Recently, Bank of America announced yet another blockchain patent application. This time, apparently, for what basically appears to be a multi-signature wallet for cryptocurrencies and digital assets. Besides the obvious fact that that technology already exists in open-source format all throughout the cryptoverse, it seems like a pretty ho-hum filing to me overall.
However, some industry insiders disagree, as noted in this CCN summary on the topic. That reminds me... Didn't that website announce it was going to die? I swear I saw a post about that somewhere. Something about a Google algorithm killing CCN. Well, I guess not.
You gotta love the crypto drawrings by CoinTelegraph. Thanks, guys, for the service you do for the community!
Savvy readers will note that the @shanghaipreneur was quoted in that CCN article above. And since I felt like I had a lot more interesting things to say in addition to what I was quoted on, I thought I'd include that commentary here.
Is this a sign of big banks FOMO-ing into crypto?
Bank of America has a long history of blockchain research. That research has yielded exactly zero products... and a whole lot of patents. It's important to note the difference between filing a patent and starting full-scale product development. For example, Apple started filing patents in the 1980s that became a failed product (the Newton) in the 1990s, which led to a breakthrough product (the iPod) in the 2000s, which led to the blockbuster iPhone today.
That development arc took 25 years or so. So I think claiming FOMO from the filing of a technology patent is a little premature. FOMO is more art than science, though. People see FOMO where they want to see it.
Is this patent application a game-changer in terms of crypto adoption?
It's definitely not a game-changer, but it is another example of a large corporation dipping their toe in the blockchain waters. The more that high-caliber recognizable brands pursue blockchain business opportunities, the more it legitimizes blockchain-based industry as a whole. Recently, we are seeing more of these applications in the financial services industry, which is something at Konstellation we have been clamoring for as part of our overall vision to increase access to investment opportunity across the board.
The most exciting thing about this announcement is that it validates the notion that we as an industry should be moving toward the embedding of defi (decentralized finance) applications on traditional finance platforms that everyone is familiar with. This concept is how true adoption begins, but we still have a long road ahead of us.
Like I am fond of saying, we really don't even have a good, seamless way to use bitcoin to buy coffee yet. But we're getting there. Slowly.
Is Libra scaring the bankers straight?
Capitalism has a way of forcing industries to compete with each other even if they have no basis for competition on the surface. My grandmother would have never thought that the phone company would compete with the magazine company. And yet AT&T and Time Warner have competed for decades now. Technology is a transformative force that seeks out middlemen and eventually takes them out by the root.
Finance is an industry that is crawling with those types of agents, not unlike when Timon and Pumbaa turn over the rotting log and show Simba all the juicy bugs they eat. In that analogy, the Lion King and his friends are technology and the rotting log is the traditional finance industry. That is the essence of fintech.
Silicon Valley and a whole world of blockchain development hotspots (Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, etc.) are coming to the finance industry and are primed to compete away those fat margins that traditional finance has enjoyed for decades. Trad fin won't go down easy, but they'll eventually go down.
What is Bank of America's real strategy here?
The sheer number of patents BAC has managed to accumulate, 80-plus by last count, is impressive but some of them they have let begin to lapse. This pattern demonstrates that BAC does not really have a coherent blockchain strategy and is just looking for something - anything - to either
- show their investors that they've ticked the box on DLT and/or
- anticipate where their decentralized competition will be and develop defenses against them in a manner reminiscent of the Great Smartphone Patent Wars that raged in the past decade or so.
In the past, BAC has been really negative on the potential for blockchain technology in the financial services industry. They have long maintained that attitude, even while pursuing patents galore, which is what leads me to believe the above 2 points about their true strategy.
I don't see any reason for them to have had this change of heart just because they filed a patent for a fancy multi-sig crypto wallet. I mean, here's a bunch of them that already out there on the market and ready to use.