Blockchain is a powerful technological force that Australia is well on its way to unleashing, a new report has found.

Released on Thursday by ACS and IP Australia, Blockchain Innovation: A Patent Analytics Report tracks global blockchain patent data in order to gain insight into innovation in the space.

The report found that Australia ranks sixth globally – well above its global economic rank.

Launching the report in Sydney was Minister for Families and Social Services, Paul Fletcher.

“We’ve seen the internet fundamentally transform the economy, and blockchain is a continuation of that,” Fletcher said. “In many ways, it’s as fundamental a transformation as we’ve seen.”

The Minister outlined potential uses for blockchain within his portfolio, such as facilitating an innovative restructure to spending allowances for users of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and providing conditional welfare payments via blockchain.

“Just in one portfolio the applications for blockchain technology suggest themselves very readily, and I am very confident in saying that across the scope of what government does the potential here is enormous.”

Australia’s opportunity

Government is just one potential market for Australia’s 49 registered blockchain patent families.

The report finds that document management is the major problem being addressed in the current global blockchain industry, valued at $US708 million (2017).

IP Australia Chief Economist Benjamin Mitra-Kahn spoke of blockchain’s seemingly magical powers.

“My general interest in blockchain is because I like magic,” he said. “And I think blockchain is a bit like magic.”

“Everyone is mesmerised by it and it’s a bit like the greatest magic show – you want to watch but you’re not entirely sure what’s going on.”

But according to Mitra-Kahn, the true value of blockchain will only be realised once we begin to look “beyond the magic”.

“Blockchain patenting is more than doubling every year, and we can see real opportunities for Australia in blockchain technologies,” he said.

ACS President Yohan Ramasundara was also excited about Australia’s potential in the space.

“Blockchain has been hyped as one of the most transformative and disruptive technologies on the immediate horizon,” he said.

“With the global market forecast to grow to US$60 billion by 2024, Australian businesses and governments alike have ample opportunity to leverage the technology as it matures.”

China out in front

It is China that is leading the way when it comes to blockchain however, making up 50% of the total families captured in the report.

Chinese applicants have filed 1,520 patent families, which have been filed by 585 different applicants.

“China and the United States currently dominate global blockchain innovation,” the report states.

“Despite China and the United States having an approximately equal number of applicants, Chinese applicants file twice as many patents for blockchain technology as applicants from the United States.”

E-commerce giant Alibaba accounts for many of these, filing 57 of the country’s 1,581 patent families.

However, South Korean company Coinplug is the biggest individual player, with 75 patent families.

IBM’s blockchain group is next placed with 61 patent families.