Society today is filled with uncertainty — and with valid reason. To be sure your fairtrade purchase is really helping a coffee bean farmer in Ethiopia, or that you know what percentage of your donation is actually being given to those it’s meant for, you’d need a secure system where records are stored and facts are verified by multiple witnesses so that no one could cheat it.
This type of system exists and it’s called Blockchain. No central person or company owns it. Rather, information is stored across a system of several personal computers so that there is no middleman. It’s decentralised and distributed so that no one person can take it down or in any way corrupt it. Moreover, anyone can use the system and help run it, as information is protected through cryptography.
Blockchain is essentially an ever-growing list of transactions (listed in blocks) that are verified, permanently recorded, and linked in chronological order. For most users, the beauty of Blockchain is in the unknown. Just as most of us are unaware of how 4G technology works or how silicon is processed to produce central processing units, Blockchain is the perfect “backstage” to many technologies and will surely impact the way we educate, manage, consume, govern, and communicate.
The impact of BlockchainThe financial system: It is said Blockchain will do to the Financial System, what the Internet did for news media. Not only does Blockchain allow anyone to exchange money faster, more efficiently, and more securely, but many banks are already working on adopting Blockchain technology to improve their transactions.
Crowdfunding and Donating to Charities: Donating to a worthy cause is never a bad idea. But what percentage of your donation is actually being given to those it’s meant for? Blockchains can help ensure that your money gets exactly where you need it to go. Bitcoin-based charities are already creating trust through smart contracts and online reputation systems and allowing donors to see where their donations go through a secure and transparent ledger. The United Nations’ World Food Programme is, for example, currently implementing Blockchain technology to allow refugees to purchase food by using Iris scans instead of vouchers, cash, or credit cards.
Supply chain management: With Blockchain, transactions are documented in a permanent decentralised record, and monitored securely and transparently. This can greatly reduce time delays and human errors. What’s more, it can also be used to monitor costs, labour, waste, and emissions at any point throughout the supply chain, thereby giving us a more profound understanding of the environmental impact of our supply chains. It can also be used to verify the authenticity of the fair trade status of products by tracking it from its point of origin.
Government systems: Government systems are often slow and prone to corruption. Implementing Blockchain based systems could reduce bureaucracy and increase security, efficiency, and transparency of government operations. The Government of Dubai are aiming to place all of its government documents on the Blockchain by 2020, which will allow for savings of $5.5billion a year (which equals to the cost of the Burj Khalifa), and unlock 25 million hours of economic productivity annually. Welfare and unemployment benefits could also be more easily verified and distributed, and votes could be counted and verified for legitimacy in a more secure and efficient manner.
Healthcare: Wouldn’t it be great if doctors did not have to “post referrals” anymore? Why can’t all of our medical information be stored in a central database? The centralisation of such sensitive information makes it very vulnerable. With all of the private patient data that hospitals collect, a secure platform is necessary. With the advent of Blockchain, hospitals and other healthcare organisations could create a centralised and secure database, store medical records, and share them strictly with authorised doctors and patients.
The Real Estate industry: Common issues here of buying and selling including bureaucracy, lack of transparency, fraud and mistakes in public records. Utilising Blockchain technology, we can speed up transactions by reducing the need for paper-based record keeping. It can also help with tracking, verifying ownership, ensuring the accuracy of documents and transferring property deeds.
While Blockchain is still relatively new, the possibilities for innovation are endless. Along with the points explored, it will affect retail, energy management, forecasting, consulting, insurance and much more. Let’s prepare ourselves for a future where distributed, autonomous solutions will have a huge role — both in our personal lives and in business.