How Blockchain could promote global sustainability
There’s no doubt that blockchain is growing to be one of the biggest buzzwords of 2018. Blockchain is a continuous list of records (blocks) which are tied together and secured by cryptography (chains) and is almost impossible to modify a single block because a part of it refers to information on the preceding block. It is also a decentralized, distributed ledger, making it an efficient way to record transactions and other management activities. Although blockchain was greatly popularized in the general public through the rise of cryptocurrencies, especially bitcoins, this technology has a wide variety of applications across many industries.
One of the most important industries that blockchain has the potential to change is healthcare: health records are currently stored in a variety of places and they are controlled by several private companies. Patients medical records might be conflicting or misplaced. All those issues could be solved by using blockchain. Blockchain will allow the creation of complete, accurate, and transferable healthcare information, giving individuals more control of their data without an intermediate party. It is also relevant that patients’ consent can also be recorded so that medical records stay secure. People could store important information on their private blockchain and then anonymously interact or share specific parts of their data with the public blockchain at their discretion.
Clinical trial management is another possible use of this technology: test results from clinical trials can now be compiled and distributed to researchers and experts cheaply and efficiently. The authenticity of this information can also be insured due to the relative immutability of the blockchain. Strong clinical trial management will result in patients having more awareness about medical products purchases and faster rate of scientific research.
Blockchain is also becoming relevant in the energy industry. The energy market is currently dominated by a small group of energy providers and organizations. Blockchain seeks to change this by establishing a new market which will allow energy transfer and sales between individuals. This could be useful, for instance, if a family is on vacation and has stored unused energy that would otherwise go to waste. This new market is particularly beneficial for owners of renewable energy sources, thus also promoting a sustainable environment.
Although many startups are working on making this vision a reality, we are still at an early stage and the technology needs to be adapted and deployed properly in order to significantly affect the industry. Energy startups such as Electron and Power Ledger are already creating a peer-to-peer energy market in the United Kingdom and Australia. Electron has even received funding from the British Government to scale their energy trading platform.
Blockchain will probably offer many more opportunities in the future other than sustainability and cost reduction to the energy industry, however the above two are already drawing a lot of attentions. Chances are that this new system will sharply disrupt the current energy landscape, and traditional providers will have to rethink their energy distribution strategies.
Supply Chain Management
It is no secret that modern supply chains have grown extremely complex, spanning over countless entities, locations, and levels of management. Along with these problems related to the scale of the supply chain, there are often issues with local governments, especially for companies manufacturing overseas. All those together make it very challenging to effectively manage supply chains.
By providing a secure, decentralized ledger, blockchain can make supply chains more efficient and transparent. From raw materials and inventory management to keeping track of deliveries and payments made through different parts of the logistics network, blockchain could always be useful. The records on the distributed ledger also provide a consensus to transactions, ensuring that everyone is up to date. Many companies have already recognized the benefits of blockchain to their supply chain and are beginning to implement policies around them.
Walmart, Unilever, and Nestle all use blockchains to keep track of the processing and storage of imported produce. Mining giants including BHP Billiton and De Beers are also using it to track their precious stones and other minerals throughout the mining process.
Startups like Cloud Logistics have also emerged to provide supply chain solutions using blockchain technology. With such glaring benefits, it is only a matter of time before blockchain becomes the mainstream method for companies that seek to firmly manage a complicated supply chain.
Although cryptocurrencies are what brought blockchain into the public spotlight, the underlying technology has much deeper implications for the financial industry. Some have even compared the blockchain’s influence on the current financial system to the internet’s effect on media when it was conceived. Arguably the most obvious area affected is the system of payments.
While it is unlikely that digital currencies such as bitcoin will be fully adopted, many companies are starting to have greater interactions with cryptocurrencies and some are even starting to play suppliers and employees with bitcoin. Wall Street and central banks will have to start rethinking rules and methods of controlling monetary policy to account for the rise of this new payment infrastructure and eventually take advantage of it.
Another important issue when it comes to banking is identity verification. Trust between customers and counter-parties is vital to the global economy and blockchain provides a way for it to be established. This could also greatly reduce costs for banks to prevent money laundering and other fraudulent activities by identifying suspicious clients.
Startups such as Tradle and Blockstack are already working on building a blockchain system which will increase the accuracy of customer identification. There are many other possibilities for blockchain in finance, but these two showcase the impact this technology could have on how consumers choose to manage their money in the future.
There is clearly an endless number of possible applications of blockchain throughout all kinds of industries. However, it is important to note that the technology behind it, is still young, and unique systems have to be developed to accommodate a variety of different situations. There are also transaction limitations and costs which can limit the speed and size of the blockchain.
Furthermore, government regulation also poses a serious threat to the future of blockchain, so the final versions of blockchain systems are still quite uncertain. Even though blockchain faces threats and limitations from many possible angles, it is equally important to recognize the potential of this emerging technology and understand how it can impact people all over the world.