One of the most talked-about technologies in the past few years is “blockchain”. The latest trending news about the technology broke yesterday with the IPO of Coinbase, which is based on blockchain. Essentially, the technology is an ever-growing list of records kept on peer-to-peer networks. Blockchains have high resistance to rogue modifications, and they offer data encryption and immutability which translates into unparalleled integrity of its records. The concept behind blockchain draws its roots from basic cryptology, but its execution brings numerous new applications into play. Blockchain use cases are expanding by the minute and some companies have decided to invest heavily into reshaping entire industries and processes using this tech. Here’s where we see the most mature results so far and where we expect the biggest push in the future:
Keeping accurate and verifiable records in the financial industry has always been a problematic task prone to malfeasance. Blockchain solves this by allowing us to easily build tamper-proof logs which document every single transactional instance. Moreover, blockchain helps reduce the number of intermediaries and thus reduces costs while simultaneously saving time. This is extremely valuable for international payments and money transfers, both of which are typically slow and inefficient today. Banking giants such as JP Morgan Chase and Citi are already intensively embracing blockchain, alongside 21% of other banks. Trade finance platforms represent another area where blockchain-based smart contracts are taking hold, alongside clearing and settlements. This makes the processes faster, cheaper, and more transparent.
Additionally, digital identity verification is claiming its ground – banks using blockchain identification can significantly hasten their client verification process. Encrypted blockchain also offers much stronger data privacy compared to conventional server infrastructure. This is super-useful when it comes to delicate things such as credit reports, where leaks can lead to massive damages.
Government Domain and Public Data
The public sector will also reap benefits from using blockchain technology in its efforts to increase transparency and clarity. The two spheres that probably stand out the most are conducting annual budgeting and the management and execution of the voting process. Both issues are focused on increasing public confidence, but the former is directly connected to the issue of providing greater transparency to eliminate concerns of corruption due to wastefulness and secrecy. Moving the budget onto a widely accessible blockchain model is a key component in achieving greater public trust and accountability. This would also apply seamlessly to public procurement and land title registries, where there’s currently ample space for manipulation.
Another disruptive blockchain use case would be digital voting. Modern voting infrastructure is extremely vulnerable to manipulation. Blockchain can decentralize this process and increase the system’s robustness in many ways. Synchronizing the voter list data would translate into easily matched final tallies, yielding maximum accountability. In addition, the verification process would create a system with no ability of any party to manipulate the results. This system would best synergize with digital IDs, ensuring full compliance and practically zero room for voter fraud or identity theft.
Medical Industry and Healthcare Reimagined
Blockchain is well suited for safe big data processing, which makes it a great choice for storing highly sensitive personal information. Smart contracts running on blockchain can selectively and securely transfer one’s medical information between doctors and patients. This way, we would be able to store all of our medical data behind private keys with maximum control. Simultaneously, this tech would allow for excellent insight into aggregated general patient data which is useful for assessing public health. Additionally, this information would be invaluable to researchers for large-scale clinical trials without jeopardizing patient privacy.
On the side of medical insurance, the patients would be able to easily share their data with other providers. This would be done via private shareable keys, and would also offer fully accurate medical event histories to prevent fraud. Remote patient monitoring would also function much more efficiently and would combine excellently with 5G IoT solutions for maximum results. In the field of genomics which is currently skyrocketing, blockchain applications would facilitate safe and private genomic information, eliminating the middlemen.
We’ve already mentioned smart contracts as one form of blockchain-based products. When it comes to insurance, these contracts would allow both customers and insurance companies to effectively exchange information regarding incidents. When combined with digital IDs, this would be a very robust system with the ability to easily recognize invalid claims. Also, it would allow insurance companies to create new products with automatic execution. In case of a certain event, the clauses of a smart contract could trigger the next phase of the process. The insurance business generally includes middlemen or multi-layered communication and sensitive data exchange. Optimizing this process brings a host of benefits and is likely to transform the industry within a few years.
IBM is at the forefront of these efforts with its openIDL, collaborating with the American Association of Insurance Services. This also translates afterward into much easier reinsuring and stimulates clients to engage in the process due to increased intuitiveness.
Real Estate and Media
The residential real estate market is very dynamic as properties are changing hands quite often. The high frequency of movement in this space, especially cross-state, brings additional complexity to all participants in this field. Blockchain has a few obvious benefits to optimize these processes. Firstly, it can easily improve property search and facilitate better matchmaking. Furthermore, it can serve as the basis for pre-lease or pre-sale due diligence on both ends, contributing to higher trust. Transparency and fraud prevention are always good add-ons, and so is the ability to ease leasing and payment later on. Tokenization can also promote fractional ownership or even daily trading in the real estate sphere.
In the media world, we’re already seeing companies adopting blockchain to combat fraud and intellectual property rights violations. On top of that, new forms of distribution are being developed to help decentralize certain market segments. A great practical example is Eluvio, which enables content producers to directly distribute videos to their audience without middlemen. This problem of overly aggressive middlemen is inherently embedded in some industries, and music is definitely one of them. Blockchain has a number of use cases there, such as micropayments and usage-determined consumption models, allowing for fairer profit distribution. Ultimately, there’s the domain of royalty payments, where blockchain allows artists to have direct and accurate insight into their performance.
New blockchain use cases and innovative solutions are emerging at a rapid pace. We expect this space to keep expanding as both processes and business models continue to offer new layers of value.