After its first transaction in 2009, Bitcoin and the global cryptocurrency market have consistently remained in the headlines. However, with the widespread use of mobile payment systems like Apple Pay or VenMo, has the public’s desire for instant and secure money sending services been quenched? Not quite—BTC still has a few tricks and features that make it unique in a sea of P2P sending and mobile wallets. On top of the obvious features that bitcoin has to offer, its backbone technology is incredibly applicable in almost all aspects of modern currency transactions.

The Year of Getting People to Spend Coins

Back in November of 2015, the San Francisco-based bitcoin startup Coinbase released America’s first bitcoin “debit” card. The Shift card works anywhere Visa is taken, and it simply withdraws the bitcoin equivalent of the USD purchase from your Coinbase account. Coinbase’s new product release was the beginning of a trend that we will see even more of in 2017—getting people to spend their coins.

The Shift card is great at what it set out to do; it’s part of an effort to get major retailers and businesses to begin transacting with bitcoin in hopes of driving more traffic and increasing the strength of the currency further.

What NR Cofounder + COO Drew Harding Has to Say:

How did you initially hear about Bitcoin? What intrigued you about it?

To be honest, I don’t remember the exact time I heard about it. It was most likely a variety of sources that drew me to finally research what the chatter was all about. Conceptually, Bitcoin is fascinating. It challenges the very idea of what money or currency is. And in that sense, as currency is the root of all society, governing what value is given to all services and products, it actually has the profound effect of challenging people’s worldview.

A common argument against Bitcoin is that the US Dollar, a current example of a fiat currency, is backed by the full faith and credit of United State government: money by decree. That said, when one considers nothing more than simple economic supply and demand fundamentals, it’s obvious to understand that an asset that has a limited or finite supply will grow in value with demand. The Federal Reserve and Central Banks around the world have the ability to control the available supply by introducing or removing fiat from circulation. This allows these institutions to throttle inflation and generally control global markets… until they can’t. I saw BTC as a potential store of wealth in a world with increasing economic instability and currency issues.

Do you see BTC remaining just an alternate currency, or growing into something more mainstream?

Drew: I have no doubt that the Blockchain will not only survive, but turn out to one of the most important technological achievements ever created. As far as Bitcoin, I think it has a lot of life left and is still in its infancy. From China implementing major capital controls while also devaluing their own currency to stay competitive to Venezula’s dire economic situation and the ever-decreasing value of its own national currency to India’s decision to pull two of the most popular fiat notes from circulation in an attempt to reign in ‘Black market’ money, it seems obvious that global currency issues are only increasing. People will always look for alternative stores of value.   

That said, all this depends on a level of societal stability and the success of the electronic age.

How does BTC fit in with the current landscape of mobile payment systems? Does BTC have anything to offer for mobile systems like Apple Pay or Google Wallet?

Drew: BTC is an actual medium of exchange—meaning as opposed to exchanging a pre-existing currency in the case of mobile wallets, BTC transactions take place over its own proprietary currency. Nevermind the semantics of whether it’s an asset or a currency. It intrinsically holds value. Apple Pay and Google Wallet are simply digital payment systems connected to the existing banking infrastructure. It provides none of the benefits of BTC, the currency, including highly increased, if not complete (done properly) transaction anonymity. As people seek out alternative stores of value out of either necessity (via economic instability) or convenience (i.e no need for a bank account, transaction speed), I expect that we will see some if not all of these payment systems include BTC and other forms of crypto-currencies.

What does the extremely secure nature of BTC offer for the general public?

Drew: Simply put: Anonymity = Privacy. Privacy = Personal Liberty and Freedom. I believe it to be an inherent right to choose where and how to store one’s wealth. Giving individual’s control over their own money will decentralize banking and limit big government. 

Lastly, what’s one thing you hope to see BTC being used for in 2017?

Drew: Lodging. If AirBnB or similar service offered BTC as a payment option, it would be a game changer.

Bitcoin vs. Blockchain

As the push to make bitcoin technology more mainstream continues, 2017 will likely be another big year for the bitcoin vs. blockchain debate. For some of you, you may only know blockchain as an online wallet and transaction search engine. However, it is actually blockchain technology that allowed the creation of bitcoin in the first place.

For a bit of background, Blockgeeks provides some amazing examples and insights into what exactly the blockchain is, and what it has to do with bitcoin. In an example from the Blockgeeks article, William Mougayar (venture advisor, entrepreneur, blockchain specialist) compares the blockchain revolution to Google Docs vs. Microsoft Word. Google Docs changed the way people collaborate on documents by removing the need to wait for changes to be saved, sent, and received by two or more parties just to edit a single document.

This is where blockchain comes in—it’s the Google docs of transfers and transactions. By allowing all parties the same consistent access to the transaction, there is no need to lock-out, submit, and update balances of both participants when transacting money between people. Blockchain also boasts a P2P network of computers to validate transactions across many different devices to take the power away from any given single individual. It’s more secure, and it’s way faster.

Bitcoin has gotten particular attention of late due to increased discussion around blockchain technology. Blockchain can really be applied to any financial securities, and it is bitcoin that brings this technology to currency in the most streamlined manner possible.

Right now, bitcoin still hasn’t reached anywhere close to its potential. The currency is already quite incredible—it boasts fast, secure transactions at many online locations and now brick & mortar shops that take VISA. Bitcoin is still somewhat niche, but as more retailers and services start accepting bitcoin, the currency will continue to grow and attract new users. In a digital world, the US dollar’s crown is slipping. Bitcoin is faster, more secure, and less problematic, and we certainly haven’t heard the last of it.