assurance process. Building on the blockchain has no room for errors. In a centralized app, you can write the code, deploy the app and then modify it again whenever needed.
But in the case of a public blockchain, you create a smart contract and want to execute it; there will be a certain gas fee associated with it. Every time a user wants to execute something on the blockchain, they will have to pay a specific fee amount. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that the codes are written efficiently and has no errors.
What changes from traditional app development are needed to develop and implement in a blockchain app?
From traditional app development to blockchain app development, the big difference is that you are building for trust and immutable data. At every stage of the software lifecycle, you need to ensure that you apply the principles of the decentralized network. For example, in the requirement gathering phase, you have to think that it’s a hybrid solution and find what do you have to save in the cloud and what on the blockchain. Then, you need to pick a private or public blockchain platform depending on your business needs.
In traditional app development, you design the interfaces and assume that the app will run faster. However, blockchain is getting matured with each passing day, so you need to design for the trust while designing a blockchain app.
Let’s say you have a timestamp that represents trust as when was the consensus achieved. So, you need to design in such a way that it either represents trust or it allows you to find trust. For example, you click on a button to see the smart contract implementation or click a button to find from where the food has been originated. You should have a completely different thought process throughout the software lifecycle when building a blockchain application.
Is it possible for an app developer to work on the blockchain app development?
Yes, that’s correct because a lot of blockchain fundamentals are the same as that of traditional app development. Switching to blockchain development does not mean you are changing the development skills; you are still building the frontend platform and interfaces.
But building the bridge that goes into the blockchain to retrieve information is a newer skill for the developers where you need to think about code efficiency and security. Let’s say you are creating a system where you can transfer money from one person to another and if there is any difference, you want to save it to escrow account. But the owner of the escrow account could change by a piece of code. You need to think thoroughly while developing a blockchain app.
You cannot just play around, create a smart contract and business layer in the blockchain or DLT platform and say it’s done. You cannot take a chance with a public network going live where people are making financial transactions and your code has still some errors. A developer only needs to think thoroughly when developing a decentralized app.
How long does it take to develop a blockchain app?
If you are doing a small POC (Proof of Concept), you can probably finish it in 1 or 2 sprints, i.e., 1 to 3 months. But if it is a large platform, it could take a year-long project depending on the following factors:
- Number of users you want to have
- Whether it is a hybrid model
We always recommend using a hybrid model because of the cloud features that can reduce cost, provide a caching layer and improve the efficiency of the platform.
You can build the first iteration of a product in one to three months and come up with more sprints from time to time. Also, government projects could be a year-long project if you are building it on the blockchain.
What services do you choose for blockchain app development?
A lot of fundamental things remain the same. If you are a developer, first of all, you need to pick a blockchain platform. You need to decide on which platform you are going to build an app, whether it’s Hyperledger, Ethereum, Hedera Hashgraph or any other platform.
Once you pick the platform, you need to create a development environment on the computer or cloud. Developers then install an IDE to get keys, credentials and set it up. After the IDE is installed, download the SDK of the platform, create a node and deploy it on the public network or test network if required. Every blockchain protocol has a test network available for the free of cost.
As mentioned above that it’s always good to use the approach of a hybrid model; there is a need to look out for cloud services that support blockchain apps. For example, Amazon has recently launched quantum ledger database that manages blockchain applications. So, one should consider all these things when developing a blockchain app.
Any special blockchain app development skills needed?
Firstly, anybody trying to build a blockchain app should become a developer who understands the fundamentals of object-oriented programming language, different types of databases and data structures. Before you begin development, it is good to understand various architectures (MVC, MVP or MVVM) for communication between entities and the platform.
Also, it is essential to understand the significant difference between centralized and decentralized application. Once you learn fundamental development skills, it is necessary a blockchain platform for building an app. A blockchain platform gives you an SDK (Software Development Kit) that you need to install and learn the programming language it supports.
However, designers have to consider that they are building for trust while creating interfaces for an app. They need to think what if the network is slow, what happens if the consensus is not achieved or what if the data is not representing what is saved on the blockchain.
As a product manager, the biggest challenge is to manage timeline and expectations like any other applications. Blockchain is not a mature technology where developers can give estimates that they could complete any task within 1 or 2 days.
Do blockchain apps work with the IT systems?
Yes, absolutely. If we talk about the ID system, we are talking about connecting with the infrastructure that already exists. Let’s say you have many payment gateways to do fiat transfers. So, you can see blockchain as a storage layer and on the top of it, you can look at it as a business intelligence layer that can do something based on the events that occur.
Let’s say you send something to someone or you make an entry saying what we sent, you have got it. In such a case, it should pay us automatically from the balance. Therefore, every type of integration is possible with blockchain technology. It can be said that the blockchain is a big part of the architecture that interacts with all kinds of IT systems.
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Any Industry Standards for Blockchain App Development?
There are various consortiums and whitepapers published on the blockchain technology; however, no such standard exists for the blockchain app development. The technology is still in its early phases and there is a lot of work going on in the blockchain space and standards are coming out. For example, Hedera Hashgraph is a DLT that has a consortium where governing members are creating standards.
As of now, there is no specific standard for blockchain applications, but they are expected to develop in the coming years.
What all digital information is available about Blockchain App Development?
Though there is a lot of information available on the internet, the problem is that people watch videos for two-three hours and call themselves as blockchain experts. When you go and search for Blockchain App Development on Google, you might come across people talking about Bitcoin or Ethereum and its smart contracts.
People are not aware of the availability of other blockchain platforms like Hedera Hashgraph, Hyperledger and EOS. But there are many insightful resources available that provide innovators with an in-depth understanding of the technology.
For example, Udemy provides courses on fundamentals of blockchain, writing smart contracts and creating dApps.
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