Digital assets like cryptocurrencies, NFTs and other tokens are past “emerging” — they’re here to stay.
Blockchains are the technology solutions that enable digital assets. A blockchain is a method of securely recording information on a peer-to-peer network. It’s a shared public database, duplicated across computer systems, in which new entries can be added but existing entries can’t be altered.
Blockchain entries, called blocks, are generated via specific protocols that are different for each blockchain. Each block contains encoded information about the previous block, reinforcing the order and structure of the blockchain as it grows.
A digital asset is created, or minted, when new information is added to a particular blockchain. Through blockchain entries, users can exchange existing digital assets and/or create new (mint) ones.
Think of the term “digital assets” as a broad container that encompasses anything minted and exchanged on a blockchain. We generally place digital assets in five categories.
Any digital store of value or medium of exchange (currency) that’s stored on the blockchain.
A type of cryptocurrency designed for price stability. Stablecoin prices are linked to fiat currencies, commodities or other crypto assets.
A token that represents ownership of a unique digital item (think a work of art, a government ID, a specific unit of production). An NFT certifies that the holder owns the underlying digital asset and can sell, trade or redeem it.
A type of digital asset that represents a nation’s fiat currency and is backed by its central bank. Not all nations issue CBDCs.
Digital assets are stored and recorded on the blockchain ledger where they were issued (in most cases). Your ledger entry has a public and private key associated with it, which you can think of like a computer-generated email address and password. Wallets help store your keys securely so that only you can access your digital assets, and they give you a convenient place to view your assets and ledger positions. This is an important distinction: the digital asset is stored on the blockchain ledger, and the keys that give you access to it are stored in a wallet.
Your private key (remember, think password) is what you will use to prove your ownership of the digital asset if/when you want to do something with it. If you wanted to send some cryptocurrency to another person, for instance, you would need your private key signed to the transaction in order for it to be accepted as a new blockchain entry. This is why it is important to protect your keys.
Once you have tokens, what can you do with them? Applications can confirm the tokens in your wallet to provide users with any number of opportunities like exclusive options in games, apps that work with your token, and finance functions exclusive to cryptocurrency (e.g., DeFi). Let’s see what this looks like.
Layer 2 scaling solutions all work differently, but their main function is to sit on top of the main chain and make transactions faster and cheaper by aggregating data.
The top layer is made up of apps that enable users to view, trade and spend digital assets.
Users can spend their digital assets to purchase products and services. These can include digital asset products such as NFTs but may also include things beyond the blockchain ecosystem like tickets to real world experiences or the deed to a real world asset.
Users spending their digital assets on items at physical retailers. Built into every point-of-sale system is the capability to accept digital assets as tender. Eventually, you will spend digital assets on everything from clothing to cars.
Decentralized finance is an umbrella term for a variety of financial applications provided through digital assets. Because digital assets live on the blockchain, we can access and manipulate them via code in smart contracts. This enables infinite possibilities to automate complex transactions and financial activity where the digital assets are the medium of exchange.
Financial opportunities being built into the options on purchase of a digital asset. Being able to get a loan, insurance or other financial instrument automatically agreed to by a provider via the blockchain.
Users can trade digital assets much like in traditional FX or stock markets. Users may want to trade to enact speculative investments or to acquire the currency necessary to play a new game, use a new dApp, etc.
Your standard exchanges have the capability to trade digital assets for stocks, commodities and other financial instruments.
Games built on a blockchain can offer tokenized in-game currency to their players. Because the currency is a digital asset, users can have real ownership over the value they earn. This includes the right to sell to or exchange with other players in a way traditional game developers have never offered.
In-game currency being traded for other digital assets between gamers and potential gamers who are interested in joining the game.
Decentralized apps (dApps) includes any other applications built on a blockchain. We have yet to see how the dApp market will develop and what new services/products will be offered, but we do know that dApps have a distinct advantage over traditional mobile and desktop apps: they will have more direct access to user assets thanks to their foundation on the blockchain.
Using a digital asset based-app without realizing it. Apps will be able to recognize your identity and provide you access based on the digital assets in your wallet.
This is only a starting point. Each of these elements will require its own separate understanding and strategy to succeed. Learn more about digital assets, what they mean for your business strategy and stay on top of the latest industry trends in this evolving space.
Developing a strategy can prepare your company not only for today, but for the future of digital assets. Learn more about digital assets and what these mean for your businesses.