Blockchain technology was developed initially to support Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency. It turns out, however, that the blockchain also has many other applications. A decentralized ledger of data that can be shared and stored, blockchain is used for secure data storage, smart contracts, cybersecurity, logistics, and many other things. Already, individuals, companies, and nonprofit organizations are using blockchain in realms as diverse as politics, entertainment, real estate, and intellectual property rights. The following are five of the leading industries that are now implementing blockchain solutions.
1. Banking and Finance
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are the most visible way that blockchain technology is transforming the financial world. However, even traditional banks and other financial institutions are starting to embrace this technology. In an industry where trust, efficiency, and security are crucial, the blockchain offers many possibilities. Banks are already using blockchain in several ways, including software for verifying identity, payment systems (especially cross-border payments) and clearing and settlement.
The UK bank Barclays has recently partnered with Circle, an innovative app that lets people send not only money around the world but also emojis and GIF videos. Circle, a blockchain-based service which recently launched in the U.S., is also getting ready to release a new cryptocurrency investment app. Circle provides users with favorable rates on cross-currency exchanges between pounds and dollars. Soon, it will also support Euro exchanges.
People can take advantage of this service even if they live in a country where Circle isn’t available. When someone sends money to such a country, the currency is converted into Bitcoin and then into the currency of the recipient. Barclays provides Circle with the account to store British currency and the technology to support transfers. This partnership is significant in several ways. Not only is a traditional bank working with a blockchain startup, but the enterprise allows for a smooth exchange between conventional currencies and cryptocurrency.
2. Entertainment and Media
The entertainment industry, including music, film, media, publishing, and others are all ripe for change in many ways. Artists are finding it increasingly difficult to break through, even with the internet and social media. The current model lends itself towards exploitation of artists by large companies. The other alternative is for music, videos, and other creative projects to be given away online, which benefits the audience but not the creator. There are also problems such as creating fair contracts and preventing piracy. Blockchain technology has the potential to address these and other issues and provide innovative solutions.
One example of how blockchain is already helping to bring about such changes is Ascribe, a platform that makes it easier for artists (and anyone who needs to establish intellectual property rights) to establish attribution and share their work. Using blockchain technology, Ascribe provides creators with a unique ID, making it impossible for anyone to steal or copy their work.
Spotify, as one of the industry leaders in music streaming services, understands how challenging it can be to deal with conflicts (that often lead to lawsuits) over attribution. In response to this, Spotify acquired MediaChain, a blockchain startup that has created a peer-to-peer database to track attribution as well as producing cryptocurrency of its own, through which artists can receive payments. Spotify has been forced to pay out substantial sums to music publishers as settlements over class action lawsuits. Another music project that’s using blockchain technology to make it easier for artists to get paid is Muse BlockChain, which has released an app called PeerTracks that makes it easier to track online royalty payments.
3. Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals
Healthcare is another industry that’s fraught with challenges where blockchain can offer creative solutions. Accurate and up-to-date records are crucial in healthcare, both for ensuring that patients receive optimal care and for managing payments. The government of Estonia is one of the frontrunners in using blockchain technology to create a more efficient healthcare system. In 2007, they began using Guardtime Blockchain to manage and authenticate electronic health records.
Blockchain can also help to improve and accelerate clinical research for pharmaceuticals and medical procedures. Pharmaceutical companies and regulatory agencies such as the FDA are coming under increased scrutiny for various issues, including delayed testing, biased results, and releasing unsafe drugs on the market. There’s a need for enhanced, honest procedures untainted by special interests. As with music and other entertainment, smart contracts can be used in the pharmaceutical industry to create greater trust between parties and to establish attribution, such as in the development of new drugs. Still another way the blockchain can help with healthcare is by ensuring quality and identifying counterfeit drugs, something that can save lives.
Several companies have partnered to create the MediLedger Project, which uses blockchain software to track medicine and prevent errors and fraud in the supply chain of drugs and medical supplies. Using the blockchain for such purposes has benefits to everyone involved in the medical and pharmaceutical industries - doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and patients.
Freight, transportation, and logistics are near perfect candidates for blockchain technology. Companies that require advanced logistics to transport people, goods, or packages are under ever-increasing pressure to provide faster and cheaper services. Logistics drives many large industries even if many consumers don’t think about it. Whether for moving items via ship, truck, railroad, or other means, logistics is a complex and technology-driven enterprise that the blockchain has thoroughly disrupted.
Logistics is fundamental to so many aspects of our society. Items such as food, clothing, electronics, and countless other products must be transported from warehouses to retail stores or directly to consumers’ homes. As companies such as Amazon raise the bar and people expect virtually instant deliveries (without wanting to pay extra for this luxury!), there’s immense pressure to come up with more efficient solutions.
One of the companies at the forefront of blockchain technology in the logistics field is ShipChain, a platform that creates complete transparency for businesses in this multi-trillion dollar industry. Logistics is mostly a behind-the-scenes science that business owners and company executives spend lots of time thinking about but that the public seldom considers. What may appear like a simple delivery usually entails a large number of transactions between various vendors, locations, and transportation routes. Traditionally, logistics has suffered from corruption and inefficiency. ShipChain tracks shipments across the entire supply chain, no matter how complex. This type of technology has the potential to lower costs and create more efficient services.
Several large companies, including Walmart, FedEx, and UPS are already using blockchain technology to improve efficiency and transparency. As these are some of the biggest names in, respectively, retail and delivery, it’s apparent that this new technology is rapidly transforming the way goods are tracked and moved around.
5. Real Estate
Just as the blockchain is disrupting banking and financial markets, it’s also impinging on another area of investing: real estate. That is a vast global industry in which investors must contend with factors such as proof of ownership, regulations, taxes, and dealing with a variety of banks, government agencies, and attorneys. With real estate deals increasingly conducted over long distances with phone calls, emails, and wire transfers, it is vital to establish trust and a high degree of security, which blockchain technology can provide in several ways. In addition to making investments more liquid, it can increase safety and reduce the need for intermediaries such as attorneys, brokers, and even banks. As with other industries, blockchain can also reduce costs.
Real estate brokers and investors are starting to use blockchain solutions to make transactions more secure, transparent, and efficient. Atlant, which calls itself “The world’s real estate blockchain platform,” makes it possible to tokenize real estate. One of the traditional limitations of real estate has been its lack of liquidity. Atlant issues tokens that are convertible into actual currency, which allows investors and sellers to trade real estate more like stocks and other more liquid assets.
Another blockchain startup that’s offering exciting alternatives to real estate investors is Propy. This platform is especially attractive to people who hold Bitcoin or Ethereum and want to invest in real estate without having first to convert their cryptocurrency into traditional currency. It also lets investors conduct real estate transactions entirely online.
Real estate is another industry where blockchain technology is just starting to make an impact. With many more platforms and services expected to arise soon, buying and selling property will be faster, easier, and more secure.
Blockchain Technology Will Transform Society in Countless Ways
We’ve looked at a few industries where the blockchain is already causing disruptions. That, however, is only the beginning. There are many other industries and areas of society that will also be affected. The following are just a few examples.
• Politics and voting — Blockchain could make voting more secure and eliminate widespread fears of fraud, tampering, and hacking.
• Insurance — This giant industry is another where efficiency, security, and managing data can be enhanced with blockchain technology. PWC published a report outlining the many ways the blockchain can benefit the insurance industry.
• Education — Among other things, blockchain technology can verify education credentials and student data. Sony and IBM are partnering to create an educational platform for this purpose.
• Cloud Storage — As more and more data is uploaded to the cloud, more robust and secure systems are needed to keep everything secure. The blockchain can create decentralized and safer ways to store data in the cloud.
As people learn more about blockchain technology and get more comfortable with it, many industries and areas of society will become transformed. They already have seen incredible changes just in the last few years. That, however, is just the beginning.
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