Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are powered by a technology called blockchain, which is essentially a global public ledger. What makes it particularly special is that it records, verifies and secures digital transactions using the network, as opposed to a single authority or group.
As more and more industries and platforms become digitized, blockchain could ultimately transform the way they operate.
Banking and finance could benefit greatly from the use of blockchain, but that seems somewhat obvious considering the technology’s origins. There are many other ways it can be used, too — especially when it comes to building a decentralized digital platform that’s resistant to fraud and tampering.
Blockchain also offers improved transparency and veracity. All transactions carried out on the network are available to view publicly.
However, only certain information is visible. When the transaction took place and how much currency (or data) exchanged hands is all that’s visible. This adds a layer of privacy onto an otherwise transparent platform.
As it becomes more popular and more widely accepted, blockchain is poised to transform many industries. Here are a few where it’s making an impact.
1. Ride Sharing
Two of the most popular services in this space, Uber and Lyft, are the polar opposite of a decentralized platform. All transactions are handled by the company in question, with prices and wages decided by their authority as well.
Operation and ride issues for drivers are distributed using proprietary algorithms and various hubs. While drivers do, for the most part, have some degree of control, it’s not the same as a decentralized, user-driven marketplace.
Cue blockchain and the team aiming to make this happen, Arcade City. It’s a ride-sharing service that facilitates all operations through blockchain. Drivers can establish their own rates and decide what percentage they gain. Any transactions carried out are logged via the blockchain system.
What makes Arcade City wholly different from Uber or Lyft, is that it’s more appealing to professional drivers who want to run their own transportation business. They have both more to gain and more control over operations. Drivers can even offer their own add-on services if they wish, like roadside assistance, deliveries and more.
2. Music and Entertainment Content Rights
Creatives and artists can make use of blockchain to distribute access to their music and entertainment content. This allows them to cut out a lot of the middleman processing in the industry and also to directly benefit from more modern contract and licensing agreements.
Platforms like Mycelia, Ascribe.io and Jaak have all cropped up with the goal of allowing entertainment entrepreneurs to make an impact in the industry. Imagine an ecosystem where artists can distribute their work freely and openly, barring a set of pre-determined licensing agreements and purchase contracts.
3. Medical Marijuana Industry
The legal sale of marijuana, believe it or not, is an incredibly logistical and regulated industry which requires an extensive series of authentication, verification and assurance checks. This makes it extremely complicated and time-consuming for dispensaries and marijuana providers to do business.
Blockchain can be used to stabilize the flow of the industry by speeding-up checks, legal authentication and more. More importantly, the decentralized nature of the technology would ensure that no single party or group takes hold of the industry.
The obvious use of the technology for medical and legal marijuana is to implement a digital currency or tender to exchange inventory. But there are other ways it can make an impact, too.
The crop must be quality-controlled and regulated, as well as monitored to understand what chemicals and strains are used. Distribution of the plant and forms of the drug must be processed and sent to outlets, which requires an additional layer of transparency and accountability for inventory and stock control.
Consumer management and transactions can also be facilitated along the blockchain, allowing all high-value transfers and sales to be clearly accessible for review. More importantly, it could allow the industry to move past all cash operations.
4. Real Estate
Imagine a real estate market where buyers and sellers don’t have to worry about all the age-old, paper-based processes and extensive record keeping. Ever bought a house before? If you have, you understand just how many documents you have to sign and how much paperwork is involved.
Blockchain can reduce that considerably by allowing all transactions to take place in the digital landscape. Applications and finalized documents can be recorded, tracked, stored and secured using the technology.
Consider a database filled with land titles, property deeds, liens, loan documents and much more, all accurate, verifiable and secure.
There are companies working toward providing such a service and platform, such as Ubitquity. In just a few years’ time, it may become the industry standard, speeding-up and improving real estate dealings for the better.
5. Renewable Energy Management
The energy management industry is highly centralized and regulated, controlled by a handful of big names like Duke Energy, National Grid and more. But the rise in renewable and sustainable energy sources calls for a more open, more lucrative market.
Homeowners with solar power systems, for instance, usually sell excess energy back to the grid. However, many energy providers are trying to stop this practice, eliminating it outright through lobbying and legal action.
Blockchain can be used to turn the energy management industry into a more user-driven, peer-to-peer space. Imagine entire neighborhoods that can buy and sell energy to neighbors or surrounding communities for profit.
Of course, there are other forms of energy and resources that would benefit from a decentralized network as well. Project Exergy, for instance, is a proof-of-concept for harnessing the heat generated through high-power computers.
As for energy management, startups like LO3 Energy are already developing a revolutionary distribution platform using blockchain.
Blockchain Is Transformative for Many Industries
As you can see here, the technology has the potential to disrupt and alter the operations of many different industries, including some not mentioned above. According to IDC, global spending on blockchain solutions throughout 2018, is expected to hit $2.1 billion.
Here are some of the other areas where blockchain is poised to make an impact:
- Sports and Event Management
- Gift Cards and Temporary Payment Systems
- Customer Loyalty Programs
- Government and Public Records
- Gun Tracking
- Law Enforcement
- Human Resources
- Stock Trading
- Credit Reporting and History Tracking
This is by no means a comprehensive list. As the technology evolves over time, it will be adapted to work in a variety of sectors, some of which we never even imagined would adopt a decentralized system like blockchain.
The future, as they say, is bright and open.
Written by Kayla Mathews, tech journalist and writer.
Prepared and edited by Andrew Carroll, Journalism MA in DIT.