So, you heard about Blockchain, read a few articles online or watched a few videos to figure out how it works. Now that you understand that, you’re still confused… How can this technology be used in the real world and in the future? Well let’s take a look at a few examples but before we do that, let’s quickly recap what a blockchain is. In simple terms, it’s a distributed database that everyone can get a copy of.
Every person with a copy can add new records to this database but cannot change any record once it’s in there. This property makes a blockchain great to record data in a transparent way because everyone gets to see what’s in it. So how can it be used? Let’s start with the most obvious and most popular application of blockchains and that is cryptocurrencies. When Bitcoin launched in 2008 it allowed people to directly transact with one another without having to trust third parties like banks. Since then over 1600 different cryptocurrencies have been created. But let’s look at the real world applications now and in the future and its potential beyond cryptocurrencies.
1. Transportation Industry
One of the biggest headaches of purchasing or leasing a car, besides negotiating with the dealer, is the financing process. In 2015, Visa partnered with DocuSign, a transaction management startup, on a project that uses Blockchain to streamline car leasing called “click, sign and drive.” Using this tool, customers would sign both the lease and an insurance policy entered in a Blockchain public ledger.. Blockchain technology can be used to create Smart Contracts which essentially eliminates intermediaries and streamlines the entire process.
The transportation industry is experiencing significant change as connected vehicles, autonomous cars and ridesharing impact the landscape. To stay competitive, industry leaders are constantly looking for opportunities to increase efficiency, improve security, reduce environmental impact and refine the customer experience. Luckily, blockchain has the potential to solve some of the sector’s most pressing problems.
From verifying a vehicle’s history, better supply chain tracking, automating transactions, enabling seamless ridesharing or supporting fairer insurance, mobility enterprises are already integrating this technology and coming out with exciting applications.
2. Digital Voting
Another interesting Blockchain application is digital voting. Right now voting happens either on paper or on special computers that are running proprietary software. Voting on paper costs a lot of money and electronic voting has security issues.
In recent years we’ve even seen countries move away from digital voting and adopting paper again because they fear that electronic votes can be tampered with and influenced by hackers. But instead of paper, we could use blockchains to cast and store votes. Such a system would be very transparent as everyone could verify the voting count for themselves and it would make tampering with it very difficult. The Swiss company Agora is already working on such a system and it’s going to be completely open source. But there are many challenges. First, you have to be able to identify voters without compromising their privacy.
Secondly, if you allow people to vote with their own computers or phone, you have to take into account that those might be infected with malware designed to tamper with the voting process. And a final example: a system like this also has to be able to withstand denial-of-service attacks because that could render the whole thing unusable. Definitely, a tough nut to crack but if it becomes reality it could make for a more transparent and a practical voting system.
3. Legal Notary Platform
Blockchain technology can also be used as a convenient and affordable notary service. Just Chain, a startup based in the United Arab Emirates focused on implementing distributed ledger blockchain solutions for justice and public safety, announced Sunday a legal notary platform called NotaryChain.
This development follows the recent approval of regulations from the UAE Cabinet on digital signatures and the application to notary services in line with the UAE’s Vision 2021 involving digital technology. Using NotaryChain, legal documents can be notarized digitally and securely from anywhere, which will provide cost savings for notary publics and customers. The digital documents can be witnessed and then saved in high-quality formats to an enterprise-grade distributed ledger and protected with cryptographic keys in a tamper proof chain of custody.
The platform is designed to provide notary capability for legal documents such as power of attorney, memorandum of association, contracts and marriage certificates. “NotaryChain represents a new era of accessibility, convenience, and productivity for the notary public,” said JustChain Chief Executive Mohammed Akbar Farook. “Based on blockchain technology, the platform offers a secure and tamperproof digital alternative to the traditional process of having to hand-deliver and notarize documents.”
Legal documents can get lost, threatened with fraud or forgery or destroyed. Even authentic documents stored at courthouses, which exist to be compared for verification, can be destroyed. With a blockchain ledger, digital copies are stored across multiple nodes in the cloud across the globe to make this likelihood almost impossible. Blockchain technology secures information in a historical chain of transactions that uses a cryptographic hash to prove that the block has not been tampered with. Since the previous block is signed by the following block’s hash, any change to the subsequent block would change the value of that hash and thus would reveal tampering. The ledger itself is also distributed between many operators, which means that if any copy differs, it’s instantly revealed that it has been changed.
Justchain is just one example. Mobile Applications like Uproov, a smartphone multimedia platform can be detected immediately following an image, video or sound recording by the user. Meanwhile, The online website stampd.io for instance, allows you to add documents to the Bitcoin or Ethereum blockchain. Once added, you can always prove that you created a document at a certain point in time much like a notary although right now, blockchains aren’t on the same level as notaries in a legal perspective.
4. Food Safety
Food Safety is one of the biggest concerns in our society. We eat food that is manufactured in factories. It also goes through a complicated process before reaching us. There are plenty of ways food can be contaminated or changed.
Blockchain enhances the ability to quickly pinpoint potential sources of contamination to efficiently prevent, contain or rectify outbreaks. Transparency in terms of blockchain food traceability can validate and authenticate food origin and improve brand credibility. Additional benefits include fraud prevention and the ability to better tackle outbreaks through prevention methods that can help minimize food testing expenses and improve margins.
The end consumers will benefit the most out of it as they will always get the food items that are fresh and ready for consumption. This is one of the best enterprise blockchain use cases in this industry. Some Real cases are described below:
Walmart Pilot Testing
Tracking a package of sliced mangoes purchased from a Walmart store took an internal team six days, 18 hours and 26 minutes to complete, reports Fortune. This prompted Walmart to begin pilot testing using blockchain for traceability. Fortune notes that the blockchain pilot could trace the sliced mangoes through every checkpoint from a Mexican farm, to a hot-water treatment plant, to an importer, to a U.S. processing plant, to a cold storage facility and finally to Walmart. Blockchain technology could cut down the time to trace the same sliced mangoes to just two seconds, according to Fortune.
Carrefour blockchain integration
Europe’s largest retailer, Carrefour, has integrated blockchain food traceability for free-range chickens in Auvergne, France, enabling shoppers to track each stage of production through their smartphones, reports Reuters. By the end of 2018, Carrefour plans to expand blockchain to other food items including honey, eggs, milk, tomatoes, hamburgers and salmon. Swiss food company Nestle and British-Dutch Unilever have also participated in blockchain projects to improve food supply chain transparency, according to Reuters.
Limitations of blockchain
There are inherent limitations for blockchain food traceability adoption. For blockchain to be effective, there must be participation from all parties and points of contact involved. Additionally, data integrity lies in the hands of the data collectors and needs a system of validation to avoid tampering. Having a unified system with definitive standards and regulations is the major barrier to adoption.
5. Supply Chain and Logistics
Blockchain has already proved to be of great advantage in high-resource fields, such as mining where precious metals and precious gems need to be systematically tracked and sourced. Over some time, it’s likely that Blockchain technology will be integrated into the various other supply chain solutions across the globe.
To help you understand, how blockchain can create a revolution in the existing logistics and supply chain industry, here are a few solutions we feel are ideal for it,
Building a Global Reach is Easier – Supply chains must now work seamlessly around the world. By employing the use of a decentralized database that enhances the tracking of all transactions, blockchain will make supply chain management more visible and consistent across the globe. To state simply, anyone from anywhere at any time can access the series of transactions being executed.
Improved Transparency Among Partners – By transparency, I mean that anyone can view the transactions on the blockchain’s ledger at any time. In the supply chain, this will help vendors and suppliers will see transactions simultaneously and resolve issues, in case something arises. Such a factor makes it possible for them to securely conduct valuable transactions. Further, when used for shipping and logistics, blockchain promotes ease of tracking large-scale shipments and even works great for individual packages.
Improves the Sourcing Visibility – As in the blockchain, all transactions are visible, it could be of great help with tracking commodities. For eg, in the food industry, it can be used to denote where food has been sourced, and by whom it was sourced initially.
Let’s take another example of the diamond industry. Here, blockchain could be used to register and validate specific gems. Also, not to forget, it can be used to ensure that products are ethically sourced and that they have been acquired from safe, certified sources by sellers.
6. Insurance Claims
The insurance industry has been around for centuries, but unfortunately, many of its processes are outdated. Many policies are still processed on paper contracts, consumers still call by phone to purchase new policies, the list goes on.
While blockchain shows promise in improving the insurance industry from every angle, the technology is still in its infancy. However, there are some start-up companies leading the way with blockchain. Fidentiax, a blockchain market for trading insurance policies, launched its digital ledger product for insurance policies in 2018. Named ISLEY, Fidentiax describes it as being consumers’ “insurance buddy,” and it allows users to store, view and receive alerts for their insurance portfolios. Policyholders’ portfolios can even be shared with designated loved ones through the ledger to assist in beneficiary payouts after death.
- Enhances efficiency – Because so many processes are manual and time-consuming, blockchain can streamline paperwork and reconciliation for insurance contracts.
- Increases trust – Cryptography in blockchain ensures that transactions are secure, authenticated and verifiable, ensuring customer privacy.
- Claims processing – Blockchain enables real-time data collection and analysis, which could significantly speed up claims processing and payouts.
- Smart contracts – These programmable contracts contain logic that is automatically executed when predefined conditions are met. “Because these if/then contracts reduce paperwork on the back end, they will become the insurance equivalent of no-frills airlines,” said Jeff Stollman, Principal Consultant at Rocky Mountain Technical Marketing. “They will be cheap to administer and less costly than more robust policies, and payment can be immediate.”
- Prone to cyber attacks – The global blockchain market is expected to be worth $20 billion in the year 2024. With so many new users every day, blockchain is becoming more prone to cyber attacks.
- Loss of integrity of data – Integrity of data must consider the validity of every transaction, which brings fraudulent insurance transactions into question. Blockchain must protect against fraudulent activity to ensure integrity of data.
- Cost of operations – As blockchain becomes more and more popular, it will become more expensive for insurance companies to adopt this new technology into everyday processes.
- Blockchain privacy – In cryptocurrency (like bitcoin), blockchain is publicly available, with means every transaction can be traced back to its original block. That information can potentially be accessed by criminals looking to exploit that information.
7. Real Estate
Real estate is an ever-growing industry. Right now, it suffers from centralization. Some of the issues in buying and selling real estate are bureaucracy, lack of transparency, fraud and mistakes in public records. Using blockchain technology can speed up transactions by reducing the need for paper-based record-keeping it can also help with tracking verifying ownership ensuring accuracy of documents and transferring property deeds.
There is a clear need for blockchain in real estate. With the ever-increasing valuation of the real estate over a year over, it is no doubt that it can use a brand new technology to help cope with the increasing growth. Any enterprise blockchain should have the right set of features for the real estate with the ability to maintain a decentralized database.
The use-cases of blockchain include proper land titles and deed records, tokenization, real estate funds, and asset management, investors and tenant identity, real-time accounting, and finally leasing and payments. Among all the use cases, tokenization can be the biggest disruptor. It will enable issuers to ensure that distributions are done according to a certain condition. Moreover, it will reduce cost by improving execution speed, innovation, better administration, and so on. Ubiquity is a blockchain secured platform for real estate record-keeping that is an alternative for legacy paper-based systems. Deeds, on the other hand, can also be accessed through distributed ledgers as blockchain is immutable. This means that no one can change or hamper information without the proper right access.
Healthcare companies are always looking for better ways to handle their process. Right now, healthcare is in shambles. They use centralized databases, which mean an inefficient way of handling the data, the patients, and the doctors. Blockchain healthcare applications hold the key to improving the current healthcare condition.
With blockchain, multiple healthcare systems(HIS) can come together and exchange data with each other, thanks to the distributed framework that it has to offer. So, which challenges blockchain can solve? Let’s list them below.
One of the biggest advantages of using blockchain is the interoperability that it has to offer. The current HIS uses different types of protocols and standards to ensure that the data can be accessed across hospitals.
Most of the making use of CDA, FHI, HL7 2.X for data exchange and storage. However, this can lead to complexity when it comes to integrating new systems or platforms. The solution is blockchain. Blockchain can solve all the interoperability issues as it acts as a decentralized database. The data can be accessed thanks to the APIs with a focus on the standard data format.
Blockchain’s integrity also solves a lot of problems that the current healthcare industry is going through. Blockchain in healthcare today realizes heavily on how the data is transmitted between systems. This leads to errors nullifying the importance of the data stored.
With blockchain, the data integrity can be maintained at all the levels all the time. It also enables removal of multiple instances of obsolete patient data. Also, once the data is uploaded on the blockchain, it cannot be changed by malicious actors, preserving the integrity of the data. Only the patients can change the details when working with a physician.
Maintenance cost is also an integral problem with the current healthcare systems. The current system requires maintenance across different operations and needs a specialized team to ensure that all the functions are running accordingly and are in sync. Blockchain doesn’t suffer from this problem as it is a distributed decentralized network.
Data is distributed across the network which means that there is no single point of failure. If a node goes down, data can be fetched from other nodes as there are multiple copies of the data on the network. Each node has its copy of the database. The backup mechanism is amazing as it will help hospitals to cope with the emergencies better.
9. Pharma Industry
One could make the argument that blockchain was built for the pharmaceutical industry, due to the industry’s strict privacy practices, laws and global regulations. Blockchain can help solve inherent problems that may arise because of this.
The pharmaceutical industry is continuously exploring the Blockchain platform to help with several real-world use cases. The use cases include storing patient health data safely, accelerating clinical trials, and ultimately lowering drug development costs.
Manufacturing Supply Chain
One of several critical issues in pharmaceutical supply chain manufacturing is the incredible number of incompatible computer systems that provide virtually no visibility of end-user sales to manufacturers. The problems resulting from this complicated situation could easily be avoided with blockchain by offering real-time access to data and profiles across the entire pharmaceutical supply chain, from the product codes of the manufacturer of ingredients to the pharmacy offering prescriptions to patients. Suppliers are currently operating without a shared ledger, creating a broad infrastructure gap and little-to-no protection for its participants.
Counterfeit drugs are distributed throughout a very complex network, making them difficult to detect and remove. To prevent counterfeit drugs from being distributed, a system is needed that can trace and track drug delivery at every stage. Blockchain is the latest innovation that can handle the complex supply chain and track the product at every stage.
The key concerns surrounding the safety of drugs in the pharmaceutical supply chain are how the drugs are initially made. Traceability of active pharmaceutical ingredients during actual manufacturing is a complicated process, so the detection of drugs that do not contain the required active ingredients can ultimately lead to patient harm or even death. The number of deaths connected to these issues has increased in recent years. Blockchain’s advanced features enable it to provide the basis for complete traceability of drugs, from manufacturer to end-user, and the ability to identify exactly where the supply chain breaks down during the issue.
10. Tax and Accounting Professionals
Auditing requires the confirmation of transactions and balances on firms’ accounting ledgers at the end of the reporting period due to time-lags, reconciliations, and accounting entries. Each side of the transaction keeps its own records. Blockchains and their almost immediate provision of an immutable record of transactions provides for shared transaction information, automatically synchronized across each location. Such a provision of information removes transaction level reconciliations and facilitates developing continuous auditing. For auditors, this offers the potential for a transition from a periodical or annual exercise to a continuous matter, one that can now encompass both parties to a transaction simultaneously.
As blockchains allow recording and settlement of transactions to occur at the same time as the transaction itself, auditors can obtain data in real-time and in a consistent, recurring format. Monitoring what happens in real time rather than testing (selectively) and reconciling what happened in retrospect is a substantial departure from contemporary audit techniques.
Due to distributed ledger technology, blockchain technology eliminates the need for entering accounting information into multiple databases and potentially removes the need for auditors to reconcile disparate ledgers. This could save substantial amounts of time and the risk of human error may be considerably reduced.
Reconciliation of accounting data will not be fully automated through blockchain technology as auditors’ professional expertise and experience is required to assess the accuracy of complex accounting transactions. However, the ability to trust that both parties are recording the same base transaction information and the real-time availability of this accounting data offers immense benefits for the efficiency with which accounting data can be reconciled and analyzed.
Imagine the power of this technology combined with Artificial Intelligence (AI) where the testing for discrepancies through analytical review could take place in real time and without the risk of missing transactions or the auditor having a blind spot in analyzing the information.
Blockchain is great at keeping track of things over time. If your industry deals with data or transactions of any kind it’s likely a field that can be disrupted by blockchain technology, the space is wide open and full of opportunities in the foreseeable future. This article is just a brief overview of how they can be used and it’s by no means a complete list of all applications.
Blockchain is making the impossible possible by allowing people to secure digital relationships. Thanks to the advent of the blockchain, data is now being recorded, disclosed, and secured differently. Due to its tremendous potential for the future, blockchain is being leveraged by many smart and innovative companies for enhancing their business processes and eventually becoming the business leaders of their respective industries.
- Transportation Industry – https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2020/03/11/how-blockchain-is-driving-new-opportunities-in-mobility/?sh=1e27b27343b5
- Digital Voting – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQWflNQuP_o
- Legal notary platform – https://siliconangle.com/2021/01/04/justchain-launches-blockchain-based-legal-notary-platform-uae/
- Food Safety – https://openlink.com/en/insights/articles/blockchain-food-traceability-can-revolutionize-the-industry/
- Supply Chain and Logistics – https://medium.com/brandlitic/is-blockchain-the-future-of-supply-chain-c406fd60d255
- Insurance Claims – https://www.bankrate.com/insurance/blockchain-disruption/
- Real Estate – https://101blockchains.com/enterprise-blockchain-use-cases/
- Healthcare – https://101blockchains.com/blockchain-for-healthcare/
- Pharma Industry – https://www.blockchain-council.org/blockchain/top-use-cases-of-blockchain-in-pharma/
- Tax and Accounting Professionals – https://www.ifac.org/knowledge-gateway/preparing-future-ready-professionals/discussion/blockchain-technology-shaping-future-accountancy-profession