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With perpetually shifting underlying value, most blockchain startups point towards a thriving community and populated platform to indicate that their token’s rising price is justified. This idea is not far removed from how multinational companies illustrate ongoing success during shareholder meetings, where they can display social media growth, community engagement targets, and newly released products as a barometer for upcoming earnings calls. The cryptocurrency arena hasn’t evolved to this level of organization yet, with regulations still being hammered out, but there are other ways to measure the success and efficacy of any cryptocurrency project.

When looking for a solid ICO to contribute towards, the savviest investors know that a realistic, sensibly paced timeline is vital. A timeline contains the milestones that the blockchain startup plans to reach, and when it expects to meet these periodic goals. Once hit (or missed), these milestones become an important factor in price. They might include the release of a new platform, introduction of the product to a new audience, or an upgrade from one Proof-of-Stake protocol to another. Regardless, the timeline allows speculators to determine a team’s ability to follow through on their promises. Many projects that caught the attention of cryptocurrency investors in 2017 have milestones coming up this year. For an indication of what the future holds, these are this year’s most important to watch.

Like a BAT Out of Hell

Basic Attention Token (BAT) is an ambitious project from former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, that focuses on creating new metrics for measuring one’s reaction to online advertisements. Instead of wasting ad spend on attaining meaningless clicks or likes, BAT uses its Brave browser (or extensions for other popular browsers) to track the “attention” that one pays to ads in their line of sight. Users are paid in BAT simply for allowing themselves to be studied in this manner, and the model has already proven to the industry that its plan is sound.

With a concept that must be built from scratch, yet also play nice with existing infrastructure, BAT’s full-stack platform isn’t yet at the finish line. 2018 will be a key period to observe the rollout of BAT Gemini, a suite of upgrades designed to improve KYC anti-fraud enforcement (crucial for enterprise clients), a fully integrated analytics dashboard built on the ledger, and private trials with publishers and advertisers on the platform. If all the boxes are ticked and BAT integrates Gemini without a fuss, the platform plans to start generating revenues by the end of the year.

HoToKeN Wallet Hits Asian Consumers

One of Asia’s most watched cryptocurrency solutions, HoToKeN is the product of retail engagement leader HotNow. With a platform already boasting over 700,000 members in the region, retailers can motivate more frequent and higher quality interactions between themselves and their customers, by creating value-added missions that reward cryptocurrency. From mini-games, quizzes and questionnaires to social tasks like taking a picture in the store, writing a review or ‘checking in’ via Facebook, retailers are finding that adding HoToKeN as a redeemable currency in their stores pays on more than a financial level.

This year, HoToKeN plans to release the epicenter of its cryptocurrency-driven engagement suite, the gamified wallet. With the ability to actively participate in retail campaigns, earn HTKN and then use it at their favorite retailers, the audience for this proven solution will only grow further. The momentum that HotNow already has should help boost the introduction of their wallet, and if successful, it will be introduced to other Asian markets in later quarters and early 2019.

Enigma’s Low-Touch Data Test

One of the biggest problems facing the big data industry is how data is shared—not between individuals—but among companies who have purchased data to analyze and gain insights. Purchasing patterns and browsing behavior isn’t risky to disseminate, but often, sensitive identifying and financial information of customers is also lumped in. Enigma’s basic idea is to use blockchain to effectively share data for any purpose, but without granting access to the data itself.

The upcoming quant-trading platform scheduled for 2018 will put Enigma’s (ENG) concept to the test, specifically in the arena of trading. Quantitative traders will be able to study patterns using vast amounts of data collected by Enigma, but they can’t store it in their own servers or access it directly. The idea is that data scientists don’t need to be liable for the safety of sensitive information to do their job properly, and can manipulate raw data without directly touching it. This year will indicate if Enigma is on to something, or if it’s not.

Request Network Is Live

One of the most highly anticipated cryptocurrency services announced last year was Request Network (REQ). The company put together a platform that takes a very complicated concept and boils it down to the simplest interface imaginable. Essentially, people can send and receive payments in the form of a ‘Request’, which may one day be as universal as a ‘Pay with PayPal’ button. On both sides of the Request, which can be sent via standard channels such as email, electronic invoice, or SMS, the sender and recipient choose which currency they’d like to use to fulfill the transfer.

If the first iteration of the network is a success, scheduled for launch during the first quarter of 2018, REQ will show the world how easily cryptocurrency can be used to change deep-seated ideas about payment. Imagine being a store that does business in bitcoin, but your suppliers only take euros. Soon, they can send you a Request that does all the exchange and settlement automatically, without either party being encumbered by the frustratingly immature cryptocurrency infrastructure currently in place.

Substratum Goes Dark(er)

After raising money with an ICO in 2017, the upcoming year will see Substratum (SUB) launch their TOR-less, VPN-less internet access platform built entirely on blockchain. Increasing government clampdown on the internet makes SUB necessary, and its busy roadmap and increasing market demand will help it move onward in 2018. This year the startup plans to improve its browser tools, which help people in geographically restricted areas use the decentralized network to obtain access through other nodes.

By adding payment functionality in 2018, Substratum will finally be able to compensate its nodes for helping others overcome their barriers of entry to the web. Time will tell if the protocol is enough to get past ‘The Great Firewall’ and other blocking mandates, and if the ability to get paid for running a node is enough to keep the network in robust shape.

Stay Vigilant in 2018

After a stellar year like 2017 during which numerous ICOs were funded in minutes, coins reached sky-high valuations and bitcoin broke the five-figure barrier convincingly, the upcoming year is key for achieving more widespread adoption. There are many promising coins that have already been released, and traders would be wise to spend time learning which older coins will catch on, rather than focusing on new and cheap coins that are yet unproven. The clock is already ticking. Will cryptocurrency projects stagnate and lose their audience, or will they release platforms that put the status quo to shame? The only way to find out is by paying close attention, with those keeping their eyes peeled likely to encounter some very lucrative investment opportunities along the way.

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