(Image: IBM)

Most companies and organizations are either implementing blockchain or testing the technology as a key tool to boost efficiency and security in their operations, according to a new study.

A report by consultants PwC finds that a quarter of executives are piloting a blockchain implementation and almost a third have projects in development. Around 20 percent are still in research mode.

PwC, which interviewed 600 executives in 15 countries, identified the US, China and Australia as most advanced in developing blockchain projects. Most respondents believed China will overtake the US as the number 1 blockchain country in three to five years.

“What business executives tell us is that no-one wants to be left behind by Blockchain,” Steve Davies, blockchain leader at PwC, said in a statement.

Davies listed the advantages of blockchain over traditional technologies: lower costs, higher speed, bigger reach and more transparency and traceability in business processes. “The business case can be compelling,” he said.

PwC found that the financial services sector is leading the trend, with 46 percent of respondents acknowledging the dominance of the industry.

Executives said energy and utilities, healthcare and industrial manufacturing have the biggest emerging potential over the next three to five years.

Despite the bullish outlook, executives also expressed reservations, notably about trust and regulatory uncertainty. And PwC noted that that common standards and a higher degree of cooperation between companies will be required to make blockchain implementations a success.

Among executives polled, 45 percent said trust is a big barrier to the adoption of blockchain, with 48 percent citing regulatory uncertainty as a factor. The latter worry was particularly high in Germany, Australia and Britain.

“Blockchain by its very definition should engender trust,” Davies said. “But in reality, companies confront trust issues at nearly every turn.”

Among executives who reported little or no blockchain involvement, 31 percent said cost was the reason, while 24 percent cited uncertainty over where to start and 14 percent attributed their position to worries over governance issues.

-By Arjen Bongard