For the average consumer, the various tools, techniques, and strategies that go into developing a software are often seen as something close to magic. However, like anything, once you take a closer look, things are much simpler than you think. In fact, when consumers ask questions like “What is Blockchain?” they may not even know what they are asking.

This is why we have taken it upon ourselves to answer some of these frequently asked questions. As software development experts, we have the answers to your questions. We hope that once you understand better what software companies do, you will feel more confident in your abilities as well as ours to get the job done. Without further ado, let’s take a look a question that has been on many people’s minds lately: “What is Blockchain?”

what is blockchain

What is Blockchain?

While we have already gone in depth on this subject with our Beginner’s Guide to Blockchain, we understand it is a difficult subject to fully comprehend. The best metaphor I have heard for Blockchain is that of GoogleDocs. In the same way that GoogleDocs save the work of everyone who can edit a document, Blockchain updates all of the information contained within a “block” for everyone.

However, unlike GoogleDocs, Blockchain exists only on the computers of the individuals who have access to it. This is why Blockchain is viewed as the most secure form of data storage. As each person contributes to the Blockchain, it solidifies and only when a majority rules that changes can be made are edits allowed. Sounds better than when someone randomly changes your GoogleDoc without your permission, huh?

What is the difference between Blockchain and crypto?

Now, many people associate the term and question “What is Blockchain?” with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Depending on who you speak with, this can be both good and bad. It is true that Bitcoin was the original Blockchain, but much has changed since then and many Blockchains exist outside of Bitcoin and even crypto in general. Think of crypto as a square and Blockchain as a rectangle: not all Blockchains are cryptocurrencies, but all cryptocurrencies operate using Blockchain.

Whether or not cryptocurrencies will be as big as everyone believes is still yet to be determined, but Blockchain is only getting started. With so many different use cases, including integration with IoT devices, the future of Blockchain looks very bright.

What is the Internet of Things or IoT?

Speaking of IoT, let’s talk about another common FAQ: What is the Internet of Things (or IoT)? The Internet of Things, in simple terms, is a collection or constellation of inanimate objects linked via wireless connectivity for monitoring and control. What you choose to monitor or control is typically up to what devices and platforms are available, but like Blockchain, Internet of Things examples and use cases are almost limitless.

For the sake of explanation, however, let’s take a look at Nest, one of the most widespread uses of IoT in today’s market. Although Nest began as a smart thermostat, they have now expanded to more smart home appliances such as security and doorbells.  All of these devices can be controlled through an app, giving homeowners complete control over whichever functions they see fit.

As IoT technology progresses, you will begin to see even more smart home devices like Nest on the market for everything from your microwave to your bathroom mirror.

Are wearable devices and IoT devices the same?

There is a great deal of similarity between IoT and wearables, in the same way there is overlap between Blockchain and Bitcoin. However, while IoT applies to all objects that can be monitored or controlled via wireless connectivity, wearable devices only monitor humans and animals. Many of these devices use IoT functions, but due to their varying purposes, we would not call them the same.

That being said, wearable devices, like IoT, are taking off globally and could soon become a large industry in and of themselves. As both wearable technology and IoT become more advanced, it’s possible that you will one day control your smart home from your watch. At this point, we aren’t quite there, but that is why we need developers working to solve these exact problems. The only way to predict the future is to create it.  

How do I decide between custom software or “off the shelf” software?

Not all FAQs we receive are just about the latest trends like “What is Blockchain? Some questions involved more basic aspects of software development, like how to decide between customer software solutions and software you can just buy off the shelf. The honest question: it depends, mainly on what you will be using the software for. This typically boils down to two scenarios.

In scenario one, you are able to find an off-the-shelf solution that meets the needs of your company. These solutions are often much less expensive, but with that comes less features. If those features line up with what you need, go for it.

Whereas in scenario two, you can’t find an off-the-shelf product, meaning you need to create your own. You can always combine multiple software products until you have everything you need, but by this point you will already be spending a good deal on a scrap work job. Instead, you could take the same money and work with a software development company that will listen to your problems and design a solution just for you. While this custom solution might cost more up front, in the long run you will be happy for the time and money you will save.

Should I hire a developer or outsource my development project?

Finally, our last FAQ has to do with outsourcing software development and whether it is a valuable alternative to in-house development. Again, like with custom software solutions, it depends on what you need. While it might make sense to have an on-site developer for basic fixes to your website or mobile app, when it comes to building a brand new piece of software, they will likely not be up for the task.

This is not dig at freelance developers, they would often agree that a full-scale development requires a full development team. In that case, hiring the developers individually hardly makes sense unless you are a much larger corporation. For small to medium sized businesses, outsourcing is not only the logical choice, but it can often lead to a better end-product in the long run as well.

Final thoughts

We hope that we were able to provide answers to your frequently asked questions that got to the root of what you were looking for. After all, everyone is on their own journey when it comes to being educated about software development, and we believe it is our duty to help.

Have other questions, or simply interested in talking more about software development? Email me at [email protected] and we’d be happy to chat and aid you in developing a better, brighter future.