As you may or may not know – blocks on the blockchain can store data about monetary transactions. But it also turns out that blockchain a also a very reliable method of storing data about many other types of transactions, also. In fact, blockchain technology can be used to store data about things from property exchanges, stops in a supply chain, to votes for a political candidate.
Professional services network Deloitte recently surveyed 1,000 companies across seven countries about integrating blockchain into their business operations. Their survey found that 34% already had a blockchain system in production today, while another 41% expected to deploy a blockchain application within the next 12 months. In addition, nearly 40% of the surveyed companies reported they would invest $5 million or more in blockchain in the coming year.
Here are some of the most popular applications of blockchain curently being explored.
No industry stands to benefit more from integrating blockchain into its business operations more than the banking sector. Financial institutions only operate during standard business hours, five days a week. That means if you try to deposit a check on a Friday at 6 p.m., you likely will have to wait until the following Monday morning to see that money added your bank account. Even if you do make your deposit during business hours, the transaction can still take from one to three days to verify due to the sheer volume of transactions that banks need to settle. Now blockchain, on the other hand, never ever sleeps.
By integrating blockchain into banks, consumers can see their transactions processed in as little as 10 minutes, essentially the time it takes to add a block to the blockchain. By using blockchain, banks also have the opportunity to exchange funds between institutions much quicker and more securely. For example, in the stock trading business, the settlement and clearing process can take up to three days (or longer, if banks are trading internationally), meaning that the money and shares are frozen for that period of time.
Blockchain forms the bedrock for cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Currencies like the Australian dollar are regulated and verified by a central authority, usually a bank or the government. Under the central authority system, a user’s data and currency are technically at the whim of their bank or government. If a user’s bank collapses or they live in a country with an unstable government, the value of their currency may be at risk.
By spreading its operations across a network of computers, blockchain allows Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to operate without the need for central authorities. This not only reduces risk but also eliminates many of the processing and transaction fees, also. Furthermore, it also gives those in countries with unstable currencies a more stable currency with more applications and a wider network of individuals and institutions they can do business with, both domestically and internationally.
Health care providers can also leverage blockchain to securely store their patients’ medical records. When a medical record is generated and signed, it can be written into the blockchain, which provides patients with the proof and confidence that the record cannot be changed. These personal health records could be encoded and stored on the blockchain with a private key, so that they are only accessible by certain individuals, thereby ensuring greater privacy.
If you have ever spent time in your a Recorder’s Office, you will know that the process of recording property rights is both burdensome and inefficient. Today, a physical deed must be delivered to a government employee at the local recording office, where is it manually entered into acentral database and public index. In the case of a property dispute, claims to the property must be reconciled with the public index.
This process is not just costly and time-consuming – it is also prone to human error, where each inaccuracy makes tracking property ownership less efficient. Blockchain has the potential to eliminate the need for scanning documents and tracking down physical files in a local recording office. If property ownership is stored and verified on the blockchain, owners can trust that their deed is accurate and permanent.
A smart contract is a computer code that can be built into the blockchain to facilitate, verify, or negotiate a contract agreement. Smart contracts operate under a set of conditions that users agree to. When those conditions are met, the terms of the agreement are automatically carried out.
Say, for example, I’m renting you my apartment using a smart contract. I agree to give you the door code to the apartment as soon as you pay me your security deposit. Both of us would send our portion of the deal to the smart contract, which would hold onto and automatically exchange my door code for your security deposit on the date of the rental. If I don’t supply the door code by the rental date, the smart contract refunds your security deposit. This eliminates the fees that typically accompany using a notary or third-party mediator.
Suppliers can use blockchain to record the origins of materials that they have purchased. This would allow companies to verify the authenticity of their products, along with health and ethics labels like “Organic,” “Local,” and “Fair Trade.”
As reported by Forbes the food industry is moving into the use of blockchain to increasingly track the path and safety of food throughout the farm-to-user journey.
Voting with blockchain carries the potential to eliminate election fraud and boost voter turnout, In the USA the concept was tested in the Nov. 2018 midterm elections in West Virginia. Each vote would be stored as a block on the blockchain, making them nearly impossible to tamper with. The blockchain protocol would also maintain transparency in the electoral process, reducing the personnel needed to conduct an election and provide officials with instant results.