Unless you have been living on the moon (where is Matt Damon?) you have most likely heard of blockchain technology. While typically associated with digital coins or cryptocurrencies, what you may not realize is that blockchain has a lot of other uses.
A Quick Blockchain Refresher
A blockchain is most simply described as a digital ledger for keeping track of transactions and information. Like a Google doc (an oversimplified example) once a blockchain is created and shared over a network everyone on that network has access to it.
Unlike a document that is copied or shared each block of data has a unique nonce and a hash. The nonce of the first block in a chain generates a cryptographic hash. The data in that block are then tied to that nonce and hash forever, or until they’re mined (by miners or hashers) by solving complex math problems. Each block has its own nonce and hash, but the hash references the previous hash in the block that came before it.
Blockchain technology is considered safe because to change the data (or re-mine) it in one block of the chain you have to change the data in every block that comes after it. The longer the blockchain the more difficult it is to hack it.
The appeal of blockchain technology is, no one person or corporation (like a bank) owns it. Transactions with digital coins are in real-time without the usual bank fees shared across incredibly secure networks. There is also no need to worry about exchange rates as a cryptocurrency technically has the same value around the world, unlike traditional money.
Investopedia is an excellent source of information on all things blockchain as it relates to cryptocurrencies.
Top 5 Other Uses For Blockchain Technology
Obviously, the top use of blockchain technology is the quick and secure transfer of funds from person to person with no bank middleman needed. With blockchain technology, there are no business hours or time zones to worry about. Transactions are completed in a matter of seconds 24/7 with instant verification that the funds have been received.
This secure transfer of data that is easily tracked but hard to steal or alter in any way also makes blockchain technology great for:
A blockchain secure identification cannot be stolen easily and can be issued to people around the globe. This is especially useful for people in impoverished nations that do not have a centralized system for creating traditional forms of identification. It’s here where blockchain may be able to boost access to banking services or help people enter into contracts for things like housing or employment.
Microsoft has been exploring this area of technology using its Authenticator app. While still in the early stages the potential for this kind of identification has a staggeringly long list of benefits.
Loyalty Rewards Programs
Retailers can store points or rewards for purchases in the form of tokens with blockchain technology. This benefits the retailer by incentivizing customers to return to their retail sites to shop and virtually eliminates the fraud commonly associated with card-based loyalty programs. Lolli is one such app that converts loyalty points to bitcoin that can be used for purchases with participating retailers like Nike, Kroger Foods, Chewy and Sephora.
Medical records hold highly sensitive information that should be guarded zealously. While medical record keeping has continued to increase security, blockchain technology would add an even more secure way to store private medical information and keep access to that data in the hands of the individual to decide who has access to it or not.
The number of times we have been forced to throw out peanut butter, baby formula, or lettuce can make you want to go on a diet. Food recalls are common due to salmonella or e coli contamination. With blockchain, your food could be traced from the ground or ranch to your plate. If there is a contamination concern the source could be much more quickly identified and only affected parties notified that dinner might be tainted with toxins.
Data Back-up and Storage
While cloud record-keeping is great, it is not as secure from hackers as blockchain technology. Having a backup to your cloud storage backup offers individuals more security when it comes to their private data.
The List Could Go On
Any industry that relies on the collection and distribution of data might benefit in the future from blockchain technology. Prescription drugs, weapons sales, wills and trusts, home security, all could use blockchain technology to track and secure information more quickly.