The Blockchain is the world’s leading software platform for digital assets. Originally developed as an accounting method for the virtual currency Bitcoin, blockchains – which use what’s known as Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) – appear in a variety of commercial applications today. Currently, the technology is primarily used to verify transactions within digital currencies. However, it’s possible to digitize code and insert practically any document into the blockchain. Doing so creates an indelible record that cannot be changed. Within the blockchain, a record’s authenticity is verified by the entire community instead of a single centralized authority. Blockchain technology has many more potential uses and applications other than just serving as the fuel behind Bitcoin. Attracted by the idea of removing the middleman and moving towards democratization and decentralization, tech startups are adopting blockchain technology with the goal of disrupting a variety of industries. Here are some of the recent and amazing uses of this technological ingenuity:
Media companies have already started to adopt blockchain technology. In July 2017, blockchain content distribution platform, Decent, announced the launch of Publiq, which allows writers and other content creators to spread their works via blockchain and receive immediate payment. Also, Comcast’s Advanced Advertising Group developed a new technology that allows companies to make ad payments on both broadcast and over-the-top TV through blockchain technology.
Identity Management And Authentication
Blockchain technology can be applied to identity applications in areas such as digital identities, passports, e-residency, birth certificates, wedding certificates, IDs, online account logins, etc. Creating an identity on the blockchain can give individuals greater control over who has their personal information and how they can access it. By combining the decentralized blockchain principle with identity verification, a digital ID can be created to act as a digital watermark which can be assigned to every online transaction of any asset. Some of the cross-industry applications include BlockAuth, that enables users to own and operate their own identity registrar which allows them to submit their information for verification. Cambridge Blockchain LLC developed its digital identity software with several leading global financial institutions. Commercial deployments of the software were planned for late last year. The company’s distributed architecture resolves the competing challenges of transparency and privacy, resulting in faster customer onboarding, lower costs, and enhanced compliance through a single, trusted, and consistent view of customer reference data.
Tokenization And Smart Contracts
For the purposes of authenticating a unique physical item, the item(s) are paired with a corresponding digital token. This essentially means that a token is used to bind the physical and digital worlds together. These digital tokens are useful for supply chain management, intellectual property, creating cryptos pegged to physical assets or their prices, and anti-counterfeiting and fraud detection. A tangible property, such as cars, houses, or cookers and intangible properties like patents, property titles, or company shares, can have smart technology embedded attached to them. Such registration can be stored on the ledger along with contractual details of others who are allowed to own the property. Smart keys could be used to facilitate access to the permitted party. The ledger stores and allows the exchange of these smart keys once the contract is verified. The decentralized ledger also becomes a system for recording and managing property rights, as well as enabling the Smart Contracts to be duplicated if records or the smart keys are lost. This will, in turn, decreases the risks of running into fraud, mediation fees, and questionable business situations. At the same time, it increases trust and efficiency.
Some services restrict transactions based on geography. Others charge a fee for their use. And many are vulnerable to hackers, which is not appealing to customers who are putting their personal financial information out there. Blockchain technology, with all its aforementioned benefits, could fix these problems. With companies like Uber and Airbnb flourishing, the sharing economy is already a proven success. Currently, however, users who want to use a ride-sharing service have to rely on an intermediary like Uber. By enabling Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments, the blockchain opens the door to direct interactions between parties — a truly decentralized sharing economy results. An early example, OpenBazaar uses the blockchain to create a Peer-to-Peer eBay.
Distributed Cloud Storage
Blockchain data storage will become a massive disruptor in the near future. Current cloud storage services are centralized — thus the users must place trust in a single storage provider. They control all of your online assets. Conversely, this can be decentralized with the Blockchain. For instance, Storj is beta-testing cloud storage which is using a blockchain powered network to improve security and decrease dependency. Additionally, users can rent out their excess storage capacity, in an Airbnb fashion, creating new marketplaces. Anyone on the internet can store your data at a pre-agreed price. Hashing and having the data in multiple locations are the keys to securing it. Storj.io and factom are two start-ups exploring this idea.
Blockchain In Learning Institutions
Exchanging tokens isn’t the only way in which educators and researchers are using blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies for education. Perhaps the most-hyped application revolves around using blockchains to prove what students have learned. Sony and IBM, for example, say they have developed a system for storing education records using blockchain technology. The idea is to offer schools a method of verifying and storing documents such as diplomas or test scores without the risk of hacking or degree fraud. Sony says it is working towards a 2018 rollout. Other companies and institutions are already taking the same idea and offering it today. MIT announced that the university is partnering with Learning Machine to offer digital diplomas using the Bitcoin blockchain. Other universities also exploring blockchain include the University of Texas at Austin, where researchers are piloting a private blockchain to issue materials such as credentials and badges.
By being connected to a computer network, an object such as a car becomes more than just an object. It is now people-people, people-things, and things-things. This is the Internet-of-Things (IoT). The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices. Supply Chain Sensors, for example, give companies end-to-end visibility of their supply chain by providing data on the location and condition of the supplies as they are transported around the globe. As of 2016, a Deloitte and MHI report surveyed 99 leading supply chain companies and found that sensors were used by 44% of these respondents. Eighty-seven percent of these industries said they plan to use the technology by 2020. The technology is expected to grow to 1 trillion by 2022 and to 10 trillion sensors by 2030, according to Deloitte and MHI report. The blockchain stores, manages, protects and transfers this smart information.
As mentioned above, most of these applications are still underdeveloped. Nonetheless, the capabilities of blockchain technology enable near daily applications. The future potential of blockchain applications is clearly unparalleled. The next couple of years should see various blockchain experimentations and applications for various aspects of society. Regardless of which application comes first on a global scale, the bottom line is: blockchain seems like it is here to stay, and it’s transforming how our society functions.