Digitized bookkeeping using a decentralized ledger — that’s a core component of blockchain technology. Blockchain has already taken the world of digital currencies by storm. At its core, blockchain is a technology that enables immutable storage of information, which in turn helps with verification of transactions, the anonymity of information exchange, elimination of mediators, and ease of use. And because the info exchange is digital, it’s quick and inexpensive. Until now, blockchain has been viewed as a primarily finance-focused technology. But blockchain disruption is already making ripples in numerous other industries. Let’s tell you about some of these that are ripe for this type blockchain disruption.
Making ocean shipping transparent
Did you know that 90 percent of global goods are carried by the ocean shipping industry? This supply chain is among the most complex ones you’ll ever see — and one ripe for blockchain disruption.
Stakeholders involve land transporters, customs brokers, government employees, port authorities, and ocean shipment companies. Because of this large number of moving parts, the processes within this industry are slow, inefficient, and opaque.
The costs of managing documentation for international shipments, along with the related administrative costs, could be as high as 20 percent of the cost of physical movement of goods. International trade partners need transparency and speed — and blockchain can help.
- Based on the user-specific level of permissions, users get an end-to-end visibility of the supply chain.
- Users can view documents such as bills of lading and customs approvals as well as track progress on documentation such as licenses and approvals using the blockchain-powered application.
- Real-time exchange of information about events taking place during the shipment life cycle helps managers take quick actions to ensure goods’ safety, movement, and security.
- A single user can’t edit any information in the ledger without the agreement of others. This ensures information sanctity.
- This goes a long way in reducing wastage, avoiding fraud, speeding up of processes, securing and safeguarding documents, and enhancing inventory management.
Making medical information more secure
Because of the blockchain’s ability to store and transfer information without revealing the identity of the creator, its applications in industries such as medical care are obvious. A recent Deloitte report suggested that health care is the most aggressive adopter of blockchain technology.
Because information in a “block” can’t be changed once committed, the health-care sector views blockchain as a reliable method of storing sensitive and private medical information. Using smart contracts, patients could control and authorize who sees their medical records.
Blockchain also has notable benefits in terms of automating insurance claim payments and preventing fraud. Blockchain can also enable medical institutes to use patients’ medical information while still keeping it anonymous.
Solving the age-old ‘origin of food’ problem
Those packaged trail mixes on your neighborhood store’s shelves or in your office’s vending machines — do you know the origin of the different food components of the mix? From farm to fork, food passes hands from food processing units to distributors, and then to retailers.
At each step of the chain, each player only sees one step ahead and one step back, without clear visibility of the entire chain.
Consequently, it’s a nightmare in the food industry when news of faulty batches spreads. Because it takes awfully long to find out the source of the problem, retailers have to recall large batches, cancel massive orders, and send millions of dollars worth of product to quality review.
Walmart is at the forefront of showing the world how blockchain (with help from IoT) can solve this problem. By using the blockchain technology, Walmart is able to quickly trace back defects in quality to the origin of the problem, without letting the other components of the supply chain get affected.
With time, blockchain and IoT could become the gold standard in food supply chain management.
An enabler of irrefutable identity authentication
Identity theft costs U.S. consumers $16 billion annually. Imagine the hype a technological achievement would garner if it could promise a solution to all kinds of identity thefts. That’s blockchain for you.
The “authorization” process is relevant for almost every valuable transaction online — right from basic e-commerce to all important government-backed processes deeply tied to national security. In spite of the advancements in digital security, databases are being breached and the information is being misused.
Blockchain offers a mechanism using which identities can be authenticated in an immutable, incontestable, and super secure manner. Blockchain technology uses digital signatures based on the idea of public key cryptography. This means that it checks whether a transaction is signed by a unique private key — something only the original owner would possess.
Digital identities, passports, birth and death certificates, wedding certificates, special status certificates, e-residency, and identity documents of all kinds — blockchain can make all these identify processes profoundly secure and beyond the reach of fraud.
The solution to e-voting dilemmas
Security is the single biggest concern that detractors cite when questioned on the viability of taking the electoral voting process online. Blockchain could easily provide a mechanism for voters to confirm that their vote was registered on the system and still remain anonymous to everyone.
There have been entry-level and basic trials with Internet-enabled voting, although the results haven’t been great.
Concerns such as downloading of software over insecure Internet connections, malware-infected PCs, and entry of PINs and passwords in front of strangers and web cameras have vastly undermined the efforts expended in making e-voting popular.
Blockchain technology eliminates many of these concerns because the authentication of information in this technology is extremely isolated and beyond manipulation. Though the idea of blockchain-powered electoral voting processes is still in its infancy, it’s certainly going to be a major discussion-point as governments evolve.
Blockchain disruption: Heading to an industry near you
Before we wrap this guide up, it’s necessary to admit that most blockchain applications are still under development and far from mainstream adoption.
However, because of the proven effectiveness of the technology, as witnessed in the cryptocurrency universe, it’s only a matter of time before blockchain disruption hits mainstream industries and improves human lives immensely.
Featured image: Flickr / Petra Bensted
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