Blockchain has been heralded as a revolutionary piece of technology that will fundamentally change our way of living. However, it can be hard for some to agree with this sentiment when it is often not made clear to them how exactly blockchain will do this. In this article, I will explore three exciting use-cases for blockchain technology, and hopefully in doing so, elucidate its revolutionary potential.
Supply Chain Management
The transparent and secure nature of the blockchain makes it an incredibly effective solution in solving many of the problems found in supply chain management. One such problem is the lack of clarity that can accompany a product as it moves along its supply chain. Product supply chains can span numerous stages and across various geographical locations, which can make it difficult to isolate and investigate any incidents that may arise. Furthermore, consumers can also face issues of product authenticity, as they do not possess a means by which to verifying that a purchased product is not a counterfeit. The blockchain is a viable solution to these problems, because the technology enables what is known as asset digitisation. With asset digitisation, products can be tagged, and assigned with unique identities that can be digitally represented on a blockchain. This allows for tagged products, and all corresponding information, such as the date, location, and state of the product to be translated to the blockchain. This would bring considerable transparency to supply chains, and also enable end consumers to be able to verify the authenticity of purchased goods, as individuals would be able to track their goods at each stage of its supply chain.
Decentralising the Sharing Economy
Another interesting manner in which blockchain can change the way we live is by decentralising the sharing economy. This cooperative ecosystem is centered on the sharing of physical and intellectual resources. Take Uber and Airbnb for example, where both business models are dependent on a sharing ecosystem of ride sharing and home rental, respectively. The problem here is that these sharing ecosystems are reliant on a centralised entity for their operation. Not only do these centralised entities control the rules of the sharing ecosystem, but they also levy transaction fees on users that make use of their platforms. Blockchain can radically transform this centralised sharing model by disintermediating these central entities, to bring about a truly decentralised peer-to-peer sharing ecosystem.
Blockchain technology also promises to push the boundaries of what we are able to share. For example, the Golem project is making it possible for us to share and monetise computing power. Whilst, projects such as Storj, with a focus on storage sharing, allows its users to rent out their unused hard drive space. The incredible part is that all of this is being achieved in the context of a decentralised ecosystem.
Finally, one well known application of blockchain technology is facilitating cross-border payments. Currently, initiating an international payment often involves the participation of multiple financial intermediaries. This creates a complex system of procedures that results in long waiting times (several days), and intermediary transaction fees. Blockchain seeks to tackle these issues, by facilitating low cost, instantaneous peer-to-peer transactions. Instead of relying on the inefficient processes of the traditional banking system, one would be able to transact directly with another party, anywhere in the world.
The peer-to-peer nature of blockchain technology also promises to bank the unbanked. There is a considerable portion of the world population that do not have access to a bank account, especially in developing countries. Blockchain can be used to tackle this, by allowing the unbanked to effectively create their own bank account (aka a cryptocurrency wallet). With this, the formerly unbanked would be able to receive an income, and even enter into decentralised networks that possessed similar features to that of a traditional financial system e.g. lending and capital raising networks.
Blockchain is still a relatively new piece of technology, so use-cases for it are constantly being discovered. The use-cases that I have explored in this article are merely a scratch on the surface for what this technology can accomplish.