Back in January 2016, there was just one popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, which held a unicorn ($1 billion) valuation. Now, there are nearly 40 crypto-unicorns, with more entering this space every day. There are also more use cases coming to fruition, and blockchain media coverage is through the roof. That being said, how much has really been accomplished? Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin has queried the real-world impact of the new technology:

“How many unbanked people have we banked? How much censorship-resistant commerce for the common people have we enabled? How many dapps [distributed applications] have we created that have substantial usage? How much value is stored in smart contracts that actually do anything interesting? How many Venezuelans have actually been protected by us from hyperinflation? How much actual usage of micropayment channels is there actually in reality?”

These are important questions, and ones that need answers before we see mass adoption of the technology. By the end of 2018, we will likely have a far better idea of how the technology will fit into the fabric of our society. So, while there is much that has changed since Bitcoin was first valued at $1 billion, there is much more that will continue to change.

Here are 7 blockchain predictions to look out for in 2018 and some companies driving these trends:

1. Many more people and institutions will understand blockchain tech.

The blockchain is moving further into the mainstream world. There are blockchain groups popping up everywhere, from college campuses to small cities. We will soon see “blockchain classes” taught at universities. These groups are discussing cryptocurrencies, teaching each other and having conversations that are leading to action.

The recent price spikes have caught the public eye, and more people want to understand what is happening. Some blockchain companies, such as UBIQUICOIN, are creating global solutions to crypto volatility. For UBIQUICOIN, this comes in the form of a two-coin solution, one that is stable in value to curb any traditional swings. The idea is the introduce the platform around the world to reduce the friction in costs in commerce and investing.

In 2018, blockchain will continue to move into the mainstream, and people will further need to understand what is happening. That will lead to more knowledgeable citizens, and also to more people who are equipped to start new blockchain projects. Part of this process is educating new crypto enthusiasts on how to invest. HybridBlock, is doing just this while building out one of the most ambitious ecosystems to facilitate mass cryptocurrency participation in Asia. This includes a mobile application, exchange, and more. 

2. Tech giants and B2B participants will emerge.

In December, Facebook’s VP of Messaging Products, David Marcus, joined the Coinbase board. Marcus also previously started a mobile payments company that was acquired by PayPal (his former employer). Google has been one of the largest corporate blockchain investors, and that will continue in 2018.

Amazon is jumping on board as well. They announced a partnership with R3’s Corda in December 2017. According to the R3 blog, “Corda is an enterprise-grade DLT solution that removes costly friction in business transactions by enabling institutions to transact directly using smart contracts, while ensuring high levels of privacy and security.”

On the B2B side, TraDove recently raised $30 million in their ICO pre-sale to expand their existing B2B social networking platform onto the blockchain. They are a great example of an existing San Francisco tech company expanding and building out a blockchain platform.

3. We will see many more use cases and companies.

A wide range of companies is entering this space due to all of the different functions that can be served on the blockchain.

There are unique ICOs entering the field, such as Puregold, which is using tokens supported by gold. Gold has been around for ages, so it was just a matter of time before it entered the blockchain realm. Puregold has been around since 2010 as a successful brick-and-mortar company, running storefronts, gold-minting factories and gold ATMs. Puregold’s ICO launches in January 2018.

A number of companies, like FarmaTrust, are using the blockchain to improve daily life. FarmaTrust is working to eliminate counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs with their platform and provide value-added services to governments and pharmaceutical companies. It is estimated that up to 30 percent of medications sold in developing countries are counterfeit. FarmaTrust hopes that their international tracking system, together with AI and big data services, will help solve these issues.

There are even emerging marketplaces like Repux, which is hoping to take advantage of the vast amounts of private data. The idea is for businesses to sell their data anonymously for tokens. Developers can buy the data to create machine-learning algorithms, and then sell the products that they build to enable better business decision making.

Puregold, FarmaTrust and Repux utilize different areas along the blockchain, but all demonstrate an important use case. In 2018, more of these companies will emerge and become an integrated part of the global economy.

4. Crypto will be used as an everyday payment mechanism.

More companies are announcing that they will take crypto as a payment. The list currently includes WordPress, Subway, Expedia and Shopify stores. Sparkle Coin offers a cryptocurrency that can be used to purchase from major e-tailers within their 3-company ecosphere. This direct transactability for B2C and B2B purchases provides a new form of convenience for consumers.

In 2018, this will become more normalized. There are a variety of reasons for this. Right now, accepting Bitcoin can give a company positive media attention and give them an image of being ahead of the curve. As more companies adopt this payment gateway, failure to accept Bitcoin will be frowned upon by consumers.

Speaking of consumer facing solutions, Asset Token, is tackling the rewards points industry to create a utility token that is highly transactable. These utility tokens can be transferred between rewards programs, merchants, banks, and any wallet compliant with the ERC20 standard. This is a huge opportunity to disrupt credit card rewards and other traditional rewards points systems.

5. There will be a surge in smart contract applications.

Smart contracts ensure a payment or action under certain criteria. Startups are leveraging this core technology in a number of ways. For instance, JoyToken is developing an infrastructure protocol for the gaming industry that uses decentralized, autonomous agents (smart contracts) to safely guarantee and audit game records. In essence, they are removing tons of friction from the gaming ecosystem, giving developers an easy-to-use revenue stream that has previously been untapped.

Another interesting startup, meVu, is leveraging smart contracts to become the most revered global platform made exclusively for players to bet anything, anytime against anyone. Smart contracts also allow for a safe and transparent process. Kelvin Coelho, CEO of meVu, explains, “We will make online betting less expensive and more transparent by having the core functionality of the application in publicly viewable smart-contracts on the Ethereum blockchain.”

These smart contracts are extremely valuable across a wide variety of industries. They eliminate the need for (and fees of) intermediaries and allow everyday transactions to run extremely smoothly. As the regulations and security behind these smart contracts grow stronger in 2018, their adoption will increase.

6. Blockchain will reshape the developing world.

One of the biggest benefits of blockchain technology is how it can be applied to solve global issues and open up access where previously unavailable. Some of these efforts come in humanitarian forms, others are as simple as introducing an existing service to a new market.

For example, Acorn Collective, a blockchain-built crowdfunding platform, will bring crowdfunding to the developing world by opening access to all legal projects with no fees. This is groundbreaking as crowdfunding in the developing world has traditionally been met with high barriers to entry, leaving a gap in the access to capita..

Another interesting initiative is ExsulCoin, a project looking to help refugees integrate, both socially and economically, into their new homes. Additionally, ExsulCoin will help drive refugee led projects and education. This is all accomplished with blockchain technology.

7. Blockchain will disrupt deep-rooted industries.

The foundation of blockchain technology is based on disruption. While not a surprise that this involves massive shakeups of traditional industries, some applications are uprooting institutions that have been in place for hundreds of years.

For example, ODEM has burst onto the scene to revamp the way traditional education works. By eliminating costly intermediaries, ODEM will connect educators with students to facilitate private learning that is cost efficient and of higher quality than current systems. With an experienced team of educators and technologists, ODEM is being regarded as one of the leading projects in the space. Their token sale starts on February 17, 2018.

Other industries that are bound for disruption include media, logistics, healthcare, and finance. Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.

David is a professionally accredited leadership and marketing coach who works with young founders and early stage teams to help them navigate through emerging marketing opportunities with a current focus on artificial intelligence and virtual reality. Using the identification of new technological innovations that give way to different paths that can effectively reach customers, David is able to make marketing departments more effective, adaptable, and progressive.