If you purchased one Bitcoin in mid-December 2016, it would have cost you around $700. If you sold it in December 2017, you could’ve sold it for over $17,000.

That kind of growth has drummed up plenty of public interest in Bitcoin and other digital currencies, internationally as well as here at home. However, will Bitcoin be as big as Google? Or is it destined to be the Napster of currencies?

One group that is hoping to make the most of this new economic frontier is Blockchain NL, a community group with the mission to “innovate different sectors of the Newfoundland economy using blockchain technology.”

Blockchain NL gets in name from the innovation behind Bitcoin and other digital currencies.

“Think of a blockchain as an open and distributed record-keeping system that promotes transparency yet ensures privacy,” says Tomisin Jenrola, a member of Blockchain NL.

“Each record consists of a list of transactions that have occurred on the network. Transactions represent movement of assets around the network; this could be sending and receiving money or transferring food from a farmer to a wholesaler. Additionally, each record ‘knows’ other records before it, forming a link. The records are called blocks and the link of these blocks is the blockchain.

“Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies backed by cryptographic security usually running on the blockchain,” says Jenrola, who is a Computer Science major at Memorial. “They are the most widely known use of blockchain technology. Bitcoin was the first, but is not the only cryptocurrency.”

Since the blockchain doesn’t put all of its trust in one central point, it’s considered by some to be less vulnerable to hacking, data manipulation, data loss, hardware malfunctions, and other issues.

Financial experts can only theorize as to why cryptocurrencies have exploded in value. It could be the next big thing, a rejection of big banks, or an innovative response to cyberterrorism. Or, it could be driven by criminal organizations, guarded by the privacy and anonymity it provides. It could just be widespread financial FOMO. Who knows?

“The ability to have a system where there is transparency and fairness is what will make blockchain widely adopted in coming years,” says Jenrola.

On January 15, Blockchain NL will host a public event to discuss the various parts of blockchain technology as it is used today. The event is open to all, regardless of background or technical expertise. Through the event, BlockchainNL says they aim to educate attendees about blockchain technology and develop pilot applications of blockchain technology in the province.

“We hope attendees of the inaugural event will leave with better knowledge of the blockchain, understand the importance and benefits of a distributed ledger technology, and also use their expertise to create and develop on new or existing ideas,” says Jenrola.

Blockchain NL’s “What is Blockchain?” event will be held on January 15 at the Bruneau Centre on Memorial campus, 6:00 to 8:00pm. For more info, visit facebook.com/blockchainnl