Blockchain hit the peak of the hype cycle in 2018. But the technology and its growing open-source community continue to mature. That’s especially true in the enterprise world, where innovations really prove viable. An increasing number of decision-makers are exploring how to adopt this still-emerging technology. In a survey by Deloitte, 86% of tech-savvy executive teams said they believe blockchain has huge business potential.
Why? Blockchain is creating a new paradigm defined by transparency, immutability, and reliability—the likes of which we haven’t seen before. It’s proving ideal for a multitude of industries and processes that need those attributes most. Where fraud, complexity, middlemen, security breaches, or a total lack of trust and transparency exist, the ramifications could be transformative. Here are 10 ways blockchain could transform industries.
Fact-Checking and “Decentralized Truth”
Consider this: Coinbase recently announced Fact Check, a new section of its blog meant to respond to the growing problem of misinformation in the digital age. Misinformation isn’t always malicious (especially when you consider the complexity of subjects like blockchain and cryptocurrency). However, it spreads easily and quickly and can be damaging.
But what’s most interesting is the potential for a future where facts, stats, and data come from the source. Facts can be as immutable as a Bitcoin transaction. Co-founder and CEO Brian Armstrong alludes to this in his post, noting “Long term, the real source of truth will be what can be found on-chain, with a cryptographic signature attached.” It’s another example of how blockchain can deliver “radical transparency,” potentially transforming the way media cites information (and rebuilds trust in the process).
Film and Entertainment
Blockchain has made its way into entertainment—both in the spotlight and behind the scenes.
For the last few years, the film and entertainment industries have begun experimenting with the democratization of investments in film, music, and television projects. This inroad has mostly been limited to insiders, but putting projects and investments on the chain can open them up to a broader market—and also benefit the smaller, up-and-coming artists and creators who struggle to get a seat at the studio table.
Blockchain-based projects can offer transparency, allowing investors to see the value and processes of production and how investments are being spent. Licensing content is another big use case that can help prevent content leaks and provide transparency into royalties earned.
Digital Wallets, Currencies, and Tokens
It’s hard to talk about blockchain use cases without touching on digital currencies. Platforms like Coinbase, Voyager, Binance, Kraken, and a multitude of others are making cryptocurrencies accessible to the masses—but that’s just scratching the surface.
The explosion of the video gaming industry is powering a lot of innovation around digital currency. In-app purchases have the potential to be transferable between games with non-fungible tokens (NFTs) that allow gamers to keep their assets liquid.
But it can stretch far beyond gaming. You’ve probably heard about NFTs in the news recently. They’re now very viable ways to purchase all kinds of digital assets. Some are going for a premium, like the NFT a digital artist recently sold for $69 million. It’s not unlike the way you can earn and spend airline miles. With blockchain underscoring transactions, it’s likely many more companies and platforms will offer their own currencies, loyalty points, gift cards, and more.
I hinted at this above with tokens, but gaming itself stands to be transformed by the blockchain. It’s one of the more viable use cases for blockchain and may drive more widespread adoption of the technology once it’s successfully demonstrated in the gaming world.
In-app purchases drive the revenue behind this multibillion-dollar industry, and research indicates that blockchain-based currencies may make gamers and developers alike more inclined to participate and invest. And with assets transferable between games, it’s possible gaming platforms could go from siloed to a “gaming multiverse.”
Proof of Ownership and Digital Identity Management
Back when everything was done on paper, forgery made it easier to fraudulently claim ownership of something—say, a stolen car or ID. Even with digitized everything, fraud is still a problem.
But it’s one the blockchain can help to solve. It does this by creating a trustless environment. Trustless is one of the core concepts of blockchain design. It doesn’t mean there’s “no trust.” Instead, it removes the need for trust because no single entity has total authority over the blockchain and its transactions. Trust comes from the blockchain itself.
Decentralized identifiers (DIDs), compared with traditional IDs, are “globally, unique and persistent identifiers. They are entirely controlled by the identity owner. DIDs are independent of centralised registries, authorities, or identity providers.” They’re standardized by W3C and can create a sort of digital phonebook, without interference from intermediaries.
Also, don’t discount the speed of ID verification. Blockchain can allow this to happen in real time, so third parties can verify identities immediately. The implications are vast for the creation, transfer, verification, and storage of documents, such as land and property titles, marriage certificates, wills, deeds, licenses, event tickets, vouchers, personal identification, and more .
Although blockchain adoption has been slower in healthcare than in other industries, a paradigm shift is now underway. According to IDC, 55% of all healthcare applications will have deployed blockchain for commercial purposes by 2025. And BIS Research suggests that the valuation of blockchain in healthcare will jump to $5.61 billion in the next four years, up from $176.8 million in 2018.
With the shift toward greater use of blockchain, there are growing opportunities to improve, secure, and speed up healthcare processes that cost providers (and patients) time and money. These include improving the way healthcare providers:
- Create universal patient records and share patient data without compromising personal security
- Verify insurance claims
- Check the credentials of physicians and healthcare providers
- Certify healthcare institutions
- Track the results of clinical trials
- Improve chain-of-custody pharmaceutical processes to combat counterfeiting
- Connect patient data from different diagnostic systems
Less paperwork and better security are a win-win for healthcare providers, suppliers, partners, and patients alike.
Financial Transactions and Banking
This is a big one—and not just because cryptocurrencies built on the blockchain are all over the news. Security and speed of blockchain transactions are creating an entirely new financial paradigm.
In a centralized world, a transaction’s participants are at the mercy of a middleman—whether it’s a bank, clearinghouse, or payment processor. Decentralized finance (DeFi) removes the middleman and creates a trustless environment—enabled by multiple nodes across the distributed network. DeFi also reduces time-consuming delays and, in some cases, fees associated with processing credit card transactions. Some payment solution providers even use smart contracts to enable crypto-based recurring subscription payments.
Removing an intermediary creates immediacy and true anonymity, which is helpful for post-trading and issuing loans (which are typically held up by the need to assess the risk of a lessee or verify applications and identifications). This removes the need for a third party to act as a trusted mediator, but it also removes prohibitive barriers. Consider places like Africa where rural areas have limited access to brick-and-mortar banks. This can make traditional banking scenarios difficult. Advanced encryption and security protocols made possible by blockchain can enable digital transactions without sacrificing security and speed.
Shipping and Supply Chains
From proving a product’s origins to getting full transparency into the status of shipments and even temperatures and conditions of containers during transit, blockchain technology helps to streamline the increasingly complex work of supply chain management. Without the need to rely on multiple suppliers’ data and verification, all shipments can be easily traced back along the ledger, including providing proof of origin.
One example is Vechain. This up-and-comer is working to revolutionize the supply chain management process for consumers and retailers. It’s doing this through asset digitization on the blockchain, which will provide “every single piece of information about the supply chain movement of a product,” so quality and authenticity don’t come into question. This is of particular importance to organizations looking to build accountability and due diligence into their supply chains for environmental or human rights reasons.
Government and the Public Sector
Citizens rely on many branches of federal and local governments to accurately track and process payments and paperwork. It’s no wonder the blockchain could find plenty of support here, where transparency is paramount.
Consider how the government’s many functions could be accelerated and improved. Tracking utilities and payments, issuing identification, managing business permits and deeds, and even election systems can benefit from the transparency, security, and accountability of the blockchain. And, if certain tasks can be easily automated and verified by autonomous systems, government spending could be cut—saving millions of taxpayer dollars.
Data Security Improvements
Could blockchain be a nail in the coffin for the inevitable data breaches so many organizations brace themselves for? Considering the high degree of cryptographic protection of each block on the blockchain and its distributed nature, it just may fill an important gap. Being spread across many nodes vs. a single server removes the centralization that can allow a single hack to deliver a huge payload. It also makes man-in-the-middle attacks less likely by keeping data in transit inaccessible to unauthorized parties.
Consumers can benefit, too. The anonymity of the blockchain means it’s possible for consumers to verify their identity via the blockchain, for example, without having to submit that sensitive data directly to third parties or the companies requesting it. It’s the trustless benefit of the blockchain coming back into play in a big way.
Numerous startups are already delivering solutions designed for an array of data protection uses, including authentication to protect networked IoT devices and more secure DNS infrastructures.
We’re Just Scratching the Surface
Blockchain is a truly fascinating technology that is only just beginning to mature. If you’re interested in learning more, I encourage you to explore some of the companies that are pioneering more accessible applications of it, such as Chainlink. There’s a lot to learn—but as with every new technology, being ready to innovate is key to staying on the bleeding edge.
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