Blockchain is not a new technology by any means. It has been around for some time, but it did not grab the attention until it became the foundation of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. While crypto did draw the attention to blockchain as a concept, many people still think it is just something that can be used only for virtual currencies.
In reality, the blockchain approach can be applied to countless of possible applications in virtually all industries. Naturally, the financial world is the first to come to mind, but a blockchain can be used for so much more. Today we are going to explore several blockchain use cases and many of them are already happening in the real world. They show us why many companies think the real value of cryptocurrencies is not their exchange price, but simply showing us the capabilities of the blockchain technology.
What is a blockchain?
Just to be on the same page, let us start with a quick blockchain refresher. It is a secure way to store data while limiting the abilities of said data to be modified without a trace. The information is encrypted and decentralized. This means that it is stored in several locations in a peer-to-peer network.
Data entries are grouped in blocks and follow a logical set. The peers verify each completed block and then it is added to the chain, thus a blockchain. Since all of the data is encrypted and verified each time, the blockchain is deemed secure and transparent. Any attempt to modify, add or remove older data will be noticed immediately by the other peers, as their dataset will start to differ. For example, you cannot go back to an older entry and change the price or amount of Bitcoin you have bought, as everyone will immediately see that fraud.
A blockchain is a simple, but effective way of keeping everyone honest. Moreover, a way to increase the trust in a given dataset. As such, it is obvious to see why this approach would be beneficial for many other use cases outside cryptocurrencies. For a while, using a blockchain for other purposes was seen as strange and difficult. A few years’ later things are different. Companies all over the world are interested in various blockchain uses.
One of the biggest technology’s supporters is IBM, which has envisioned use cases for any industry. It is already realizing plenty of projects in many of them. Other companies and a lot of startups are also investing heavily in blockchain applications. As a result, today, there are plenty of opportunities and services for everything. Anyone who wants to explore the blockchain world can do it. So, let us explore a few interesting use cases.
This is one of the most obvious uses and as such already quite popular. A smart contract is a way to automate the execution of a deal when given parameters are met. For instance, transfer the ownership of an asset upon payment. As it is based on a blockchain, there is no way to change the details of the contract and state that the asset is paid but not transferred or not be transferred when it is paid. Moreover, the smart contract will make a permanent record of any and every action. This gives both sides on deal security and trust that everything will be done as they have agreed.
Various market types
There are so many different markets out there – for all kinds of assets, goods, services, capitals and so on. A blockchain technology can help govern and secure all of them. Naturally, each application will have to be developed specifically for each market type and take into account their nuances. At the end, the results would be similar – faster transaction processing, quicker clearing and a high level of security. Cross-border transactions is also possible with blockchain and it can be done much faster and cheaper than a regular transfer can. There are already services in this area like Ripple and Banco Santander has such a feature.
Whether its finance or any other type of trading, blockchain can make things secure and increase the trust for all participants. Yes, you have heard that already, but that is one of the main benefits of blockchain for everyone. In the trading area, it can bring other advantages like streamlining the process, simplifying cross-border deals; accelerate the validation process while lowering the costs. It also makes the process more transparent and reduces the risks of loss due to frauds or human errors.
Claim management is one of the most difficult and important aspects in the insurance industry. People have always tried and will keep trying to defraud insurance companies to get an easy buck and the honest customers will end up on the losing side as their premiums go up. Moreover, most people do not really know how to file a claim properly. Thus, they make the process much longer and more expensive for the insurer. What is more, it can also lower their compensation. A blockchain network can help those involved in the claim processing to have a single, trusted point for data and with a smart contract in place, they can automate the payment when the conditions are met. The blockchain will be able to detect flag or even reject multiple filed claims for the same accident. All of this will greatly decrease the time needed for each claim.
Health data is a very sensitive subject. In today’s world people often need to be able to transfer this data from one healthcare provider to another. Current processes are complex and lengthy. There is always a risk of someone tampering with the data. Someone could be allergic to a certain medication, but if a hacker removes that fact from a patient’s file, that could be life-threatening. Keeping the data in an encrypted, blockchain environment will ensure that there is no way of tampering with it and all entries will be logged. IBM has even developed a Digital Health Pass service based on a decentralized blockchain. With the service, an organization can provide such services for patient data management and allow patients to have full and secure control over their health data. Data issuers (labs, hospitals, pharmacies, etc.) can have access to this data and add to it upon the individual’s approval, which can be as easy as a tap on an app. Even medical devices would be able to upload that data directly to this digital archive providing doctors with a complete picture of a patient’s condition and progress.
A chain to manage a chain. Yes, it sounds crazy, but it works. For instance, DHL uses a blockchain platform to keep a ledger of the shipments and maintain the integrity of the transactions. IBM and eProvenance, on the other hand, “preserve the quality and integrity of the wine” with blockchain. The blockchain is a way to guarantee that the goods come from the claimed place and are in the state they should be. Some food producers use it as a way to allow their customers to see the exact farm their purchase comes from along with the dates of production and travel. Moreover, the use of smart contracts here can simplify the process and make it easier and faster for shipment clearing.
The World Economic Forum, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, and PwC released a joint report identifying more than 65 existing and emerging blockchain use-cases for the environment. According to Consensys, with a blockchain companies can streamline every aspect of their operations. Moreover, they can ensure prover parts and service availability along with lowering costs and reducing environmental impacts. Some of those use-cases are peer-to-peer energy trading, wholesale electricity distribution, refined resource management and more. “Blockchain technology in the energy market is predicted to hike from USD 200 million in 2018 to around USD 18 billion by 2025”, predicts Global Market Insights.
Can a digital technology influence one of the most “real-life” industries out of them all? Oh, yes. Blockchain can simplify real estate sales, which usually are coming along with a plethora of documents. All of this can be digitized, decentralized and encrypted, which would make sales much faster and the verification much simpler. Moreover, it will also reduce frauds. Real estate assets can be sold as tokens, data accessibility will be easier and therefore transparency will improve. You will know what the history of your new property is and will be able to see exactly what you are getting into. Of course, related services will benefit too – financing, asset management, even urban planning. Blockchain applications can help with them all.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to become so vast, that our current ideas of “a lot of devices” can even comprehend it. With billions upon billions of devices and sensors about to be connected to the web, managing and securing all of them will be a gigantic task. IoT can use a blockchain to ensure that the devices are used accordingly and there is no foul play. Moreover, IoT can also help the blockchain applications. For example, IoT sensors can help with the tracking of goods and allow a supply chain management blockchain to trigger various smart contract actions based on that information. As, of course, the information on the IoT devices themselves is also protected and guaranteed by the blockchain, so that there are several levels of trust.
Tickets for events
Tickets for various events can be a very hot commodity. As such, there is a huge black market for them. There are many ticket vendors and plenty of fraud attempts. Having a blockchain ticketing system can solve many of those issues. This system can function as a smart contract. It will guarantee the price of the ticket and its authenticity. Moreover, it will allow for a more customized approach for each customer.
Yes, even fashion can benefit from a blockchain. Especially when it comes to high value brands and goods. They cost thousands and there is a massive market for fake goods. Some of them are very well made and only experts can tell the difference. A blockchain can help customers and guarantee that the item they are purchasing is indeed genuine. Along with IoT devices, they can help customers track the entire route of an item and be sure they are not buying a counterfeit.
Of course, not all of this limits the potential uses of blockchain. The only real limitation is the imagination and ingenuity of developers who create the current and future blockchain applications.
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