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Blockchain smartphone: The next big thing, or just a gimmick?

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Blockchain is the buzzword these days. And smartphones powered by blockchain technology are clearly attempting to ride on this wave. The Finney blockchain from Sirin Labs and the BitVault device from Embedded Downloads and VVDN heralded this trend last October. Now mainstream phonemakers are jumping on the bandwagon.

HTC, for instance, recently announced that it is developing a blockchain smartphone called Exodus. Similarly, Huawei has roped in Sirin Labs for a blockchain smartphone, according to a Bloomberg report, published in March.

What is a blockchain phone?

There are two types of blockchain smartphones—one that runs Android along with a secondary open source OS powered by blockchain technology and running Decentralised Apps (DAPs). Sirin Labs’ Finney and HTC’s Exodus are cases in point. The second type includes smartphones which only run on a blockchain-based OS with a limited but secure ecosystem of apps. VVDN’s BitVault belongs to this group. What separates them from an Android smartphone or Apple iPhone is that all communication including messages, VoIP calling, emails and data sharing on the blockchain OS take place in a private blockchain, which is open only to users with a similar smartphone and the private keys to join the P2P network. Current Android phones can be used to access blockchains and cryptocurrency wallets but they won’t have the same level of security available in these phones.

The existing set of blockchain phones are designed only to facilitate exchange and payments using multiple cryptocurrencies over a secure network. But a lot more can be done in the future. “For now users can store cryptocurrencies, trade cryptocurrencies without transaction fees. In the near future they can buy and sell products and other offerings directly to other blockchain smartphone holders, receive immediate discounts, rebates or refunds without transaction fees. The possibilities are really limitless,” said Kavita Gupta, founding managing partner at ConsenSys—a US based blockchain technology company.

Blockchain in India

The Reserve Bank of India restricts dealing with cryptocurrencies. However, that’s not the case with blockchain. For instance, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has issued a draft guideline on how to use blockchain to curb pesky calls and SMSs. Andhra Pradesh is using blockchain in cyber security and ran a pilot project for land records last year. “Blockchain is a disruptive technology and it is very beneficial for a variety of industries, including communications. Using blockchain technology in smartphones for security sake is not the infringement of law at all,” said Rachit Chawla, CEO of Finway Capital. The blockchain market size is expected to reach $60 billion worldwide in 2024 from the $706 million in 2017, according to a February 2018 report by Wintergreen Research.

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