What is Blockchain?
Blockchain is an incorruptible peer-to-peer network (a kind of ledger) that allows multiple parties to transfer value in a secure and transparent way. Blockchain’s Co-Founder Nic Carey describes Blockchain as being like “a big spreadsheet in the cloud that anyone can use, but no one can erase or modify”.
The developers of the Blockchain system say that the trust between participants is not necessary because trust is embedded in the system itself, and that access to all relevant information is available to participants.
Uses So Far
Many technical commentators have, so far, focused on Blockchain’s usage as a global property rights / land registration system, as the basis of a non-centralised (and therefore faster) payment system, and as a system for exchanging / buying / selling all kinds of collateral such as stocks, bonds, land titles and more.
It has always be
en thought however that Blockchain had multiple other possible uses and it has been the ingenuity and inventiveness of business-people seeking new solutions to business challenges who have found a number of new applications for the technology.
Word about the potential value of Blockchain is now getting around the global community. Back in December, Dubai committed to putting all of its documents on Blockchain in the next few years and founded a public-private initiative called the Global Blockchain Council to foster the development and use of Blockchain technology in and between local government teams, local businesses and international start-ups.
Recent, real-world examples of how Blockchain is being used outside of the financial, legal and public sectors include:
- Using the data on a Blockchain ledger to record the temperature of sensitive medicines being transported from manufacturer to hospital in hot climates. The ‘incorruptible’ aspect of the Blockchain data gives a clear record of care and responsibility along the whole supply chain.
- Using an IBM-based Blockchain ledger to record data about wine certification, ownership and storage history. This has helped to combat fraud in the industry and has provided provenance and re-assurance to buyers.
- Shipping Company Maersk using a Blockchain-based system for tracking consignments that addresses visibility and efficiency i.e. digitising a formerly paper-based process that involved multiple interactions.
- Start-up company ‘Electron’ building a Blockchain-based system for sharing information between those involved in supplying energy which could speed up and simplify the supplier switching process. It may also be used for smart grid processes, such as local load-balancing of supply and demand.
- Australian start-up Zimrii developing a Blockchain-based service that allows independent musicians to sell downloads to fans, distribute the proceeds between collaborators, and allow interaction with managers.
Blockchain clearly has huge untapped potential for all kinds of businesses and could represent a major opportunity to improve services, and effectively tackle visibility, transparency and efficiency issues. Blockchain has proven itself to be particularly well suited to processes where there are a lot of steps e.g. supply chains, and where there’s a lack of trust in a business that relationship. The significant commitment that countries like Dubai have made to the technology and the success of the crypto-currency Bitcoin (which have used Blockchain) are indicators that this new technology has real value on today’s business world, not just in the future.