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An Analysis of Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, and the Future
Article · October 2016
1 author:
Peter D. DeVries
University of Houston – Downtown
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International Journal of Business Management and Commerce
Vol. 1 No. 2; September 2016
An Analysis of Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, and the Future
Peter D. DeVries
Professor of MIS
University of Houston – Downtown
One Main Street, FAMIS Department, B428, Houston, TX 77002
United States of America
Cryptocurrency, an encrypted, peer-to-peer network for facilitating digital barter, is a technology
developed eight years ago. Bitcoin, the first and most popular cryptocurrency, is paving the way
as a disruptive technology to long standing and unchanged financial payment systems that have
been in place for many decades. While cryptocurrencies are not likely to replace traditional fiat
currency, they could change the way Internet-connected global markets interact with each other,
clearing away barriers surrounding normative national currencies and exchange rates.
Technology advances at a rapid rate, and the success of a given technology is almost solely
dictated by the market upon which it seeks to improve. Cryptocurrencies may revolutionize digital
trade markets by creating a free flowing trading system without fees. A SWOT analysis of Bitcoin
is presented, which illuminates some of the recent events and movements that could influence
whether Bitcoin contributes to a shift in economic paradigms.
Key Words: Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, Encrypted, Currency, Bitpay, Exchange Rates
1. Introduction
Bitcoin, the world‟s most common and well known cryptocurrency, has been increasing in popularity. It has the
same basic structure as it did when created in 2008, but repeat instances of the world market changing has created
a new demand for cryptocurrencies much greater than its initial showing. By using a cryptocurrency, users are
able to exchange value digitally without third party oversight. Cryptocurrency works on the theory of solving
encryption algorithms to create unique hashes that are finite in number. Combined with a network of computers
verifying transactions, users are able to exchange hashes as if exchanging physical currency. There is a finite
number of bitcoin that will ever be generated, preventing an overabundance and ensuring its rarity. Water, despite
its requirement as a life giving material, is generally accepted as being free or of little cost because it is so
abundant. If water was rare, it would be more valuable than diamonds. Value exists for bitcoin because its users
have trust that if they accept it as payment, they would could use it elsewhere to purchase something they want or
need (Kelly, 2014). As long as the users maintain this faith, the valued object can be anything. Bitcoin‟s value
exists in its ecosystem much in the same way that wampum, a seashell, was the currency of the land for Native
Americans (Kelly, 2014). Bitcoin does not have intrinsic value like gold in that it cannot be used to make physical
objects like jewelry that have value. Nevertheless, value continues to exist due to trust and acceptance.
Current legal and financial structures are not designed with a technology like this in mind. Financial institutions
are built off of much older forms of currency. In some ways, it is comparative to the computing industry. The
baseline of computing still relies on transmitting and processing 1‟s and 0‟s, providing only two dimensions of
input. Yet all of our current technology uses this technologically archaic system due to adoption, cultivation, and
lack of need for newer systems. If cryptocurrencies became the global norm for transactions, long standing
systems for trade would need to be completely reformed to deal with this type of competition. For this reason,
cryptocurrencies could possibly be the single most disruptive technology to global financial and economic
BitPay, the largest bitcoin processor in the world, has recently seen transaction rate grow 110% in the past 12
months (Team, 2016).
©Center for Contemporary Research
Transaction increase is an indicator of user acceptance growing. The conditions for Bitcoin‟s widespread adoption
could be described as a “fire triangle”. Where fire needs fuel, oxygen, and heat to exist; Bitcoin needs user
acceptance, vendor acceptance, and innovation to ignite. Without all three aspects, bitcoin may not truly become a
legitimized mainstream currency. Bitcoin is currently experiencing an increase in user acceptance and use, which
is driving the other two aspects of the “fire triangle”. Cryptocurrency‟s adoption will be an important subject to
watch in the future, as it could be a truly transformative technology that alters the way money is exchanged
worldwide. Bitcoin‟s increased adoption has been integrally tied to global market shifts. The current Internetfueled global market is very much entangled. If one regional market begins to plummet, it can easily drag the
others with it. Bitcoin, like the Euro, can freely move across many national borders, creating an environment that
promotes global trade, mutual prosperity, and even peace.
2. Strengths
Bitcoin has strength by design to make it a viable currency that has elevated it in status over the years, more
notably the fixed limit of bitcoin that will exist. Bitcoin will be mined with diminishing returns every four years
until the maximum number of bitcoins are reached: a total of 21 million (King, 2013). This aspect of Bitcoin is
important for its value. Due to the limited amount of bitcoins, it will never become inflated from an
overabundance of bitcoins. Also, bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are generally regarded as being protected
from inflation originating from national government changes or restrictions (Magro, 2016). This creates a “safe
haven” for investors to put their wealth into, as it generally does not lose value based on inflation. Bitcoin is
quickly showing its strength as a refuge against inflating national currencies. However, as is the case with most
commodities, the price can fluctuate wildly based on many other external factors. The combination of demand for
a safe haven option and its price volatility helped Bitcoin to become the best performing currency of 2015 using
the US Dollar Index (Desjardins, 2016). This means that Bitcoin was the highest valued currency in the entire
world at the end of last year. This is no small feat in a global economy with powerhouses like China and the
United States running the landscape.
Figure 1: The Best Performing Currency of 2015
Source: Desjardins, J. (2016, January 5)
International Journal of Business Management and Commerce
Vol. 1 No. 2; September 2016
South America has seen a huge increase in bitcoin transactions, increasing 510% from 2014 to 2015 (Bitcoin: A
New Global Economy, 2015). Argentina is a hotbed for increased cryptocurrency usage due to its extremely high
inflation rate and high population of unbanked citizens (Magro, 2016). In the past, Argentinians would convert
their currency into US dollars to preserve their value. However, Argentina has recently put restrictions on how
many US dollars its citizens can convert. As a result, both a black market for purchasing USD at a higher price
and increased bitcoin adoption has arisen (Magro, 2016). The demand for Argentinians to keep their currency
value has made itself very apparent, and cryptocurrencies are prominent legal vehicles to meet that demand.
Figure 2: Bitcoin Transaction Volume Growth
Source: Bitcoin: A New Global Economy (2015)
Argentina‟s situation is not an isolated case. Over and over again, investors have seen global markets crash
(generally for political reasons), and crypto currencies increase in value and usage. The United Kingdom has
recently voted to leave the European Union, popularized by the term “Brexit”. Before the vote, the price of bitcoin
dropped almost 15% (Bovaird, 2016). After the UK voted to leave, the price skyrocketed from $550 to $650 a day
later. Inversely, the world‟s globally traded markets saw a significant drop in value as investors lost confidence in
what the Brexit vote would mean financially. Cryptocurrency is strong in this situation as being the only currency
that can be purchased and sold expeditiously, and still be used worldwide. Other fiat currencies can be exchanged,
but that activity requires visiting a money exchange in person, and that money cannot be spent unless it is
accepted locally. For example, an American could not quickly exchange USD for Japanese Yen, then use that
currency to make a purchase. They would have to visit a currency exchange, which may require driving to the
nearest international airport. Secondly, once they‟ve obtained the currency, they would have no way to use the
Yen because it is not a locally trusted and recognized currency. This situation is not the case for Bitcoin (or any
other cryptocurrency). To purchase bitcoin, one only needs to set up an online account with an online exchange,
make their request, and the transaction is usually completed in minutes. Once the bitcoin is in their digital wallet,
they would be able to make purchases from thousands of vendors worldwide. In this example, Bitcoin is the more
viable solution as quick entry and exit for a currency that can quickly gain value. Other fiat currencies may
become stronger and be more desired, but they cannot compete with cryptocurrencies‟ agility. Cryptocurrency is
the disruptive technology that could be pushed into acceptance by investors who simply want a refuge from
sinking global markets.
©Center for Contemporary Research
An increase in Bitcoin flow will motivate vendor acceptance to accommodate customer needs. Theoretically, this
would be a cyclical effect. As more vendors adopt cryptocurrency technology, more users will use it to capitalize
on its benefits.
3. Weaknesses
Bitcoin has quite a few internal weaknesses that are part of its design and cannot easily be modified. The public
ledger, or block chain, means that every user can see every transaction. There is semi-anonymity, in that the
owners of bitcoin wallets cannot be identified outright, but it is slightly nerve-wracking for some potential
adopters. The public block chain is shared with all users, which means that it is susceptible to attacks due to easy
access (King, 2013). So far, the Bitcoin network has been subjected to multiple “stress tests” that were essentially
DDoS attacks (Hileman, 2016). These “tests” were launched by exchanges and miners to attempt to prove a point
about Bitcoin‟s design: that the network cannot handle a high load transaction rates. The mere fact that the
participants of Bitcoin‟s operation can bring the network down to prove a point is an unfortunate design feature of
the code. These two aspects of Bitcoin‟s design are integral to operation, and cannot be changed. Adoption by
reluctant users must be in spite of these attributes.
Bitcoin has developed a questionable reputation through recent events. Stories like Silk Road can portray a
negative image of digital currency in general, not just Bitcoin. Silk Road was an online marketplace buried in the
dark-net, which allowed thousands of drug dealers and nearly a million customers to make illegal drug deals.
Bitcoin was their primary means of transaction, due to the lack of government tracking and semi-anonymity. It
ran from 2011 to 2013, and racked up nearly one billion USD in sales (Bearman, 2015). People want criminals to
have justice meted against them, so the semi-anonymity attribute of bitcoin seems negative to law abiding
citizens. Without positive marketing towards the value of semi-anonymity for normal users, the general user base
will think that cryptocurrencies are only used by criminals.
Cryptocurrencies have also developed a reputation of having questionable security. Mt Gox, short for Magic the
Gathering Online Exchange, was the world‟s primary bitcoin exchange until it went bankrupt after it was robbed
by hackers in 2011 of approximately 460 million USD (McMillan, 2014). The CEO and main programmer, Mark
Karpeles, was not using version control for new code. He also would allow bug and security fixes to languish for
weeks (McMillan, 2014). These security flaws and oversights allowed hackers to skim bitcoin from the exchange.
This breach severely dropped Bitcoins value when users sold their bitcoin for fear of it getting stolen. Etherium,
another form of digital currency, just recently suffered a similar form of theft to the tune of a 50 million USD
hack (Price, 2016). These hacks are generally targeted at large holders of cryptocurrency that do not keep their
security standards up to date. They are the main reason that the value of these currencies plummet, and do the
most damage to the image of cryptocurrency. Until future organizations who exchange cryptocurrency understand
how security flaws can lead to these attacks, these events will continue to hinder adoption.
Investors are beginning to realize that the bitcoin network has begun to stabilize, and immediate returns on
investment are not guaranteed. The source code makes solving the algorithm more difficult starting in June 2016,
increasing the cost of bitcoin mining. This is called a “halving event”, and it cuts the number of bitcoin returned
to miners by half. This could effectively push out 25% of the bitcoin network that is running older computer
hardware, as it would cost more to operate the machines than would be earned from mining (Kar, 2016). This
shift in the mining community could make the network less secure and more vulnerable to attack. It also makes it
less likely for new miners to enter the network due to the higher overhead required and limited returns on mining.
s the halving events continue, only the largest miners will exist until all of the bitcoin has been mined.
Cryptocurrencies‟ ability to be traded like a commodity can also be a weakness. Commodity based markets show
a huge fluctuation in value from various events in the marketplace. This value fluctuation ultimately limits
investor trust in the commodities. An unforeseen event could cause an investor to lose huge portions of money,
decreasing investor trust. Also, determinates of bitcoin price have not truly been meted out, which creates an
uncertain trading environment. Commodities are also prone to being traded by investors with a “buy low, sell
high” mentality, which has overreaching effects to those who are using bitcoin for currency and create value
fluctuations. Price volatility generates risk, which discourages both merchants and consumers from holding
cryptocurrency for any significant length of time (PwC, 2015). Too much risk in lower‟s consumer trust, which
limits validation of legitimacy. Bitcoin‟s price is also at risk from being in a shallow market, even though it has
the highest capacity of all cryptocurrencies.
International Journal of Business Management and Commerce
Vol. 1 No. 2; September 2016
An individual who desires to purchase a large amount of bitcoin would not be unable to without affecting the
current price (Kasiyanto, 2016). This is exponentially greater for other cryptocurrencies, who have a much smaller
capacity. Cryptocurrencies do not seem to be a mature form of currency in its current market and state. Further
growth in capacity and adoption would theoretically alleviate this problem.
4. Opportunities
Cryptocurrency is in a unique position as a forerunner in a possibly transformative technology to long standing
financial systems. By its very nature, it is able to fill gaps in current financial technologies and be able to help
solve traditional banking problems by being a peer-to-peer system. Napster, another peer-to-peer system,
transformed the music industry by cutting out the middle man (Kelly, 2014). Transformative technologies start by
solving a specific problem in an industry. For instance, cryptocurrencies are poised to help remediate the
problems related to unbanked consumers. Significant portions of the population in developing countries are
unbanked. In Latin America, 60% of 600 million inhabitants have no access to bank accounts (Magro, 2016).
Bitcoin‟s technology allows for individuals to exchange currency without needing a third trusted party, like a
bank, to oversee the transaction. All that is needed to use Bitcoin is a mobile phone, which 70% of Latin
Americans do have access to (Magro, 2016). Due to bitcoin‟s ad-hoc networking capability, two users can trade
bitcoin with each other by scanning QR codes displayed on their phones printed out by the application. This is a
truly unique solution to a problem that has existed for many years for some people. This would invariably
increase as the user base grows, so the demand for better cryptocurrency network and applications will come to
the forefront. There is an enormous market for potential developers to create these applications, as this technology
could affect any industry that relies on a trusted third-party clearing system (PwC, 2015). Any developers who
increase usability through application and GUI improvements to bitcoin would be very successful. Bitcoin‟s
progression into becoming a transformative technology is driven by its ability to solve long standing problems,
combined with a supportive and growing community of developers and users.
Businesses are beginning to see the value in using cryptocurrencies for international transactions, especially when
transactions need to occur quickly in response to an emergency. Cryptocurrencies are solely positioned to solve
this problem thanks to the speed and ease of transaction in the peer-to-peer system. Money can be wired
internationally, but typically arriving days after being sent and not for the full amount (Team, 2016). The
transaction can be hit with any number of unexplained fees as it crosses borders, making it difficult to send the
correct amount to another business. A good example of this type of emergency need is an online company who is
suffering from a denial-of-service attack and is looking to get immediate protection from a network security
company (Team, 2016). In this scenario, speed is of transaction is of the essence, for every minute that the
company‟s website is down, profits are being lost. Cryptocurrency has a major advantage over traditional
currencies thanks to its agility in making fast peer-to-peer transactions, especially in international business-tobusiness scenarios.
Internet marketplaces have been thriving and are true contenders to traditional brick-and-mortar stores. has grown to a degree that seems almost unexpected. They have even begun to hire “on-demand”
delivery drivers, who use their own personally owned vehicle to deliver standard packages (Saito, 2016). This
type of growth shows an attempt to further tighten control of the company‟s logistics costs, which expand
exponentially with increased business. already uses a paying system that is similar to Bitcoin called
PayPal, and has been very successful in using it to facilitate all purchases made on its site. Silk Road was another
example of a thriving online market, albeit it‟s very illegal nature. It connected buyers and sellers who mostly
used bitcoin to complete transactions. This marketplace showed how a digital currency can connect buyers and
sellers without much interference by presiding governments and still succeed. Online shopping is thriving, and
bitcoin is poised to extend …
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