For anyone who wouldn’t know better, blockchain might just be another word for cryptocurrency. Or even worse, another word for ‘Bitcon’. The truth, however, is far from that: cryptocurrencies are just one of the several ways blockchain can be used. And we’re here to give you a few examples.
It’s true that currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum are the reason Blockchain has exploded as a technology, but to end the discussion there would be a disservice to it. Blockchain has already been used in incredible ways, and the prospects of what it could do in the future are even more impressive.
Let’s get a quick look.
What is it?
If you don’t know how blockchain works, here’s the very-quick and condensed explanation: blockchain is a continuously growing list of records divided in ‘blocks’, which are saved in a ‘chain’ (… hence the name.) Usually, each new block created comes with a cryptographic hash of the previous one, as well as transaction data and timestamp.
By design, blockchain is inherently resistant to being modified. So in essence, it’s a foolproof way of leaving a virtual registry of basically anything you can imagine. It’s impossible to tamper with, so it has created a trustworthy reputation.
The truth is that the tech is still largely undefined. We’re still figuring things out, and we’re far from having any stablished systems. We are, however, at that stage where the technology’s prospects are soaring the skies, and with good reason.
That’s why blockchain leads to cryptocurrencies in the first place. The same way that a ‘real’ currency is born: people trust it. Even cryptocurrency itself can be used in creative ways in the form of ‘tokens’ managed by private companies. A good example: building a system for emerging and established athletes in search of investment.
Cryptocurrencies, however, are not the theme. Instead, let’s talk about some other ways blockchain can be used.
A very interesting one pertains to legal documents. Being a secure method of registration, using blockchain for things like contracts and title deeds makes perfect sense. It could be a radical change for third-world countries, for example, where a slow and inefficient bureaucracy can slow down such processes.
There’s even a word for it: “smart contracts”, which are basically contracts made out of blockchain. They’re secure by design and immune to fraud and can even help with tedious tasks such as establishing a ‘paper trail’. Timestamps are a huge factor here, for example.
Improving public operations
Legal documents made from blockchain lead us to the fact that public institutions could benefit exponentially from the technology. Many tasks inherent to public management could be migrated to blockchain and potentially accelerate governmental capabilities.
This would surely lead to all sorts of benefits, of which less spending comes easily to mind. But it could also potentially reduce corruption–or eliminate it altogether. Not to mention increasing general transparency.
In the case of healthcare, we could even see some improvements. Many hospitals rely on outdated tech to do much of their administration. With blockchain, things like authentication and accountability could become a passing thought thanks to an automated process. And in fact, something like that already exists.
Transparency for elections
This ties directly to the previous entry. Unfortunately, electoral fraud is a touchy subject during these modern times. It goes without saying that this phenomenon is a huge impediment on society’s progress and stability.
So comes blockchain technology to the rescue. In theory, it has the ability to provide an unhackable electronic vote-counting system. Voters could be accounted for, including during the voting process, to make sure there’s no funny business going on.
All of the inherent characteristics of blockchain would go into play, but specially the part where we have a chain of data which cannot be tampered with.
Privacy, however, is a factor that has to be taken into account to be sure that people’s choices remain their own. In any case, there’s already a company that’s starting to work on this.
Most of the previous entries mentioned depend on this to function properly. But by itself, the possibilities of blockchain regarding personal identity and authentication can easily make one start dreaming.
Sure, citizenship comes to mind on a first scale. But even for the private sector, this could be a gamechanger. Think banking and online retailing, for example. Or even traveling. The ability to secure your online presence with blockchain will surely be more common in the future.
There’s a company working with this idea as well.