How Blockchain is Slowly Changing the World
Cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are tanking dangerously as panicked investors dispose of their virtual assets. More people are now more aware about virtual currencies and the blockchain technology that powers them.
The market slump and disappointments aside, blockchain technology is slowly changing how many sectors work, bit by bit.
Even though there is still a lot of ground to cover, developers are now starting to churn out real products. Giants like Microsoft and IBM are already rolling out enterprise services based on the distributed ledger technology, confirming the technology’s real potential.
Just about a week ago, IBM launched a blockchain-as-a-service platform that can help businesses streamline processes such as managing the payroll or logistics.
It is still early days and these are just some of the first real products to roll out of the pipeline. As is stands, there is greater understanding about the technology and such developments may not necessarily excite the cryptocurrency markets. Nevertheless, they are critical if the ecosystem is to enjoy real growth in the long term.
As has been demonstrated time and again, getting new technology into the mainstream takes time.
Here are a few sectors already being disrupted by blockchain technology.
Blockchain is basically a distributed ledger. Naturally, the first industry we expect to be revolutionised by the tech is finance. We already know how cryptocurrencies have enabled faster transfers at lower fees albeit with the high volatility.
Santander, the largest bank in Europe is already using blockchain to make faster transfers possible in four countries. The bank uses Ripple’s xCurrent technology.
Hundreds of banks are at various stages of testing and adopting Ripple’s platform for transfers. Payment processors and wire transfer services such as MoneyGram are also at various stages of adopting blockchain technology.
The industry still uses an infrastructure that goes as far back as the 1970s built around secure databases. Digitization has only helped the process move a little faster, but not fast enough. Transfers still take 2-3 days to reach a recipient and the industry is indeed ripe for disruption.
With blockchain, banks will no longer need to rely on a central database to settle transactions in a true peer-to-peer fashion. This will set the stage for the eventual demise of correspondent banking and RTGS.
Nasdaq is already using blockchain to help companies to issue and trade their shares. You are now probably familiar with DAO or Decentralised Autonomous Organisation. This model which runs on the Ethereum blockchain allows people to vote depending on how much they have invested in the project.
Santander is already trailblazing in in a slightly different area. In May, it reported that it has successfully conducted a proxy voting exercise during its AGM in March using blockchain technology in partnership with BroadBridge. JP Morgan and Northern Trust stood in as custodian banks. The exercise was dubbed the first practical use of blockchain for shareholders.
Also is it yet to mature, projects like Augur are meant to revolutionise forecasting by staking your own coins. Such platforms rely on the so called wisdom of the crowd to make more accurate predictions. Users with the best predictions are rewarded accordingly and their rating increased.
One of the most important features of blockchain is its immutability. How about using it to track changes to news items and helping to combat fake news?
That is exactly what “The World News” and several other platforms are trying to do – aggregating items from trusted sources, designating them as trusted and assigning colour codes for any edits. Others like Decentralised News Network wants to bring you peer reviewed news content as a way of combating sensational information.
Still, others like Wall Street Journal wants to use blockchain to disseminate trusted images. Once the authenticity of an image is confirmed, it can be shared on the blockchain for perpetuity.
More broadly, these instances demonstrate blockchain’s applicability in decentralised documentation.
Most of these projects are just breaking ground and it will be some time before we see real commercial products out there. Nevertheless, the use cases are compelling and they are well within reach.