The potential of blockchain technology to disrupt nearly every industry in some way cannot be dismissed even though there are still several hurdles to overcome before we see its full transformative impact.
Leaders of major financial institutions where security is paramount and change is often resisted see enough upside in blockchain technology that they have been willing to invest millions in resources to learn how to best implement it. And, they are not alone. Any business with valuable digital assets from contacts to contracts they need to protect can find a legitimate use case for blockchain technology.
What makes blockchain powerful?
Blockchains, whether public or private, are a real-time ledger of records stored in a distributed, peer-to-peer fashion independent from any central authority. Since every record is encrypted and time-stamped and users can only access and edit the block they “own” through a private key, it’s very secure. Every block is linked to the one before and the one after it, and whenever a change is made, the entire chain gets updated. Blockchain helps secure and streamline transactions efficiently without requiring intermediaries to manage the process. Blockchain technology is revolutionary in terms of record keeping and can track and document every change in a record or transaction.
What are the practical uses of blockchain?
If you haven’t already realised it, blockchain technology is going to change many systems that you encounter in your day-to-day life. Here are a few of the practical examples:
Contract management and smart contracts
Any industry heavily reliant on contracts, such as insurance, financial institutions, real estate, construction, entertainment and law, would benefit from blockchain’s indisputable way to update, manage, track and secure contracts. Smart contracts, those that are embedded with if/then statements and be executed without the involvement of an intermediary, also use blockchain technology.
Payment processing and currency
Even if you’re not using Bitcoin, the most famous and widely adopted digital currency that runs by blockchain technology, its influence is only expected to expand. Blockchain has the potential to be highly transformative to any company that processes payments. It can eliminate the need for intermediaries that are common in payment processing today.
Supply chain management
Whenever value changes hands or the status of asset changes, blockchain is ideally suited for managing the process. That’s why some experts believe blockchain can become a "supply chain operating system." It’s already being used by Walmart and its Food Safety Collaboration Centre in Beijing to track farm origination details, batch numbers, factory and processing data, expiration dates, storage temperature and shipping details for pork. Blockchain allows for immediate status updates and increases the security and visibility of the supply chain. It provides any industry that needs to track a processor supplies—ultimately that’s most industries—an immediate and indisputable tracking system.
Whether you’re a musician who wants to ensure you get royalties when your music gets played or a property owner, blockchain technology can help you protect your assets by creating an indisputable record of real-time ownership. That’s precisely the service Everledger, a global startup, aims to do by using blockchain and smart contracts. Specifically created to improve anti-counterfeit measures for pharmaceuticals, luxury items, diamonds and electronics, BlockVerify allows companies to register their own products and introduces transparency to supply chains.
Identification, personal record systems and passwords
Governments manage vast amounts of personal data from birth and death records to marriage certificates, passports and census data. Blockchain technology offers a streamlined solution for managing all of it securely. Personal identification is what Onename, a blockchain startup wants to manage. In addition to offering services to register and manage a blockchain ID, the company offers a product called Passcard that they intend as a digital key to replace all passwords and IDs required for individuals, including driver’s licenses. ShoCard is another identity management system in use today that helps individuals and enterprises quickly validate identity.
There are many other practical uses cases for blockchain technology for our everyday life and business operations. As the investments in blockchain solutions start to yield results in the way of innovative blockchain-enabled products and services, we will continue to see the practical applications of the technology exponentially expand. I believe the transformation will be dramatic.
Bernard Marr is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and advisor to companies and governments. He has worked with and advised many of the world's best-known organisations. LinkedIn has recently ranked Bernard as one of the top 10 Business Influencers in the world (in fact, No 5 - just behind Bill Gates and Richard Branson). He writes on the topics of intelligent business performance for various publications including Forbes, HuffPost, and LinkedIn Pulse. His blogs and SlideShare presentation have millions of readers.