Twelve percent of big businesses may have already deployed blockchain projects, if you buy into the results of a Deloitte survey released yesterday.

The anonymous online survey, conducted November 14 through December 1, reached 522 senior executives at organizations with $500 million or more in annual revenue. Of those, 214 individuals (39 percent) said they had little-to-no knowledge of blockchain technology. But of the remaining 308 who identified themselves as blockchain-knowledgeable, a surprising 21 percent said they already have blockchain projects up and working (that’s 12 percent of the original 522-person sample). And another 25 percent said they have projects planned for the coming year.

Those figures are surprisingly high given how young blockchain technology is.

And these aren’t just small pilot investments we’re talking about. Twenty-eight percent of the 308 blockchain-knowledgeable executives surveyed said their organizations have invested over $5 million; 10 percent have invested over $10 million. And 25 percent said they plan to invest over $5 million in blockchain tech over the next year.

“Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said their company would be at a competitive disadvantage if it failed to adopt the technology,” Deloitte reports. “Forty-two percent … believe it will disrupt their industry.”

Given how high these numbers are, I queried Deloitte on how it had conducted the anonymous survey. “Respondents were sourced from two specialized and highly reputable B2B online panels. Quality checks were implemented to identify and remove respondents who were suspect,” a spokesperson informed me.

And when asked whether multiple execs from the same organization could have been captured in the survey, skewing the results, the spokesperson said, “It is possible but highly unlikely given there were only 308 respondents, across specific titles, and thousands of companies that could have qualified.”

We’ve seen other big moves on the blockchain front recently. IBM announced just a few days ago that it was launching a developer ecosystem and a kind of app store around its own blockchain offering, launched in February. Intel is likewise heavily invested. Microsoft has a blockchain-as-a-service offering on its Azure cloud platform. And 100 or more big tech players and large public enterprises have come together to form the Hyperledger Project, which is developing standards and best practices for business blockchain use.

Meanwhile, separate from the Hyperledger group, we’re seeing numerous new independent blockchains emerge each month to serve a wide range of purposes — from secure, transparent voting to registering what music tracks you own, to confirming real-estate transactions.

So what do Deloitte’s survey respondents plan to use blockchain tech for? “[They] have diverse views about blockchain’s main advantage compared to conventional transactional technology,” Deloitte’s announcement states. “Over a third (36 percent) of respondents credit blockchain with the potential for improving systems operations, either by reducing costs or increasing speed (18 percent each). More than a third (37 percent) cite blockchain’s superior security features as the main advantage of the technology. And almost a quarter (24 percent) of executives surveyed highlight the potential for blockchain to enable new business models and revenue streams.”

“This diversity may be a testament to the versatility of the technology,” said Deloitte managing director David Schatsky. “But it is likely also a reflection of the fact that, despite the hype, the impact that blockchain will likely have on businesses in various industries is not yet fully understood.”

The report indicates that consumer products and manufacturing are the “most bullish” on blockchain. Forty-two percent of surveyed execs from consumer product/manufacturing companies said they planned to invest over $5 million in the year ahead. “Technology, media, and telecoms execs follow at 27 percent, and financial services at 23 percent,” the report states.

While 30 percent of respondents from the consumer product, tech, media, and telecom industries said they have already rolled out blockchain projects, that figure was only 12 percent among respondents in the financial services industry — another surprise, given that, when blockchain first emerged in the public eye a year or two ago, it was seen primarily as a tool for recording financial transactions.

A number of the most active blockchain user organizations surveyed also reported they had filed patents related to the technology: “Twenty-one percent of respondents stated that their organizations have filed for blockchain patents. [And in consumer products and manufacturing,] 38 percent of respondents say their company has filed patents.”

Regulation around blockchain remains a key concern, though, Deloitte reports, with almost half of respondents saying that the government’s response to this technology — whether, for example, a blockchain-based smart contract will hold up in court — will be a major deciding factor on how widespread blockchain use becomes.

You can read Deloitte’s press release on the survey here.

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