Why We Are Becoming a DApp Development Company — and What Blockchain Means for Mobile

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Eric N. Shapiro has spent the better part of the past decade trying to persuade business leaders that mobile could transform their business, a concept he admits is not nearly as difficult to convey as it was in 2008, when he and his business partner Adam Fingerman founded their company.

“Most people today embrace the concept of mobile-first,” says Shapiro, whose team has created and published more than 400 apps for various top brands since the launch of the original App Store. “With blockchain, it is now time to reimagine how these apps are built in the background.”

Suffescom Solutions Inc. has recently launched BlockFirst, a blockchain developer consulting practice that assists businesses in implementing Decentralized app Development (DApps) and ledgers to transform their business operations.

“The objective of BlockFirst is to challenge companies that have adopted a mobile-first mentality to think blockchain first,” explains Shapiro, “in order to enable new processes and offerings for their customers, partners, and employees.”

Shapiro, the driving force behind the new service, believes blockchain will be disruptive to businesses by introducing mobile technology. Specifically, he says for “highly regulated industries, such as banking, life sciences, and food production.” Creating decentralized, historical records of monetary transactions has immense value for businesses and consumers.

We recently interviewed Shapiro to inquire about his perspective on the potential of blockchain and to discover why Suffescom is becoming a DApp development company to assist businesses in utilizing blockchain.

How will blockchain affect mobile?

Blockchain has little impact on mobile, at least in terms of the user experience. It is more accurate to say that mobile enables blockchain, and blockchain enables new functionality for mobile users. One of the primary advantages of blockchain is that it serves as an unalterable, or immutable, historical record of various data events, whether for tracking purchases or other types of data. But this information must originate from somewhere. Whether you are making a payment, scanning QR codes, taking pictures, or sharing your location, you need a tool to transmit this data. This is where mobile comes into play; mobile phones and other connected objects serve as the means to execute these transactions and communicate with the blockchain. And mobile, as it exists today, will, in many cases, serve as the user interface for these transactions.

Specifically, with a mobile app, you can add a blockchain record containing all the phone’s information, such as GPS location, timestamp, and QR code. Similarly, a mobile application can query the blockchain by scanning a QR code to quickly retrieve and validate records and transactions. A mobile app performs the inputs and outputs of the blockchain.

People still have difficulty understanding blockchain — how do you explain it to people?

Consider blockchain as the simplest database ever created. It consists only of a list of information shared equally among all list users. Everyone is permitted to view and verify the list. However, instead of residing on a computer or in a cloud server, it is accessible to everyone, everywhere, and cannot be censored. No one can conceal past events or alter the sequence of historical events.

People find it difficult to comprehend blockchain because it has no face. Blockchain is infrastructure and, for certain applications, a special type of infrastructure. Users will be aware that blockchain is the underlying technology powering the application.

There are many possible use cases of blockchain for business. Which do you think is most interesting?

I always consider highly regulated industries, such as banking, life sciences, and food production. Possessing an immutable record of the path various goods take from show to delivery could be extremely beneficial. Wouldn’t you, as a consumer, like to know where your prescription medication came from, to see its history, and to know that its chain of custody was unbroken and verifiable?

During our recent blockchain hackathon, several development teams created proof-of-concept DApps piqued my interest. Existing infrastructure technologies would have made implementing these blockchain-based solutions impossible or significantly more difficult. One application, in particular, was a simulation of commercial aircraft maintenance. Following a series of checks, airline inspectors would record a pass or fail — or prescribe any necessary care. A permanent record of these checks would be stored in a blockchain. Two years after an inspection revealed a defective part on an Alaska Airlines flight, the team relayed a fairly compelling account of the subsequent crash. An inspector identified the problem, but the replacement part was never installed. And there is no consensus as to why the component was never replaced, despite numerous reports to the contrary. A blockchain-based solution could prevent future catastrophes or make the past transparent.

Why is Suffescom Solutions Inc well-positioned to be a DApp development company and help businesses with blockchain strategy?

Since the advent of the first app store, we’ve been designing mobile apps. However, we have also developed the technology that powers these applications. No application is an island, and most of our time on projects is spent connecting the front-end application to the data sources, legacy systems, and functional back-end services required to make the application function. Instead of using SOAP, REST, or a proprietary API to access a centralized web service, Blockchain is another infrastructure service that utilizes a new open API to access the decentralized data record.

Of course, we’re also quite enthusiastic about how Blockchain is distinct from and, in many cases, superior to traditional web services, enabling the creation of new types of applications and functionality. We have considerable experience developing DApp proofs-of-concept.

How is a decentralized app different from a typical app?

I wouldn’t say I like the term DApp, even though everyone uses it. Applications that use blockchain are still applications at their core. The app is the front-end embodiment of how users will interact with and experience the functionality. However, the application’s backend is decentralized. Nobody refers to an application as a “Web Services App” or “SQL Database App.” So why are they called DApps? Possibly because “The Same Mobile App You Already Use Is Now Linked To a Decentralized Immutable Transparent Database” is a mouthful.

Why does the decentralized aspect of blockchain matter?

Blockchain is a revolutionary concept primarily because blockchain-based applications are decentralized. Peer-to-peer transactions allow individuals, organizations, and entities to complete transactions, such as a payment or information exchange, without a central authority. This eliminates the need for a reliable middleman, which has the potential to accelerate a transaction and reduce its costs.

People will eventually accept the concept of “trustless” transactions, although it will take some time. This is one reason why companies must investigate blockchain technology today. Finally, the business will be conducted peer to peer, and companies want to avoid being stuck with slow, expensive, and middleman-reliant operations.

Intriguingly, blockchain does not necessitate decentralization, and centralized blockchain usage still confers certain benefits. Many believe that enterprise blockchain solutions (those not used by the general public) will instead rely on centralized, managed blockchains. Even if the concept of decentralization only catches on for a while, this brings real benefits to businesses today.

Is data on a blockchain secure?

Individual blocks of data stored on a blockchain are typically encrypted using a digital signature known as a hash. It is the documentation of an event or transaction. This hash is secure, as its source data cannot be reconstructed. However, it can only be a reference for information or assets stored in a traditional database or file system outside of the blockchain. This database could be insecure. Because blockchain serves as a record of this information at a given time, it will be evident if an unauthorized change is made to the database. This blockchain record would help us quickly determine what would happen if someone hacked or altered the off-chain database.

What’s the best way for businesses to get started with blockchain?

It begins with learning about the technology; once you understand how it applies to your business, you can then begin to implement it. The best way to comprehend blockchain technology is to start with a proof of concept. Typically, our BlockFirst blockchain development services begin with a discovery session, during which we first define the opportunity and then map out the feature set of a blockchain solution. Then, we’ll construct the proof of concept — a prototype DApp development project — and collaborate with you to determine the viability of commercial blockchain deployment. It’s an easy way to get started and comprehend the potential of blockchain for your business.

Why do you call it BlockFirst?

We assisted businesses in adopting a mobile-first mentality. They discovered how mobile created new business opportunities. The time has come to reimagine business opportunities using blockchain-based applications. This will have the same impact as the mobile revolution. Forward-thinking business leaders are planning their blockchain-first strategy; hence, BlockFirst.

You’re excited about blockchain for business. But what excites you most about it as a technologist?

Since blockchain is still in its infancy, the underlying technology that will power it is undeniably intriguing and rapidly evolving. However, the best part of researching any emerging technology is understanding its potential, including how it enables a new set of solutions, offerings, and functionality for a company’s customers, partners, and employees. I want to think we do a decent job of explaining this potential. Suffescom has utilized various technologies to address several intriguing business issues throughout the past decade. As a DApp development company, blockchain will play a significant role in our business problem-solving over the next decade.

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