The blockchain opens the doors to Web3. But the Italian market is on standby

The map drawn by the Polimi Observatory. In the face of international "fervor", the growth in the adoption of technologies in our country is still unsatisfactory. And investments are even down compared to two years ago. The financial-insurance sector is the only one to boast substantial initiatives

21 Jan 2022 L. O.

Blockchain and Distributed Ledger full speed ahead. The ecosystem born from bitcoin rapidly continues its expansion with different applications, from cryptocurrencies to NFTs, passing through DeFi. In 2021, 370 initiatives (projects and announcements) developed by companies and public administrations were counted globally, + 39% compared to 2020, bringing the total number of cases recorded from 2016 to today to 1,615. It emerges from the research of the Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Observatory of the School of Management of the Politecnico di Milano, according to which the growth of applications opens the revolution of the decentralized Web, the Web3, considered the natural evolution of the current "centralized" Web dominated by big tech . Index of topics

The Italian scenario

In the face of this international "fervor", the Italian market is in a waiting phase. There is still no marked growth in the adoption of Blockchain technologies and company investments amounted to 28 million euros in 2021, more or less stable compared to 23 million in 2020 and 30 million in 2019. In Italy, the financial and insurance sector is confirmed as active, with 50% of investments. Followed by the public administration (15%), in strong growth also thanks to the development of the Italian Blockchain Service Infrastructure, the agri-food sector (stable at 11%) and the utilities (10%) which, after numerous experiments in recent years, has seen a marked increase.

In continuity with 2020, the Italian market is mainly focused on the development of pilot projects and on the evolution of those already in production: only 13% of investments concern Proof of Concept or training activities. But Italian consumers like cryptocurrency If the adoption of companies is still struggling to take off, Italian consumers are increasingly oriented to the use of Blockchain applications, in particular cryptocurrencies: as many as 12% of Italians have already purchased Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, 17% are interested in do it in the future, while 58% know them but are not interested in owning them and only 13% do not know them at all. The era of the tokenized economy begins "The Blockchain world continues to attract the interest of institutions, companies and the media - says Valeria Portale, Director of the Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Observatory -. Cryptocurrencies are now also widespread among traditional players in the financial and payments world, who are considering integrating them into the offer also as a form of investment. Nft has exploded, which will soon be able to be exploited also in the "metaverse". More and more companies are approaching the 'tokenized economy', in which products, financial and digital assets will be exchanged in the form of tokens. And many are launching projects based on DLT platforms and smart contracts. In this scenario, the Blockchain is establishing itself as the technology that will guide the new evolution of the Internet, the Web3 ". "The most innovative communities and new projects are moving towards decentralized and disintermediated business models, continuing to develop the world of DApps - continues Francesco Bruschi, Director of the Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Observatory -. And the value of decentralization is also increasingly clear to international institutions: in Europe, the evolution of the European Blockchain Services Infrastructure continues, while Central Banks, in response to the growth of Stablecoins, have now cleared these technologies as usable solutions for 'issuance of its own digital currencies, the Cbdc ”.

The most popular applications

Internet of Value. Although the technology was born to allow peer-to-peer value exchange in the absence of intermediaries, the use of the Blockchain has now diversified to many applications. First of all, those based on the exchange of value of the so-called “Internet of Value” (cryptocurrencies, stablecoins and CbdcBDC, the virtual currencies promoted by central banks). At the international level, the Internet of Value projects surveyed to date are a total of 180, 24% of the total, and in 2021 they show an increase of 85% compared to 2020.

The "cash on chain" node

It was a year of maturation for cryptocurrencies, with huge investments by companies such as Tesla or Microstrategy, the arrival of Coinbase on the stock market, the attention of institutions and large companies on stablecoins and Cbdc. And the regulation of crypto-assets has also moved, with the proposal of the Markets in Crypto-Assets regulation presented by the EU Commission. "The full development of the Internet of Value in a clear regulatory framework is a fundamental step in being able to develop the web3 - says Portale -. The possibility of having 'cash on chain', that is, legally recognized forms of money that can be used on Blockchain platforms, is one of the stumbling blocks for projects based entirely on Blockchain which today still have to resort to traditional forms of money ". The Blockchain for business A second area of application is that of projects in which traditional business processes are replicated using Blockchain technologies. At the international level, there are about 500 implementation projects developed by companies and public administrations (67% of the total surveyed since 2016) and in 2021 they recorded a decrease of 19%. Today, most "traditional" companies focus on developing these solutions, with different objectives. 37% use timestamping tools, based on the immutability of the Blockchain register, for greater data verifiability. 59% created platforms for coordination in multi-actor relationships. Only 4% have also fully exploited programmability by bringing complex processes on-chain. There is a slight slowdown in ecosystem projects due to the difficulty in creating agreements between all the actors involved. Towards the Decentralized web

There are 71 Decentralized web projects developed internationally, 9% of the total surveyed, between decentralized applications (DApp) and Nft. The most interesting ecosystem of decentralized applications continues to be that of DeFi (Decentralized Finance), developed on permissionless platforms for offering financial services and products: the total value invested in these applications exceeded 250 billion dollars in 2021 (+ 1,250% compared to the beginning of the year), due to the increase in the value of cryptocurrencies and tokens, of the invested capital and of the users involved. In 2021, DeFi applications remained tied to elementary financial services, but offered their users a simpler and less expensive use. Another important innovation among decentralized applications is represented by NFT in the world of collectibles (collectibles), which have exploded in various sectors from the world of art to that of football. “However, the relevance of NFTs goes far beyond the prices at which some of these digital objects have been sold - explains Bruschi - and also concerns the business world and public administrations, where they could allow the development of new business solutions. The first cases of application demonstrate to a small extent the potential of these tools, which are applicable to various areas to enable not only an efficient and immediate transfer of ownership, but also a series of new use cases ".