Blockchain, a decentralized trust protocol for online data transfer, was initially created for Bitcoin. The technology is now also used by every other cryptocurrency. However, the secure, decentralized and immutable digital ledger system has many other potential applications outside of cryptocurrencies. Over the course of 2017, over $5 billion of investment has been poured into Blockchain. In 2018, the revolutionary technology is expected to be an even greater draw for venture capital.
The majority of investment and development is not being dedicated to Blockchain applications in the cryptocurrency industry. The Blockchain is often mistakenly believed to be one technology with one use—digital currency. In reality, it is a collection of technologies that can be combined in different ways to manage numerous kinds of online data transactions. Blockchain has the potential to significantly improve the efficiency of many different processes in a huge variety of industries. Let’s take a look at just a small sample of who is using Blockchain technology and the potential applications from across different industries:
The global banking industry is already pouring resources into developing Blockchain-based payment processing solutions. This is closest to the original cryptocurrency application of Blockchain. Banks will use Blockchain to facilitate faster, more secure, more efficient money transfers.
Blockchain technology is also being applied to other banking services such as compliance processes. Several banks are already beta testing the Blockchain-based cryptocurrency Ripple for settlement processes. Blockchain powered sharing of customer information could also be extremely useful in combating money laundering.
Using Blockchain for smart contracts is also one of the applications of the technology that has already seen significant development. The core functionality of the Ethereum and NEO platforms is the creation and use of decentralized smart contracts. Smart contracts can automatically enforce agreed upon terms of a contract and apply penalties in the case of violation without the need for a central authority.
Land registry and deed management is another application within the legal system that will almost certainly be among the first to experience a Blockchain revolution in coming years. Keeping a reliable record of land deeds is a particular challenge in developing countries and an easily verifiable and highly secure public Blockchain ledger system would create tremendous efficiencies.
Record keeping of intellectual property rights could be made more efficient in a similar way using Blockchain technology. This would have applications across key intellectual property fields including patents, copyright, and music and the arts.
Blockchain technology is considered by many to be the future of how we keep and manage medical records. Applying Blockchain systems to medical records would solve issues with consistency and easy access from any location to entire patient histories.
Clinical trials are another obvious application of Blockchain within the healthcare industry. Long-standing problems with clinical trials data being altered or modified fraudulently could be potentially eradicated.
Supply Chain Management
Increased visibility and efficiency of supply chain management is one area that has seen some of the most significant investment in Blockchain-based development. Companies such as IBM, Walmart, and Maersk have already brought Blockchain-powered supply chain management and logistics applications to market.
Census data, birth and death records, business licenses, taxation and criminal records are just some of the data groups that government is responsible for maintaining accurate records of. All of these areas of public record are likely to be migrated over to Blockchain-based technology applications in coming years.