The Future of Blockchain
Many consider blockchain to be synonymous with cryptocurrency, but this is not the case. It’s more accurate to view it as the future of data transactions, regardless of industry. Cryptocurrency was just the first use case, and remains the most widely known.
A blockchain is essentially a digital ledger. When one block is closed, another begins. While cryptocurrency blockchains avoid double spending through the mining process, the blockchain technology in and of itself creates a simplicity and security on its own.
It’s based on a “consensus mechanism.” Nothing gets added until network participants agree that it is a valid transaction. Later entries must always reference earlier ones, creating a linked chain (hence the name). Anyone trying to hack the system and change a block would also need to change all preceding blocks, making it incredibly difficult and impractical to do this.
Other than the cryptocurrency, there are many industries that will likely be transformed by the technology.
Any company with a supply chain
The kind of digital and unbiased accountability that blockchain technology provides is ideal for any industry that moves products from point-to-point. This includes retail (online or brick-and-mortar), manufacturing, transportation, and others. Amazon shipped 5 billion items in 2017, and blockchain could be utilized to develop real-time accountability on every item without lots of manual intervention. This isn’t just true of shipping, but also warehousing the products, ensuring that the quantities are all accurate and avoiding potential human error. By applying specific rules to a smart contract, products in a warehouse could be re-ordered when stock is low. If errors were to occur with initial smart contracts, the blockchain makes it simple to identify the issue and stakeholders in charge could make necessary changes.
The accountability of blockchain could virtually eliminate voter fraud. A decentralized blockchain for elections could tap the proof-of-work concept found in cryptocurrency mining, allowing volunteers (or government officials) to lend their computing power to verify the votes. Not only does this address the issue, it also mitigates the skepticism that surrounds a surprising election victory. The complete transparency of the blockchain could remove any insinuation of wrongdoing.
Improving the potential for IoT
Prior to cryptocurrency stealing the media spotlight, IoT was the reigning champion. With many analysts expecting 20 billion devices to be connected by 2020, there are myriad use cases. Blockchain could have a major impact on how IoT devices connect, self-make their own decisions through smart contracts. While it’s assumed cloud will be the backbone for storing data and IoT communications moving forward, blockchain could become the standard, as showcased by startups like Filament. The company created a microchip that can connect any asset (like a supply crate) to a blockchain and perform simple tasks by augmenting rules via smart contracts. Devices can track themselves, and even alert all stakeholders in the blockchain of the next place it must be shipped to.
There are many others examples beyond those mentioned. The last time the world experienced a technology that could be so disruptive and pervasive was the public launch of the Internet. A handful of the companies who commit to blockchain solutions or services today could easily become the Google and Facebook of tomorrow.