When you think of blockchain, you probably immediately think of cryptocurrency and ecommerce transactions. You think of Bitcoin and Ethereum and Litecoin. You might even think of some secret, black market dealings that happen entirely on the dark web.
But just because blockchain is the technology that these cryptocurrencies are based on, doesn’t mean it’s the only thing it can be used for. But to understand the many uses of blockchain, you must understand the technology itself.
What is blockchain technology?
Blockchain technology is a public, distributed ledger or series of recorded information. It’s controlled by a community of users that can add to and make additions to the chain. No one person, entity or organization controls the network or its information.
The backbone technology of blockchain is based on a series of transactions. Each transaction gets its own little block or “node” of vital data. And each time a change is added to the blockchain, another little block of data is created and stored.
This means that throughout the blockchain, you can access every change and every update that was made to the chain. And these data records are saved with timestamps so they can’t be altered at a later date. Data can’t be rewritten or changed, only new blocks of data can be added.
But is this ledger secure? Or do you still need to enlist cybersecurity agencies to help protect this information?
Blockchain is innately a safe and secure record of transactions. This is partly due to its decentralized nature which makes it difficult for cybercriminals to find one single point of weakness. It’s self-auditing, transparent and resilient to corruption.
This means that, in essence, blockchain is unbreakable.
What are other uses of blockchain technology?
This distributed ledger can be used for a variety of different reasons and in a variety of different industries. From healthcare to the supply chain, blockchain is the technology of the future.
One use of blockchain has been in voting systems. BitCongress is trying to use blockchain technology to create a decentralized voting system where every vote counts, every vote is tamper free, and every vote enters directly into a candidate’s “wallet” when the vote is placed. The hope here is to eliminate, or at least lessen, voter fraud.
Another use of blockchain is in healthcare. By creating a system of recorded transactions using blockchain technology, a person can easily access and record medical records with ease. These could then be tracked and distributed to all healthcare providers a patient has. It also means the patient can get quick and easy access. It also ensures records don’t get lost or altered, and that results remain authentic and confidential.
How can blockchain technology be used in the supply chain?
Right now, we’ve got a real problem with the supply chain. There are too many steps and stages to the process, too many locations to navigate, and too many incidents for anyone to feasibly keep track of.
This means that there is very little reliability throughout the process. But blockchain can ensure transparency and reliability for consumers, and security and increased oversight for businesses.
The public, decentralized ledger that blockchain provides would increase trackability throughout the process — from the second a coffee bean has been uprooted, to the time it’s made into instant coffee. It would take power away from big corporations and put it back in the hands of the people who could see how their products are being distributed, where they’re coming from and what happened to them along the way.
What are some examples of blockchain in the supply chain?
Many companies are already experimenting with blockchain in the supply chain. One of the first is a partnership between Walmart, nine other food companies and IBM.
To simplify and make transparent their food supply chains, these 10 food suppliers are teaming up with IBM to integrate blockchain technology to follow their food from the harvesting stages, to the packaging stages and beyond. The technology is hoped to completely revolutionize the process of data management across all stages and industries involved in the food supply chain including farmers, brokers, distributors, processors, retailers, regulators, and consumers.
They also hope that it’ll increase food safety. And in the process, this trial unearthed 100,000 mangoes in the supply chain that needed to be recalled. Walmart and other food suppliers are continuing their trials — testing the chain of fruit, as well as meat.
The food and beverage industry isn’t the only one affected, though – for example, conflict diamonds are also being tracked with blockchain, providing consumers with peace of mind when it comes to diamond purchases throughout the supply chain.
Blockchain and the supply chain — why it’s important.
Understanding how blockchain works and its impact on the supply chain is vital for understanding the future of business and the tracking of goods and services. Through this distributed ledger, you can see where your goods are at every stage of the process.
It can’t be altered, because no central party can alter or change it to satisfy its own needs or cover up mistakes. And it is entirely public, so all parties can learn where a specific fruit came from, or where certain diamonds came from.
Not only does this give piece of mind, but it also ensures products are consistently up to consumer standards and government regulations.
Blockchain expedites the supply chain process and provides an efficiency that is unmatched by traditional methods. This means that business can run smoother, products can move across countries quicker and more peace of mind can be had by consumers overall.
Blockchain is very quickly being integrated into a number of different industries, and for good reason. It’s smart for businesses to invest more in this technology and understanding its benefits in order to stay ahead of the game, and on top of popular trends.
Blockchain integration a few years down the line could be the difference between a business that thrives, and a business that gets left behind.
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