Blockchain technology has been with us for some time now. While it may feel like the wider world isn't jumping aboard, that couldn't be further from the truth.
Many industries are already getting on the blockchain tech train - ourselves included! In fact, we predict a lot of use cases will arrive. In the next few years, blockchain technology will solve more problems than you think!
From improving the supply chain to securing medical records, many industries are readily using blockchain technology, and many more are expected to follow!
Blockchain Applications: More Than Digital Currenies
Let's get the obvious one out the way. The bitcoin blockchain is the most famous of all blockchain networks and while it's spawned many imitations, many more ahve gone on to provide wider use.
The ethereum blockchain, while connected to the Ether cryptocurrency, was designed to fulfill a wider range of uses. It enpowers smart contracts, distributed applications and other solutions that want an alternative to a centralized server.
After this, you'll look at blockchain technology as more than just 'code' for digital currencies!
How does Blockchain Technology Work?
Before we continue, perphaps it's worth going over the key concept behind blockchain technology; the ledger.
Blockchains are based on transactions, whether they be financial or other forms of information. Such transactions are entered and confirmed through a peer-to-peer network of computers using the same blockchain.
This validation is done using very specific, detailed equations unique to the transaction. If everything matches, the transaction is approved.
Next, the legitimate, approved transactions are placed in blocks with others. At a predetermined point, specific to the type of blockchain technology being used, these blocks are put into the chain.
Once in the chain, the transaction is complete. This might seem long, but remember that this can all happen in microseconds.
What does this achieve?
It's important to note that the blockchain itself doesn't exist on any one computer in the network. It's peer-to-peer, so no one user can manipulate it.
If someone did try, they could only change one node. Since the other nodes wouldn't match - and they would all still be accurate with each other - the 'corrupt' node would simply be stopped.
In short: transactions can't be edited or removed once entered into the blockchain.
In fact, the use of equations is nothing new. Credit cards have been using such concepts, such as the Luhn Algorithm, for decades. Blockchain technology simply takes this to the next level.
The end result of this process is that:
- Every transaction is automatically tested and validated. Importantly, no one person has control of this step.
- Any false transactions are immediately flagged and rejected, further improving security.
- Chains form a history of transactions, allowing for a full view of everything that has occured.
- Thanks to the peer-to-peer nature, transparency is ensured and backups are built-in to the process.
These benefits are very broad and far-reaching in their application. That's one of the big benefits of blockchain technology.
It's also why we, and many others, are finding it so useful across a range of industries.
Data Storage & Record Keeping
Let's start with the most broad application of blockchain technology; data. At it's core, blockchains are just means of storing data. But why should we consider using blockchain over other traditional formats?
Unlike data lakes, data warehouses or the wider big data area, blockchains excel at verification and record keeping. For businesses that need accountability in their data, this is vital.
With a blockchain ledger, data can't be edited or altered unknowingly. Even if new data supercedes the original, such additions will be shown in the chain. This can prove vital, for example, in scientific research (more on that later), financial data and any other forms of record keeping.
In fact, the combination of big data and blockchain is not exactly a secret. It's a perfect pairing behind virtually all of the following examples!
Supply Chain Management & Smart Contracts
The logistics industry is one that is full of data chokepoints. With products being shipped from one location to another, and often through various companies along the way, the need for consistent accounting is obvious.
Blockchain solutions solve this throug their decentralized network. Every step of the logistics process can be updated via distributed ledger technology.
This way, every party is updated, security is maintained and records aren't lost or manipulated. In fact, companies such as DHL are already using such smart contracts.
Global Trade & The Blockchain Network
Similar to logistics, we can alos see blockchain applications making a name for themselves on international trade, too.
Shipping giants such as Maersk are already looking to adopt blockchain technology into their business.
With ports and authorities across different countries, a blockchain can eliminate the doubts that come from different governments. It provides a central, smart contract that is apporved by everyone and free of human error.
More than just record keeping, this can also help in storing data for future uses, such as analytics and real-time reporting. Its decentralized nature means companies can rely on the validity of the data, rather than having to transform different datasets from every stage of the process.
Voting via a Blockchain Platform
While many governments have been opposed to a digital currency beyond their control, they are not against using a blockchain based platform for their own public operations.
One key example is the voting process. A public blockchain can solve much of this. Not only is it a digital form that can't be edited, it can also be used openly to share data and eliminate doubts.
Such a blockchain could provide greater transparency in an area that has often struggled. Leading consultants like McKinsey are already calling for the use of blockchain tech here.
Intellectual Property with Blockchain Technology
Since we're talking about governmental uses, let's also talk about the need to protect intellectual property. IP rights are, even now, still very slow in many countries. Not just developing countries, but even first-world nations which still have beaurocratic processes based on paperwork.
Blockchain projects have been proposed as a solution for some years now and it's easy to see why. When there are IP claims, it often comes down to which rights were registered or filed first.
Multiple conflicting accounts with data stored in different areas? That's just one of the problems that a blockchain based solution is perfect for solving!
Property Buying & Renting
And while we're on the topic of property, let's talk about that, too! The real estate sector is one that involves numerous transactions.
Home owners buy and sell homes, which properties changing hands many times throughout the years. This has lead to a lot of records, but no ideal solution for record keeping. Thanks to multiple realtors, agencies and organizations, no self-owned solution is viable.
A decentralized platform, on the other hand, is much more suitable. This is especially well suited in real estate, where much of this information is on public record anyway. Not only can we add more layers of verification, but we can also automate it and digitize the entire process!
On the other hand, we also have renting or leasing property. Real estate owners, whether residential or commercial, often have multiple tenants. Each tenant has their own contract and payment terms.
Since we've already established that blockchain technology is well suited for virtually all finance and contract challenges, this is a no brainer. Contracts can be validated, regular payments confirmed and both sides can eliminate any doubts.
Medical Blockchain Applications
If there's one area with no room for human error, it's the medical sector. While it's important to protect personal information, it's also vital that such information doesn't get lost when moving from one location to another.
For patients, this is a very real concern, especially when many hospitals and practices keep their own medical records on their own central database.
Instead, a decentralized blockchain platform means no one medical provider owns it, giving more power to the patient.
As for private data, this can be protected through a private key. A blockchain network is already secure and easily anonmyized - that's what made it so good for digital crpyotcurrenices.
Naturally, many technologies like ehtereum blockchain are well suited already.
Research and Artificial Intelligence
On a similar note to medical applications, we can also consider other wider scientific uses.
First of all, we have the nature of data itself. Research needs data. Blockchain, as we said near the start, is perfect for storing data in an ongoing format. For research projects that go on for a long time, blockchain ledges can provide historic snapshots of data at exact periods of time.
On the other hand, when you have multiple research partners or organizations, blockchain again represents an ideal way to store or process new information. Every party can enter their findings and continue as normal, safe that it's been securely logged and stored.
We mention this because all of this accountability has an additional benefit. Artificial Intelligence technology is rapidly growing, but it's a technology that relies on data. Many can be concerned that such machine learning tools can be easily fooled by editing the data underneath them.
Build the AI on top of a blockchain based solution, however, and this isn't an issue.
Retail Blockchain Technology
The e-commerce world is booming and so too is the need for reliable data storage and secure data. Like many inclusions on this list, a smart contract helps provide true, neutral data storage and record keeping between two parties.
Naturally, many e-commere were amongst the first to use cryptocurrencies. Now, they're looking at the likes of ethereum blockchain for other uses.
Blockchain solutions are also useful in the warehouse, too. With both an online store and physical locations, blockchain tech can give one accurate view of what's been ordered. This way, the warehouse can proceed on reliable information that's been validated.
Because the blockchain technology is already being used to validate transactions, the whole process cna be automated and synchronized.
Marketplaces with Blockchain Technology
In another area, we can also look at using blockchain technology in the online marketplace. Here, we often have multiple parties looking to secure transactions.
Typically, that's the customer, the merchant and the marketplace owner. Three parties is already a problem, but it's not unknown for marketplaces to have more.
Think, for example, about large scale operations with multiple vendors. Maybe a user has combined offers and wants to enable a single payment through the marketplace?
Blockchain eliminates errors in the process. When the shopper pays, the merchant is informed and the payment is confirmed. Both sides have undeniable proof they both agree on. That's a common benefit you'll find in the use cases for such blockchain solutions.
And after puchasing? We've already covered supply chains so, once again, integrating blockchain technology can be highly beneficial!
B2B Blockchain Technology
The above marketplace solutions also apply to B2B operations. These also can include multiple parties.
Think about any manufacturing process. A company needs to buy materials, arrange shipments and then pay a production plant to produce the goods. Every business is waiting on the one before it in the process.
Even at such a simplified view, it's clear that there are many checkpoints. Once again, blockchain technology automates, validates and operates as a neutral, trusted source for everyone involved.
Let's throw another oddball in there. When in comes to tourism, we can naturally consider hotels.
People want to confirm bookings and payments before they arrive. Everyone knows a horror story or two about unconfirmed bookings. Applications built on blockchain technology and an extra layer of verification - especially useful across international borders!
But this is just the tip of the ledger iceberg. Tourism is rife with coupons, offers and other incentives. Hotels often have deals with local establishments, while tourism boards offer their own packages or schemes.
Many of which require some form of tracking to ensure only the selected customers (i.e, tourists) are viable. Blockchain technology can help tourists track all of their offers, and those companies behind the offers can confirm which ones were used.
Furthermore, they can also ensure such offers aren't exploited. Many are limited in use, and the immutable nature of blockchain is a big advantage here.
Here's another example of how blockchain technology can solve real problems through the simplest of means.
Parking is not a simple process. It involves unmanned PoS systems (ticket machines) and a lot of paperwork to prove who parked where. That's not even mentioning the entire process of paying.
Worse yet, when arguments arise over disputed payments, verification always proves tricky.
Modern technology is well on the way to solving some of these issues, however. Smart cameras can read and record license plates, and digital payments make the larger ticket process a little easier. Yet these systems remain disconnected.
The problem only scales when you have multiple parking sites and start to lose the hollistic view. Of course, a complete view, immutable records and automated verification are all aspects a blockchain network excels at!
While we're on the topic of parking, what about car rentals? Again, we need to confirm payments, insurance, licenses and a whole lot more.
When you think about the wider application of driverless cars, smart lockboxes and more, there's so much potential. What if users can verify their payments (and, of course, drivers license) online and pick up the keys without needing a member of staff?
However, this also applies to any form of short-term rentals. While AirBnB is making waves in the property market, imagine how more effective and secure it could be with blockchain ledgers?
Well, such competitors are already on the rise. They're using this technology to offer a more efficient and safer way to rent properties. The benefits help both the owner and the guest alike.
In fact, it's possible such solutions might open up a wider range of rental markets. This is supported by the growing IoT sector, too. Thanks to tracking and tagging technology, it's easy to create tamper-proof systems for renting items.
Digital Advertising Blockchain Technology
Digital advertising has been around a while. It's based on clicks, performance and other means of tracking data. However, there's also a great degree of mistrust in the current approach.
Customers use digital advertising on their websites to gain clicks. This is the currency of advertising. In turn, this encourages some platforms to manipulate the clicks to influence the results.
Trust, validation, transparency? It should come as no surprise to learn that blockchain technology is being touted as starting a big revolution within the advertising industry.
On a similar note, the most luxurious of brands in the world struggle with counterfeits. Let's use the wine and art industries as just two examples.
How do you know the difference between the real deal and a fake imitation? At a glance, most human eyes aren't trained to notice details in a label.
What we can do, however, is give each product a uniquely generated code. Since blockchain verification is based on checksums and complex equations, each code can easily be verified.
So, a champagne producer in France creates custom QR codes for each bottle. At printing, each code is added to a ledger and further updated when it's dispatched. With advanced logistics, the company could know how many bottles of their exclsuive product are being distributed - and where.
Likewise, the customer has the opportunity to scan the code on the champagne company's app. If it's the real bottle, the code will be checked against the ledger. If it's not, the app will warn the consumer that it's not a verified product.
Those are just two examples, but the applications are almost endless!
Financial Blockchain Applications
Finally, let's end back on financial institutions. From transaction fees to payment processing, the most common Fintech blockchain applications are widely known. But let's look beyond the initial coin offerings.
It's possible that the banking industry could jump on blockchain technology soon. For personal banking, blockchain could help secure a user's data through anonmization when using their account. The bank still has this private information and can still validate transactions, but the bank accounts themselves become much more secure.
The catch? Many banks and financial institutions still want to implement their own unique distributed ledger technology, rather than reyling on an existing blockchain network. This means many great solutions, such as etheruem blockchain, won't be picked up so easily.
Blockchain applications are solving problems
You may have noticed that the general uses of blockchain tech tend to have a lot in common. That isn't a coincidence. Blockchain technology is uniquely placed to elimate problems that plague every business.
From the supply chain to financial services, blockchain applications can:
- Provide a secure sense of trust and centralized record keeping between two or more parties
- Rapidly automate slow processes via reliable validation, agreed by all
- Maintain privatacy when needed, by keeping data secure
- Enable a complete view of data for companies to build further insights
... and much, much more! One of the biggest movements behind this growth is that blockchain technology is becoming more and more developed.
It's easier to work with and more trusted. With use cases above, it'll become an increasingly common occurence in most people's lives.
We fully beleive that the best uses of blockchain technology are yet to come! That's the main reason we're so eager to work on the next innovations.