Remember when the price of Bitcoin reached record highs just shy of $20,000 last December? Or how about when Long Island Iced Tea Corp. shares soared 289 percent after rebranding itself as Long Blockchain Corp.? With all the hype, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Bitcoin and blockchain were just buzzwords for the same thing or that blockchain was “black magic” for boosting your stock prices.
In truth, Bitcoin and blockchain are two distinct technologies, the former built upon the later, and cryptocurrencies may not even be the most promising use for the blockchain technology. Transparent, reliable, and decentralized, blockchain has uses that extend far beyond Bitcoin. Here are seven that have nothing to do with cryptocurrency.
When IoT meets blockchain
Colossal buzzwords collide: Blockchain may hold the key to solving IoT (Internet of Things) security woes. Keeping data secure across a distributed network of IoT devices has always been a major concern for the technology. IBM has a blockchain platform geared toward building security into distributed networks of IoT devices. Blockchain’s distributed ledger system is perfect for providing identification, authentication, and encryption to complex IoT deployments. Having a distributed ledger keeping track of IoT devices, their interactions, and their operating state (e.g. goods tagged for rework in a supply chain) makes it more difficult for hackers to intercept and tamper with data.
Data sharing and storage
The inherent security that comes from managing transactions through a distributed ledger isn’t just for cryptocurrencies; it can be generalized for any exchange of data. Naturally that means the data industry can benefit. Storage marketplaces such as Sia use blockchain to provide low-cost cloud storage that leverages a distributed network of underutilized hard drive capacity around the world. Since you control your encryption keys, no third party, even the company providing the physical hardware for storage, can access your data, making file transfers secure. Storage infrastructure company Arweave takes the decentralization a step further with blockweave, a type of blockchain that enables permanent, low-cost, on-chain storage.
Smart supply chains
Blockchains and supply chains are a natural fit. A single shipment in a modern global supply chain can pass through hundreds of interactions across multiple people, organizations, and countries. Maintaining traceability and security of goods across complex supply chains has always been a major concern. Some businesses have been quick to adopt the technology. Hyperledger Sawtooth demonstrated how a seafood supply chain project could be built on its platform. Moyee Coffee and FairChain have teamed up to use blockchain to help keep fair trade coffee fair. Blockchain technology can build trust into the supply chain by providing a secure, distributed ledger that tracks information on goods, services, and transactions.
Patient-centric healthcare and personalized medicine
Imagine how convenient it would be if you could have a full history of your health? Doctor’s visits, allergies, medications, and other information would be accessible from any hospital terminal in the world. One major obstacle to such a future is the need to ensure that only the right people have access to that data. Some companies are turning to blockchain to address this security concern. European electronic health data management platform Iryo seeks to create an international network of clinics that securely share data over blockchain. Nebula Genomics is banking on blockchain to help people secure their personal genomes, which can be used to create personalized medicine and health plans.
Smart contracts, IPs, and land titles
Immutable and transparent, blockchain is perfect for legal contracts. The distributed ledger system provides transparent and secure means of creating legally binding contracts without middlemen. OpenLaw leverages blockchain to do exactly this, allowing parties to sign documents electronically. NKOR is helping individual content creators protect their intellectual properties (IPs) by making the content they share traceable via its blockchain-powered platform. In India, where property rights disputes are commonplace due to poor recordkeeping dating back to colonial times, the government plans to use blockchain technology to serve as a distributed ledger for storing land titles and other property rights data.
Blockchain is perfect for streamlining the insurance industry. DocuSign helped Visa launch a blockchain proof of concept in 2015 that made leasing and insuring a car simple and efficient. Allianz is pioneering a blockchain prototype for the captive insurance market. Everledger uses blockchain to prevent fraud among buyers, sellers, and insurers in the diamond business by laser-etching a digital fingerprint (containing details such as serial number, clarity, and cut) into each diamond and transcribing it into an immutable ledger.
Blockchain may one day replace our social security numbers with digital IDs. Identity theft is on the rise around the globe, and high-profile security breaches such as the Equifax breach have gotten some thinking it’s time to get smarter about identification. The ID2020 Alliance is a global initiative among public and private entities to tackle the identification of 1.1 billion people across the world who live without an officially recognized identity. As a member, Microsoft is developing a blockchain-based ID system on top of its existing authenticator app. The goal is a decentralized ID system built on an open-source standard accessible to all.
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