The International Data Corporation (IDC) has published its update to the Worldwide Semiannual Blockchain Spending Guide, which estimates that worldwide spending on blockchain solutions in 2018 will be $1.5 billion, twice as much as in 2017. The Guide also estimates that worldwide spending on blockchain solutions will reach $11.7 billion in 2022. The Guide predicts that the largest growth in the U.S. will be in the distribution and services sector, and in Europe, Middle East, Africa and China, in the financial services sector.

The United Nations has noticed the explosive growth of blockchain investment—growing at an “unprecedented scale” and “warp speed,” according to Secretary-General António Guterres. The UN announced the creation of a “High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation,” to put blockchain technology on its agenda. The panel will include industry, academic and political members, and will focus on confronting the impact of digital technologies on the global economy and society.

In the private sector, a New York-based global consulting and financial solutions firm, and a FINRA-registered broker-dealer, recently announced a new strategic collaboration to facilitate investment in SEC-compliant token offerings. In a July 24 announcement, Coinbase stated that it is partnering with London-based WeGift to launch crypto gift cards, which will allow customers to purchase retail goods and services using cryptocurrencies. Also on July 24, Galaxy Digital, the crypto-focused merchant bank founded by Mike Novogratz, announced that it led a $52.5 million fundraising round for crypto-lending start-up BlockFi, whose current model allows investors to take out a loan as high as $10 million using either bitcoin or ether as collateral.

In the public sector, on July 20, the Chinese district government of the Nanjing Jiangbei New Area announced its plans for a 10 billion-yuan (around $1.4 billion) blockchain project, funded through a public-private partnership. Thirty percent of the funds will come from the local government and 70 percent from the private sector, including a Chinese academic-backed fund and publicly listed venture capital firm based in the city of Nanjing.

New Initiatives Announced in Healthcare, Emissions, Airlines and Public Sectors

This week, the Linux Foundation announced a new blockchain framework for the healthcare sector that hosts a number of benefits. The framework allows participants to draft smart contracts in any language (e.g., Python and Javascript) and then use those smart contracts to vote on the blockchain network’s configuration settings. The framework also supports Ethereum and allows participants to upgrade the blockchain consensus protocol and incorporate new scalable algorithms.

In the emissions industry, a multinational technology company announced an initiative to enhance the market for carbon credits through blockchain technology. The billion-dollar market for carbon credits suffers from inefficiencies and expensive accounting procedures, resulting in carbon credits that are often underutilized by corporations. The new initiative would turn these carbon credits into crypto tokens backed by various carbon assets verified by third parties according to international standards. The underlying token protocol seeks to instantly calculate the number of carbon credits needed to offset a corporation’s carbon footprint and facilitate the purchase and sale of carbon credits, ultimately leading to a more efficient marketplace.

Internationally, a major airline announced plans to roll out an airline loyalty digital wallet that would use blockchain technology to convert frequent flyer miles into digitized units that could be used to purchase goods from select retailers via the airline’s mobile app. The airline is currently partnering with 18 merchants, including restaurants, beauty parlors, gas stations and select retailers.

In the public sector, Delaware plans to launch a proof of concept for a blockchain-based business filing system. The system will allow corporations to track stocks and collateral assets in real time through smart contract technology and ultimately provide lenders and borrowers with more efficient and accurate records to meet state and federal regulations. In Tennessee, a global shipping corporation announced its plans to team up with a nonprofit pharmacy and launch a blockchain application that aims to reduce pharmaceutical waste. The application will rely on a secure and immediate, time-stamped distribution of information to facilitate the retrieval of unused medications and eliminate potential chain-of-custody issues. The goal of the nonprofit pharmacy is to distribute the unused medication to cancer patients who are otherwise unable to access it.

A new blockchain solution for supply chain also debuted this week with a global technology company’s launch of its proprietary blockchain-as-a-service application. The service reportedly has a few early adopters that were able to launch successful proofs of concept to address product tracking and traceability issues. A 30-day free trial of the service is available now, and customers can also sign up for a monthly, yearly or multiyear deal.

Firms Continue to Seek IP Rights Amid Evolving Patent Landscape

Late last week, the U.S. Patent Office published the latest in what has been a steady stream of blockchain-based patent applications filed by institutional banks. Two patent applications by one of the largest U.K.-based banks were published: one dealing with a blockchain-based system for hosting cryptocurrency transactions, and another that seeks to streamline “know your customer” processes. Both patent applications appear aimed at leveraging blockchain to enhance security and compliance in banking systems.

A recent Cointelegraph article provided some statistics on the companies and countries with the most blockchain-related patent filings. Notably, the applications from China significantly outnumber those from other countries. The article also notes that so-called patent trolls appear to be taking an interest in blockchain patent applications.

As the patent landscape continues to evolve, blockchain is also being discussed as a solution for IP protection. A recent Forbes article highlighted a start-up that is seeking to leverage blockchain to assist in managing the protection of various types of intellectual property, including code, text, photos, music, 3D work, designs, trade secrets and confidential information. Vaultitude seeks to place nondisclosure agreements on a blockchain and to create a blockchain-based marketplace for selling and licensing IP. Among other uses, Vaultitude believes its solution could be used by patent offices in their prior art searches.