Blockchain technology has been around for over a decade but its true potential is only now being fully realized. As the technology upon which the cryptocurrency Bitcoin was built, blockchain has often taken a back seat to this more ‘attention-grabbing’ development. However, as computer scientists further investigate the many benefits offered by blockchain it is beginning to overshadow Bitcoin.
Back in 2016, a year before the Bitcoin meteoric rise, the research firm Gartner predicted that blockchain technology would reach its “plateau of productivity” within 5 to 10 years. Since then, major firms around the world have begun to develop private blockchain networks for commercial use including IBM, Shell, and AXA.
The permissionless, immutable, and decentralized nature of blockchain make it ideal for performing secure digital transactions. New developments like smart contracts are helping to expand the scope of blockchain, opening it up to a range of new industries. Hundreds of companies are now integrating blockchain technology into their daily business to automate processes in a secure and transparent manner. Let’s look at some of them.
Blockchain technology was invented to facilitate the storage and transfer of money without the need for a third party, and this remains one of the key ways in which it is changing people’s lives. Currently, it’s impossible to send money internationally without the help of a bank or third-party operator. The bank takes your cash, deposits it, conducts a transfer agreement with a partner bank overseas, and the bank makes cash available for your recipient there. This all takes time and costs money: two things that blockchain does not require.
Through a network of widely distributed computers with no central authority, all blockchain transactions can be securely verified and completed without the need for any third-party oversight. Within the next ten years, we are likely to see the banking sector incorporate blockchain technology on a much wider scale, helping to reduce overhead costs associated with international remittance. The blockchain firm Ripple has already begun implementing this functionality to great success.
Over the past decade, the entertainment industry has waged war with Internet pirates who freely distribute copyright material. Platforms like the music service Spotify have come some way in helping to address this issue but very little profit makes its way back to the artist. Blockchain presents an opportunity for artists to publish their work independently on a secure and transparent platform that is both traceable and incorruptible.
With blockchain-powered smart contracts, artists can make their work available and get paid for it without the need for a third-party mediator. The entire system can be automated at no additional cost, ensuring all proceeds go directly back to the source. Like sending money abroad, blockchain provides a way to trade digital property with a complete stranger and ensure nobody defaults on the arrangement.
Voting booths could soon become a thing of the past with the emergence of blockchain-powered online voting. The U.S. state of West Virginia recently trialed a blockchain-based voting system in partnership with the company Voatz. The system shows promise as a mobile voting solution for residents who are stationed abroad, like army personnel. It was used successfully by 150 West Virginia residents during the 2018 midterm election.
Previous attempts to conduct voting online have been mired in controversy due to the propensity for interference or ‘vote rigging’. The nature of blockchain dictates that with a large enough network it would be impossible for even the most advanced of hackers to successfully breach the system.
If you’re injured or fall ill while traveling abroad, access to your medical records could mean the difference between life and death. However, due to the highly sensitive nature of medical data, it can’t be shared easily on a public network.
Blockchain technology makes it possible to provide doctors with instant access to secure medical data from anywhere in the world. U.S blockchain firm BurstIQ has developed a network for the healthcare industry that facilitates the secure distribution of medical data.
Blockchain has come a long way this decade but it has only recently been recognized for its disruptive and transformative potential. With major firms like IBM pushing the development of the technology, there is no doubt it has a lot to offer that we are yet to realize. Over the next decade, we are likely to see major changes to the financial and political world, spurred on by the availability of decentralized, permissionless networks.
Disclaimer: The author of this text, Robin Trehan, has an undergraduate degree in Economics, Masters in international business and finance, and MBA in electronic business. Trehan is Senior VP at Deltec International www.deltecbank.com. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text are solely the views of the author, and not necessarily reflecting the views of Deltec International Group, its subsidiaries, and/or employees.
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