By Alan Murray and Tom Huddleston Jr.
August 22, 2017

Good morning.

The September issue of Fortune magazine is dedicated to “Blockchain Mania”—a phenomena that Editor-in-Chief Clifton Leaf says “may well change everyday business in scores of industries.”

The public focus has been on an explosion of digital “currencies” that has made “ICOs” (initial coin offerings) the modern equivalent of turn-of-the-century “IPOs.” It’s not just the well-known Bitcoin and its sibling Ethereum; there’s now a digital currency for cloud storage (FileCoin), digital advertising (adToken), marijuana (Potcoin) and even for dentists (Dental Coin). The total value of all virtual currencies has rocketed past $135 billion, up from just $20 billion at the beginning of the year.

But the real promise of blockchain technology goes much further. Fortune’s Robert Hackett provides a fascinating look at how, for instance, Walmart is exploring blockchain technology as a way to track the provenance of fresh food, in case of an outbreak of food-related disease; or shipping giant Maersk is using it to track its massive flow of cargo all over the world.

Of course, like every technology making its way through the hype cycle, the blockchain may start as more marketing mush than real meat. Hackett quotes Google’s Vince Cerf saying he thinks “claims that blockchains will change the world are hyperbolic for the most part.” But behind the hype, Hackett concludes, there is something that every business leader needs to pay attention to. “It’s no exaggeration to believe blockchains could, in the long term, revamp business, government, and even society itself, just as surely as the Internet did last century, and double-entry bookkeeping did centuries earlier.”

By the way, if you’ve been watching the value of Bitcoin and Ethereum soar recently, and are tempted to put some money in the game, you’ll be interested to learn those investments aren’t nearly as secure as most people think. Read Jen Wieczner’s frightening story about the rise in cryptocurrency heists, here.

More news below.

Alan Murray
@alansmurray
alan.murray@fortune.com

 

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