It is indisputable that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have brought the concept of blockchains into the mainstream. For those who have purchased Bitcoin and held, the sky appears to be the limit. For those who have shown up later to the party, they’re either laughing it off or trying to collect as many CryptoKitties as possible. This interest in blockchain-based technologies has unlocked new frontiers well beyond cryptocurrencies.
Similar to the debate surrounding who first created calculus, there’s a decent amount of debate as to who created blockchains. While its origins might be disputed, its significance shouldn’t be ignored.
A blockchain (or in its original form simply 'block chain') is an ever-growing list of records (blocks) that are chronologically linked to each other and cryptographically secured. Each block consists of a hashed pointer to the previous block, a timestamp and a chunk of information. In the case of cryptocurrencies, each block stores a simple ledger of transactions. However, projects like Ethereum have shown us the potential that can be unlocked when blocks are used to store more complex information (executable code, for instance). In any case, the chain is distributed amongst all peers on a global network, allowing for truth to be reached through consensus.
Trusted timestamps are a hallmark of blockchain technologies and enable almost any industry to operate today with an inherently trustworthy historical record: when a stock was traded, when a file was updated, when a patent was filed... the possibilities are endless.
As a whole, blockchains can provide a decentralized source for the trust that underlies any kind of transaction in the business world. The security of blockchain networks is provided by encryption and the distributed nature of the network. There is no single, central system to hack.
While obvious applications include finance, we expect many new industries in 2018 to adopt the core theories of blockchain to improve their business dealings. Chief among them include:
- Blockchain for Supply Chains: Secure and trusted data on our foods supply chain will help us ensure that at every interaction from farm to table, the food a restaurant orders is the same as the food it receives.
- Blockchain for Digital Asset Management: Media like games and collectibles like digital art can be accurately verified for authenticity and secured from theft. As a result safeguards like copyrights can be better enforced.
- Blockchain for Health Records: EHR records can make it possible for a patient’s entire healthcare record to continue with them throughout their life.
- Blockchain for Real Estate Finance: Lenders could easily access the wealth of information needed to secure a mortgage.
- Blockchain for Voting: With 2018’s mid-year elections nearing, voter tampering remains a hot topic and blockchain technology could enable voting to happen securely from a mobile phone. Blockchain for Philanthropy. Charities would be able to provide a new level of transparency for how their money is spent.
- Blockchain for IoT: Concerns over smart devices being compromised and hacked can be further diffused through smart integrations with the blockchain. The decreased reliance on centralized state storage will allow for more devices to reach consensus on information on their own.
- Blockchain for Identity Management: A comprehensive identity platform that could protect against identity fraud and simplify legal proceedings where there are questions about identity.
- Blockchain for Film (Photo and Video): Doctoring images would be much more difficult when photos belong to a chain.
We’re excited about what the future holds for blockchain-backed applications, and we look forward to working on more blockchain projects in 2018. Please get in touch with us if you have an upcoming blockchain-backed project you’d like to collaborate on with us.
In future updates we’ll be defining what a blockchain software developer is and giving you an inside look into one of our current blockchain projects.
In the meantime if you’d like to dig a little deeper, check out this recent Lunch and Learn where we introduced more basic concepts of blockchain software development.