The blockchain is a very strange thing — simultaneously the most overhyped, least understood and most disruptive technology of our time. The Invisible Technology that has the potential to transform the way we use the internet. The impact of the Blockchain goes beyond the financial services.
Blockchain technology is an undeniably ingenious invention- complex but the idea is simple. It works by allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied and doing that it has created the backbone of a new type of internet. The system uses complex mathematical functions to encrypt any data into a string of blocks, which are linked and secured using cryptographic technology, has come to be known as Blockchain. Each block is time-stamped and stored in a secure and immutable way, meaning it can never be changed or modified. It has the ability to record all sorts of digital record and transaction, exactly as it occurs. In fact, it can be programmed to store not just financial transactions, but just about anything of value.
Bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency today, was the first real-world application of the Blockchain technology. It is the technology that enables the existence of encrypted digital currency that functions without the need of any central authority, banks, or credit card companies. It is not about whether or not the Bitcoins will be worth millions. The real invention is the Blockchain technology which is rapidly changing and shaking up many industries. Here are a few of the practical examples:
1. Anonymous Online Voting
One of the many important implications of Blockchain technology could be to secure anonymous online voting. Just like how cryptocurrencies work where trading takes place with a limited amount of resources, voting could be a system of transactions where eligible voters will be issued 1 unit of voting currency which can be used to cast their vote. Using blockchain technology, every voting transaction has a digital record and each record can be traced back to an individual. Blockchain allows each person to vote only once, and most importantly, makes voting fraud substantially more difficult. This would also eliminate the possibility of hacking issues that have been a common concern since this most recent presidential election despite the prevalence of electronic voting systems.
For instance, the government of Moscow is pushing ahead with plans to test the effectiveness of blockchain for use in their local elections (Higgins, 2017). Similarly, NASDAQ used blockchain technology to build an e-voting platform that they successfully used to facilitate shareholder voting in 2016. NASDAQ said, they found the technology very practical, necessary and disruptive, and has many potential applications around the world (“Is Blockchain the Answer to E-voting?,” 2017).
2. Healthcare Sector
Similarly, this technology could be used to store medical records, which often suffer from inaccuracy and discrepancies. People have virtually no control over their fragmented medical record, and they can’t decide who can see their medical information or how it will be used. It would establish accountability and transparency with less friction and more trust, which can lead to improved patient care.
According to Ruubel (2016), the company named Guardtime is partnering with Estonian e-Health Authority to build a system using blockchain technology that would be used to store the health records. Some of the other companies working on similar blockchain products are SimplyVital Health and MedRec.
Dubai is working to transform itself into the first blockchain-powered government in the world by 2020 (Radcliffe, 2017). Similarly, Samsung is working with the Korean government to build the blockchain-powered platform that they hope to start using for welfare, public safety and transportation by 2022 (Buck, 2017).
3. Authentication, Verification of Identity, and Passwords
Governments all over the world hold an enormous amount of people’s personal data, such as Drivers licenses, birth certificates, death certificates, and passports to name a few. All those data including your passwords are stored on a server somewhere and if hacked your credentials are immediately compromised. You probably remember when 3 billion accounts were compromised when Yahoo got hacked in August 2013 (Selyukh, 2017). Almost every account was hacked, hackers stole information such as names, email addresses, passwords, phone numbers, and birth dates. The problem with these methods is that passwords are notoriously insecure, in security terms.
Similarly, when you use driver’s licenses to verify your age, you are already risking by providing more information than needed- such as your height, address, hair and eye color. Information that may be crucial in stealing one’s identity. Blockchain could be used to create a form of authentication that only provides access to certain information. Some of the companies who are working to build products to replace all passwords and other personal identifications such as driver’s licenses are Onename and ShoCard.
4. Stock Exchange
The Australian stock market is set to become the world’s first market to employ the blockchain technology. According to Caughill (2017), the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is currently working with the US-based blockchain startup Digital Asset Holdings to develop a blockchain-based system that will be used to clear and settle trades. In a press release by ASX (2017), Digital Asset’s CEO Blythe Masters said, “After so much hype surrounding distributed ledger technology, today’s announcement delivers the first meaningful proof that the technology can live up to its potential.”
Note: NASDAQ, the London Stock Exchange, and the Japan Exchange Group have also been looking into implementing blockchain technology.
Bitgive, 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has built a donation platform for non-profits that provide transparency and accountability to donors by sharing financial information and direct project results in real-time. It has partnered with some well-known nonprofits such as Save the Children, The Water Project, TECHO, Medic Mobile, and more.