It’s been a tough year for cryptocurrency investors. Even top-tier cryptos have lost up to 90% of their all-time highs, and many people’s wallets have been decimated. Unfortunately, there is a good chance that prices will remain low for some time to come. Some see it as a buying opportunity, which it could be. But there’s also the risk that many projects — especially those that aren’t very useful — will collapse before the market improves.
If you are considering investing in cryptocurrencies, it is important to thoroughly research each project and think about its long-term performance. Look at leadership, how they stack up against the competition, what they actually do, and who will use the product. As billionaire investor and cryptocurrency enthusiast Mark Cuban has pointed out, just being a cryptocurrency is not enough. For these projects to succeed, they still need to be able to make money, attract users and be really useful.
Here are four that have real use and are already in operation.
1. VeChain (VET)
VeChain started using blockchain as a supply chain management tool, and has since expanded to other business use cases. For example, let’s say you make luxury handbags. VeChain can follow every step of the production and sale of a handbag on the blockchain, so that the end buyer is sure to get a genuine product and not a counterfeit.
VeChain has also worked with Walmart China to track fresh meat and vegetables from farm to store. Better traceability means that if there is a problem with a particular batch of food, it is easier to contain and control quickly. Like other cryptocurrencies on this list, VeChain is available in some of the major US crypto markets, but not all.
Video streaming is increasingly popular and extremely expensive. Video content must be processed to be accessible on different devices with different bandwidths. This is called transcoding, which requires a lot of computer processing power.
Livepeer basically gathers idle computing resources from a home network and uses them to transcode videos. Content producers benefit from scalable and inexpensive transcoding, Livepeer doesn’t need to purchase expensive infrastructure, and network participants get LPT tokens, which have real-world value.
3. Helium (HNT)
Helium is a decentralized wireless network powered by a network of long-range access points. Originally intended for Internet of Things devices, such as smart pet collars, self-driving cars or fitness devices, Helium is now expanding to 5G and WiFi connections. Network participants run a Helium hotspot and earn rewards for providing connectivity.
This concept of using crypto-tokens to reward participants is an interesting facet of blockchain. Livepeer and Helium are two of many projects that reduce a company’s initial infrastructure costs by using a network of individuals to do the heavy lifting. These individuals earn a portion of the fees in what is a more community-based and decentralized business model.
4. Cardano (ADA)
Cardano is a bit of a cryptoto love or hate“, and some might question its real value. It is an ecosystem like Ethereum (ETH) that can host other cryptocurrency projects on its blockchain. Its critics point out that it has been slower to launch its smart contract functionality, and that the ecosystem does not yet have as many applications as other similar cryptos.
However, Cardano has another trump card: It’s a great example of real blockchain utility. For example, Cardano has entered into a partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education to register the diplomas of five million students on the blockchain. This would make it more difficult to cheat the education system and could help students access opportunities such as university studies or international jobs. Another project on the Cardano network, called Empowa, aims to help underbanked people access funds to build homes.
If blockchain technology achieves even a fraction of what is promised, it could transform entire industries. Medical records could be stored securely on the blockchain and you, the patient, could control how they are accessed. Insurance benefits could be paid automatically when certain criteria are met. You might even be able to store the deed to your house on the blockchain.
The problem is that this industry is still in its infancy and we don’t know a lot about how it might develop, or even if it will make it through the current crypto winter. Think of it like the early days of the Internet. Everyone is looking for the next Amazon, but for every success story there will be hundreds of failures.
As an investor, researching cryptos that are actually useful is a great start. At the same time, it’s important to only invest money you can afford to lose, and to ensure that cryptocurrencies only make up a small percentage of your overall portfolio. So you can still invest in smaller, riskier projects, but you won’t face financial disaster if they don’t realize their potential.
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