The world is no longer oblivious to the many advantages and potential uses of the new technology: Blockchain. Individuals, firms, organisations and the government were initially uncertain of the uses of Blockchain when it was first introduced by Satoshi Nakamoto in the year 2009. It took quite some convincing back then for organisations to see the reasons why they should use a technology that seemed rather strange to them.
Ever since the time it became accepted by virtually all, the Blockchain technology has found its way into almost all industries. From healthcare to finance, real estate to energy, technology to management. Recently, Sierra Leone made headlines with many news agencies celebrating the country as the first ever to use blockchain technology in its election – except it didn’t. Although a large part of the world is yet to discover the potential hidden in the use of Blockchain, it is still safe to say the world has clearly become infused with the use of the technology.
What is blockchain technology?
The Blockchain is simply a database used to store records of transactions in immutable public blocks. The conventional database used by industries and organisations makes it easy for data to altered and even stolen. The Blockchain corrects this flaw by making the stored blocks of transactions public and unchangeable by just anyone. The blocks are connected in such a way that you need the timestamp and link to the previous block. To perform any form of alteration to the blocks is almost impossible. It is decentralized which means it is not subject to just one individual making changes and decisions concerning the use of the database. 51% of the users must come to a consensus if the transaction will be considered verifiable. We call this a system for the people, by the people.
The Manufacturing Industry
IBM and the leading shipping company Maersk tested the application of blockchain in logistics. They showed in a PoC, that a blockchain can be used to track containers during the shipping process. The goal of the project was to reduce the effort and paperwork that is necessary for the shipment. Through the platform, all actors in the supply chain can access the information that is relevant for them and they can act on it. In the future, other players like shippers, freight forwarders, ocean carriers, ports and customs authorities are going to be included in the platform. By reducing the paperwork, providing important information more rapidly and preventing shipping fraud, IBM and Maersk hope to reduce the shipment costs dramatically.
Energy markets are faced with the shift towards a market of prosumers with decentral production. Energy microgrids based on blockchain address this challenge. LO3 Energy has developed a technology for trading of solar energy locally using a peer-to-peer blockchain solution. The first real application with 50 physical units has been tested one year ago in Brooklyn, in cooperation with Siemens. The project “Brooklyn microgrids” applies smart meters for tracking energy generation and consumption combined with smart contracts for energy transactions between actors on the grid. One key question raised is the scalability of the project. Specifically, the computing power that is needed for validating the microgrid transactions and that is increasing with the grid size is considered as one of the key challenges for scaling the project.
Other actors trying similar concepts are Wien Energy, that is focusing on energy trading between utilities, and Innogy, conducting tests with blockchain to automate the billing process of charging stations for electric vehicles. Further development in the energy sector has been made by the startup Electron, that is creating technology that enables customers to faster switch their electricity suppliers.
In the healthcare industry, it is important that the data of patients is kept secure and private. Blockchain can be used to play an important role in the protection of users data such as the DNA, health related problems and so many other pieces of information each clients might want to keep confidential.
The blockchain, can therefore be used for the following: secure and transparent recording of medical data, secure communications: sharing information between healthcare organisations including hospitals, medical centers, clinics, pharmacies, insurance companies, medical data protection, efficient and safe data exchange.
There are numerous applications of blockchain technology within the world of governance as well. Some countries are even looking to implement system-wide changes that will completely transform everything from taxes to public services. In this case, Dubai is leading the charge, with ambitions to become the “First Blockchain Government” by 2020.
Avesta, an African startup, is also looking to join the fight. With the goal of creating a new payment platform, the company aims to put the power in the hands of the people.
CEO Aydin notes: “Blockchain technology will show its true potential with Avesta.”
As the technology takes off, more and more countries will surely follow suite.