A couple of years ago, blockchain technology saw an increase in mainstream attention due to the media buzz around cryptocurrencies, which is one application of blockchain technology. Within a few months, millions of people around the globe had purchased “crypto” by way of mobile apps and websites.
The first and most popular of those cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, hit a historical all-time high value of about $20,000 USD per bitcoin in late 2017. A year later, it had crashed down to under $4,000 USD; and since Bitcoin tends to move the whole market along with it, similar crashes happened to other cryptocurrencies.
Bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and XRP have since showed signs of recovery and we could be at the early stages of another bull run. At this moment, the value of Bitcoin has more than doubled from the lows of late 2018.
Since we might be entering another media hype cycle with even more people entering the crypto space, we’ve sat down with Omar Antila, our Director of Product & Technical Services and a certified Blockchain Solution Architect to get his opinion of the state of cryptocurrencies and blockchain tech in 2019 and also talk about the challenges of testing blockchain related apps.
Hello Omar, please give us a quick introduction about yourself.
I’ve been working in tech since 2004 in various roles with QA being the biggest theme. I joined PLUS QA in 2012 when we were only a handful of people and since then I’ve been focused on developing our client accounts, services, processes, and products.
When did you gain interest in blockchain and cryptocurrencies?
I bought my first bitcoin for $91 in 2013 as more of a novelty item and didn’t really think much of it and I loosely kept following the biggest developments. Then, in the early stages of the 2017 bull cycle, I started getting more interested about the tech itself and discovered other interesting blockchain projects like Ethereum.
The more I learned, the more I realized that blockchain tech will be a game-changer in the way people transact, and not just with money.
Can you give us some examples of crypto related product teams you’ve worked with at PLUS QA in the past couple of years?
We started working with brd.com in mid-2017 to test their iOS and Android wallet app. We’ve seen them quickly grow beyond from just being a wallet app and they are now working towards bringing decentralized banking to the masses.
We’ve also worked with a startup that recently released a cryptocurrency custody solution for institutional investors. Once more of these institutions enter the market, I believe the next bull run will pale in comparison to what we saw in late 2017.
“An experienced test engineer, who’s not experienced with cryptocurrencies, can’t jump straight into testing a crypto wallet app.”
What are the challenges with testing apps that deal with cryptocurrencies?
The first challenge comes simply with terminology and understanding the basic concepts of blockchain tech. An experienced test engineer, who’s not experienced with cryptocurrencies can’t jump straight into testing a crypto wallet app for example without spending time learning what things like gas, tokens, block explorers and mainnet vs. testnet are and understanding how transactions work.
Understanding how public and private keys work is also challenging at first unless the person is already familiar with cryptography methods like PGP.
Testing can get tricky because it’s been shown that testing something on a testnet blockchain doesn’t necessarily mean it will work on a mainnet blockchain. Sometimes testing on testnet isn’t even possible due to limitations with some exchanges’ APIs for example. This means that at least some testing needs to be done on mainnet for every release and that means real money with real transaction fees will be used. With the use of real money, testers need to be extra careful and test planning needs to be done with more thought.
What do you think about the recent surge in the crypto market?
I’ve been following developments in the industry closely since the early 2018 crash and I’ve become less interested in short term price action. We are still in the very early stages of adoption and there are lots of exciting things happening behind the scenes.
The recent surge in value and overall price action this year does hint that we might be in the beginning of another bull cycle (there have been several already in the past) but please don’t take my word for it. 🙂
What are your top 3 cryptocurrencies and why?
When Ethereum was released in 2015, it was the first blockchain project to introduce smart contracts. Smart contracts (aka chaincode) are a way to program rules and decision points into transactions and processes on a blockchain. This makes Ethereum a decentralized distributed computing platform with all kinds of possible uses beyond just what Bitcoin offers as a virtual currency.
Ethereum has a very active developer community behind it working on all kinds of decentralized apps (dapps) like crypto exchanges, games and collectibles, job posting platforms, and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) running on smart contracts.
XRP is a cryptocurrency that gets a bad rap in some crypto circles mostly due to misinformation and tribalism. It’s a great project steered by a great product team that solves a real problem with international remittance, which has been slow and expensive in the past. I think XRP will be one of the biggest drivers of mass adoption with crypto and that will benefit the whole ecosystem.
IOTA is a very interesting distributed ledger technology (DLT) project that goes beyond the blocks of blockchain and instead utilizes something called a Directed Acyclic Graph or DAG. Its main use case is with IoT and the growing machine economy by enabling feeless machine-to-machine micropayments. It’s also ready for the future by being quantum resistant. Once quantum computing goes mainstream, projects like Ethereum will have to implement new protocols to prevent malicious actors.
Where do you think blockchain technology will be in a few years from now and what kind of impact will it have in our society?
At its core, blockchain is simply a mechanism for recording information that can’t be altered (immutable) and doesn’t depend on trusting a third party (trustless). Blockchain is decentralized, meaning no single authority controls the data. Blockchain by design also enables transparency.
This has major implications for how societies and people transact. Blockchain technologies will improve trust in all industries where information (assets) is transferred and there are projects underway that focus on voting, campaign finance, supply chain management, healthcare, banking, real estate, self-sovereign identity, IoT and energy.
I think in a few years we’ll start seeing mass adoption of cryptocurrencies and more organizations utilizing blockchain technology as a way to create trust, transparency and fault-tolerance.