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The Rise of Blockchain and Crypto Requires Innovative Quality Engineering

2022 will bring huge momentum as the adoption of blockchain and cryptocurrency becomes mainstream for the financial, regulatory, and fintech industries as well as B2B and B2C applications. Speed of adoption may vary among sectors, but one thing is for sure, all businesses should be planning for the possibility of modifying their digital platforms and core systems to achieve Crypto readiness. QA Consultants has already been engaged by public and private sector organizations to implement quality engineering solutions for the roll-out of Crypto platforms and the conversion of existing platforms to integrate Crypto commerce. In fact, we are doing this ourselves. But our experience with our customers has been eye-opening and as such, we are sharing our initial observations of the challenges and considerations that technology and commercial officers need to be thinking about now. We have already seen early adopters like Vast Bank which became the first nationally chartered, FDIC-insured bank to offer crypto banking… allowing customers to transact in cryptocurrencies through a user interface. [ABA Banking Journal Podcast, Community Banking Technology, September 2021]. Blockchain and Crypto-related adoption and transformation for customer experiences impact quality objectives in three areas: 1) Functionality, 2) Performance, and 3) Security.

Functionality – Does it Work?

The amount of innovation and change that affects core systems and digital platforms will require even more sophisticated quality solutions and pragmatic approaches to managing and improving quality continuously. Primarily, it will no longer be optional to exclude application quality and security processes from every aspect and stage of the software development lifecycle. We see the focus on user interfaces in a wide range of devices including everything mobile, wearables, and even smart TVs. On the back end, core systems (e.g., banking and retail ERP) will need to be re-staged to accept Crypto transactions and likely re-tooled for a plethora of new compliance and regulatory reporting requirements.

The addition of Cryptocurrency to traditional fiat systems requires the adoption of new physical hardware, like point-of-sale equipment. More APIs and interfaces need to be tested as they integrate into the blockchain-based networks and supporting infrastructure. Further, the quality of the customer experience often leaves a lot to be desired for novice consumers.

Performance – Does it Scale?

So much is talked about with regard to the transaction speed of the numerous cryptocurrency networks that are out there. Most often, the conversation is about how slow Bitcoin is, why the Lighting network was created and similar issues with all the other major cryptocurrencies and their continued design changes to support improved transaction speeds and lower costs. However, there are so many other parts of a complete transaction that can benefit from higher performance or contribute to poor transactional performance and customer experience. Digital wallets and exchange platforms can benefit significantly from even one-second and sub-second response time increases. As the price of cryptocurrencies continues to be very volatile, these milliseconds matter. We have seen so many decentralized and traditional platforms suffer from significant outages and delays due to overwhelming demand. These outages are preventable and thus, so is the ensuing customer abandonment and lost revenue.

As observed on eCommerce platforms, speed plays a significant role in end-user satisfaction. Slow sites, where a customer wants to continue before the site is “ready,” suffer from very high abandonment. With many exchanges available and moderate switching costs, the fastest provider will win the largest customer share.

Vulnerability – Is it Safe and Secure?

While the blockchains and cryptocurrencies themselves are immutable, the systems that are being used to manage digital wallets and exchanges are themselves running on traditional web 2.0 systems with significant vulnerabilities in their architecture. They are run by humans who have, themselves, been shown to be the weakest link in system security, for example, the Robinhood voice phishing or “vishing” event in 2021 [Bloomberg, November 2021]. We must be hypervigilant in continuous application vulnerability assessments on these platforms as they are constantly changing and constantly under attack internally and externally.

Would-be vulnerabilities in point-of-sale systems are of great concern. Any physical hardware with embedded software and firmware will be at risk of more and more sophisticated entry points. We are seeing a more robust approach to bad actors and susceptibility to vulnerability and failure of these devices as they are adopted for crypto. Businesses must know all details of all vendors being used for physical connection to their digital networks and thoroughly vet and test these systems for performance, security, and functionality.

Crypto Application Case Examples

QA Consultants has seen demand for our crypto and distributed ledger quality engineering services explode in recent quarters. In fact, we are currently conducting engagements across all three of our core service pillars (Functional, Performance, and Security). In working with these clients, our teams are supporting the latest challenges presented by modern architecture, crypto-asset networks, and complicated teams distributed globally. For a digital wallet application, we successfully tuned a system from supporting less than 10k concurrent users at 2 min response times to one million concurrent users with .002 second response times. In other products, we successfully identified major security vulnerabilities at both the hardware and software layers in 1 day that could have led to millions in lost revenue. For a digital bank, we are supporting their migration to a core banking and crypto custody system through robust integration testing. In these engagements, our teams have partnered with development and business counterparts to bring these products to market with higher quality than originally expected was possible.

In summary, technology, operations, compliance, and marketing leaders have already or will soon enter a new learning curve of how cryptocurrency will reshape their businesses. Everything from core applications, customer digital platforms, hardware and devices and the business processes that support virtually every industry sector will require a transformative eye and a consideration in your strategic planning in order to sustain a competitive position in the Crypto era. As you think about your systems and platforms and impending change, we recommend aligning your development considerations and planning for… Does it work?… Will it Scale?… and is it Secure?

QA Consultants, through its Emerging Technologies group, provides quality engineering and test automation solutions to enterprise blockchain and crypto programs including building and deploying digital wallets, assessing embedded software quality and security/vulnerability for Cryptocurrency POS, and performance engineering for Crypto eCommerce platforms and monetary exchanges.

Brian Bernknopf

Managing Director, U.S. 

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