You’ve probably heard of Bitcoin, you may even have heard of cryptocurrencies but did you know that the blockchain is the technology underpinning cryptocurrencies?
And the Blockchain is being used for so much more – Not just for cryptocurrencies.
More and more of our day to day activities can be done online – such as banking and shopping but how can we trust what happens online?
Blockchain may well be the answer to provide these assurances.
A blockchain is a historical record of transactions (e.g. changes in ownership of an asset). This shared list of records (or transactions) is distributed to the entire network. At certain points the list of transactions is bundled together into blocks and added to the blockchain. The blockchain could be likened to an encrypted database of agreements: i.e. once a deal is made, the terms are sealed and encrypted in the blockchain ensuring that neither party can go back on the agreement. To reiterate this point the contract within the blockchain holds both parties accountable meaning that both parties are obliged to fulfil their end of the bargain before the terms of the agreement are complete. So, with this in mind, it is easy to see how the blockchain could be used in other situations.
Here are a few examples of what else the blockchain could be used for:
- KODAK – royalties on images: The internet has made it hard for photographers to control their image rights and it has become increasingly difficult for photographers to collect the royalties that they are due. Kodak are planning to launch an image rights platform which is underpinned by the blockchain. Photographers will be remunerated with the cryptocurrency KODAKCoin and the platform will scan the internet in search of registered images that are being used without authorisation and will ensure that the photographers are paid the royalties that they are due
- UNICEF & WFP – Raising money for charity and aid projects: The UN’s children’s agency, Unicef, has launched a futuristic pilot project to utilise the cryptocurrency Ethereum to raise money for Syrian children. Raising money using blockchain will not only revolutionise the way in which charities can raise money but would also increase transparency in their financial transactions in the hope to eliminate any loss of funds by corruption or human error. Similarly, the WFP (World Food Programme) has used Ethereum to pay their food vouchers to refugee camps helping Syrian refugees.
- Distributed storage – Sia coin, Storj, MaidSafe: Fundamentally, instead of buying storage from a central bank of servers, which is the traditional cloud-based model, the distributed storage platforms leverage hard drive capacity around the world to create a decentralised data storage market place. People are incentivised to rent out their unused disk space and are remunerated with cryptocurrencies.
- Tracking the provenance of food – Farm to Fork, tracking meat from the farm to the table: Using the blockchain to provide transparency within the product supply chain. The blockchain is being used by IBM to help Walmart develop a way to increase the transparency and traceability of food. It could enable every physical product to come with a digital ledger that details a record of where it has come from and the journey it has taken to reach the shelves in the store. This should give consumers the confidence that the products that they buy have adhered to all the necessary safety and hygiene standards.
These four examples are just a few of the ways in which the blockchain could be used but this is just the tip of the iceberg and it will be interesting to see which major organisations leverage this digital technology to change the way business is done on a global level.