Blockchain technology is best known as the underlying framework of alternative cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and deep-internet commerce platforms associated with drugs, weapons and other unseemly uses. However, in its purest form, blockchain is simply a ledger tool that allows for the recording and distribution of data in a secure fashion. This technology is steadily growing in popularity as the driver of technology such as digital wallets and other alternative payment options, providing a simplified process for tracking and transferring digital funds. It’s also becoming increasingly useful in accounting, where access to real-time, reliable, consistent financial information is crucial. There are other uses for blockchain, however, that span across different industries.
What is Blockchain?
Blockchain serves as a transparent database for a wide variety of information. It’s designed to be highly accessible, transparent and secure, providing a permanent record of every transaction. The ability for data to be viewed and shared by relevant parties across multiple locations puts blockchain in a similar category as mutual distributed ledgers (MDL’s), which have been around since the mid-70s. There are a few differences, however, that set blockchain technology apart.
For starters, blockchain is a simpler version of an MDL. Blockchain ledgers are arranged in batches called blocks that are linked together via cryptographic hashes that identify, reference and validate the block that came before it, creating a chain of data blocks. This validation method makes it nearly impossible for anyone to tamper with or otherwise manipulate the data, as each step of the transaction is recorded instantaneously and permanently. Transactions happen in real-time for all parties, making verification and reconciliation of information faster and more secure.
Implications across Industries
Blockchain is a digital medium for secure, private storage and management of any item of value, from money and investments to property, and even to votes. Blockchain’s effects are being felt in every sector, but there are a few market segments that are poised to benefit even more from the concept of a central digital data repository and dispensary.
Electronic health records provide useful digital patient histories, but a lack of standardization, interconnection, and security often makes it difficult for collaborating providers and other healthcare institutions to share this data. Blockchain technology can provide secure access to a patient’s health history, including doctor and hospital visits, evaluations, lab results, diagnoses, procedures, treatments, and prescriptions. The entire patient journey can be outlined under a single, verifiable ledger that’s accessible to patients and providers alike, expediting referrals and other coordinated efforts allowing for more comprehensive healthcare.
The construction industry is one of the most heavily regulated markets in the economy, with strict federal, local and professional standards. While regulations are imperative to ensure the safety and quality of housing and other buildings, following these rules make it difficult for construction businesses to adapt to trends as new processes have to be properly vetted to ensure continued compliance. Much of the problem lies in the quality control process itself, which relies predominantly on human input from managers, foremen, and laborers. While oversights and errors are common, making significant changes to these information-related procedures may be even riskier from a statutory adherence perspective.
Blockchain can eliminate many of the regulation-related obstacles to embracing new, more effective operations by simplifying the collection and distribution of data and increasing end-to-end visibility. In addition to manual input of information, blockchain technology can be connected to machines, vehicles, and tools to record pertinent information automatically. All data is held in a permanent history that’s accessible to workers, decision-makers, buyers and, most importantly, regulatory bodies, making collection and compliance a seamless process.
Manufacturing and Supply Chain
Today’s production and supply chain cycles often consist of a messy conglomeration of stages that include the acquisition of raw material, creating goods and distributing the finished product. Each link is vital, but the fragmented, geographically dispersed nature of manufacturing can leave significant gaps in efficiency and accountability, making it difficult to track or even identify kinks in the chain. This also increases the costs for manufacturers, retail buyers and, ultimately, consumers. Blockchain’s ledger technology can bring transparency to the manufacturing process by providing accurate information regarding:
- The origin of raw materials
- Prices of materials and end-products
- The location, state, and quality of products
- When, where and how goods are transferred
- Responsible parties for every stage
In short, the entire supply chain becomes more efficient and secure.
Commercial Real Estate
Real estate transactions have a reputation for being tedious, complicated, expensive and slow, often as the result of middle-men such as title and escrow companies in the equation. Their roles are important ones, however, providing essential information about a property’s legal, physical, and occupancy related attributes that may be difficult for real estate professionals to access easily or comprehensively.
A blockchain database can verify the authenticity of property information instantly, allowing investors and other real estate personnel to forgo third-party search and verification processes and make faster decisions regarding a deal. Transaction time can go from days, weeks or months to mere minutes — or even seconds.
Blockchain is promising to be a game changer in the very near future. Businesses within every industry will soon be transformed by blockchain-driven applications that allow companies to overcome operational deficiencies, improve the flow of revenue and better solve their most complex problems.
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Note: This content is accurate as of the date published above and is subject to change. Please seek professional advice before acting on any matter contained in this article.