Many people became aware of blockchain technology in the last decade with the advent of Bitcoin. Most don’t know that the concept of blockchain actually dates back to 1991 when two research scientists came up with a technique for storing time-stamped records using a system that relied a chain of data blocks that were cryptographically secured.
With the emergence of cryptocurrencies, organizations have rediscovered blockchain technology and have begun applying it for a wide range of applications. Governments and Fortune 500 companies are now using blockchain to streamline reconciliation of transactions, coordinate the provision of services, authorize access to digital content, enforce privacy rules, document steps in value chains, and to create secure, immutable digital records
Many of the biggest companies in the world have incorporated blockchain technology into their operations, with banking, manufacturing, professional services and retail leading the way. Despite the high adoption rate by large corporations, industry experts expect blockchain adoption to accelerate as more corporations adopt the technology for a wider range of applications, and as the technology becomes more accessible to smaller enterprises.
The following are some examples of how blockchain is being used today across a various industry verticals:
Banking & Financial Services - Leaving aside cryptocurrencies, blockchain is finding many roles in the banking and financial services industries. Most of the uses of blockchain in this vertical fall into a category called decentralized finance. Blockchain is being used to streamline processes and transactions across the financial services industry in areas such as credit, insurance, banking, and investing. Stock exchanges have begun using blockchain to settle equities transactions, companies are using blockchain to expedite foreign exchange transaction, and banks are using blockchain to make payments and issue loans. The ability to complete these processes without involving intermediaries saves time and money.
IoT and Smart Cities - Blockchain is being used to secure IoT and Smart City implementations by enhancing the security of data transmission between sensors and command and control systems. Additionally, blockchain is being used to facilitate machine to machine transactions to support the enhanced automation of production and maintenance processes.
Government - Blockchain technology is being used by governments to streamline a wide range of processes such as applying for passports, managing requests for legal documents, storing regulatory filings, maintaining property records, and securing the transfer of confidential information. Blockchain is also being evaluated as a means of managing elections.
Supply Chain & Retail - Blockchain is streamlining the supply chain industry through the application of smart contracts. Smart contracts are a feature of blockchain whereby a transaction is processed when certain predefined conditions are met. Blockchain is enabling real-time data transfer and document management across enterprises, shippers, ports, customs agencies, logistics providers, banks, insurers, and others by digitizing and automating paperwork throughout the supply chains. Blockchain can not only provide instantaneous insight into the progress of a shipment, it can process payments once the terms of a shipping agreement have been satisfied.
Cybersecurity - Blockchain has the potential to enhance several areas of cybersecurity. By its nature, blockchain takes large data sets, breaks them into smaller blocks which are individually encrypted. This feature, combined with current cybersecurity best practices to create a formidable barrier against malicious activity.
Healthcare - Blockchain is being used in areas like clinical research to facilitate the transfer of confidential medical records, to protect the anonymity of clinical trial participants, and to help ensure data integrity by creating indelible records of data collected from research trials.
The biggest barriers to broader adoption of blockchain are awareness and interoperability. Many people are not familiar enough with blockchain to recognize the use cases that could be created to benefit an organization. Secondly, blockchain is revolutionary. Using blockchain requires not only investment in blockchain technology, it requires investment to establish interoperability with existing enterprise systems. Over time, both of these issues will diminish in significance opening the opportunity for much broader applications of blockchain, in a much broader range of enterprises.