Many readers are familiar with Blockchain as the underlying enabling technology developed for Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency. Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, provides this summary in his book on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In essence, blockchain is a shared, programmable, cryptographically secure and therefore trusted ledger which no single user controls and which can be inspected by anyone. This much is certain that blockchain not only has the potential to disrupt existing business models but also to enable new ones. In fact, some are calling it the most important invention since the Internet itself.
Blockchain will soon emerge as a powerful, disruptive force. A survey of 800 executives, featured in the same book of Klaus Schwab, suggests 58 percent believe that up to 10 percent of global GDP will be stored using blockchain technology. Blockchain technology may provide several key features that could be leveraged for use in the creative economy.
Blockchain is –
- Reliable and available
Blockchain solves a number of challenges by integrating and converging a list of critical technologies and services. These include:
- Large database technology
- Distributed /decentralized accounting ledgers that use technology to track every detail of a transaction
- Cryptography to protect digital transactions against hacking
- High-speed Internet networking and connectivity to virtually any device
- Internet of Things (IoT) where almost any device can be network addressable and enabled (machines to machines communications)
- Mobility of data, digital applications and convenience of computing, and
- Open systems that rely upon more transparency and collaboration, vice monolithic and proprietary walls-of-separation.
The Era of Blockchain–
In its 2015 report, Deep Shift: Technology Tipping Points and Societal Impact, the World Economic Forum (WEF) proclaimed that within a decade, a full 10% of global GDP would be stored/documented/executed by some form of blockchain process. The group is so intrigued by the potential of blockchain, and discusses its arrival and implications so often, that its June 2017 meeting was dubbed the “blockchain forum” by many of its participants.
Further testimony comes from renowned futurist writers Don and Alex Tapscott.
In Realizing the Potential of Blockchain, developed on behalf of the WEF and presented at the organization’s June 2017 meeting, the authors quote email correspondence from Tim Draper of Draper Fisher Jurvetson: “If anything, financiers are underestimating the potential of blockchain.”
In its 2016 report, Blockchain Technology Market – Global Forecast to 2021, Markets and Markets forecasts that blockchain investments can be expected “to grow from USD 210 million in 2016 to USD 2.3 billion by 2021, a compound annual growth rate of 61.5%.” Similarly, Transparency Market Research4 predicts rapid adoption, gauging global blockchain and related technology sales in 2015 at $316 million, but expecting this to grow to $20 billion by the end of 2024.
A growing number of universities are also taking interest in blockchain. Again, according to the Tapscotts’ report for the WEF, “Academic institutions are funding labs and centers to study this technology and collaborate with colleagues outside their silo.”5
In particular, the report cites Joichi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, who states that schools provide a forum where key issues in blockchain can be addressed “without any bias or special interests.” The report continues by saying that leading “universities such as Stanford, Princeton, Duke and New York [are also now teaching] courses on blockchain, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies.”
More recently, in its August 2017 Blockchain Enterprise Survey, Juniper Research reported that 39% of companies with over 20,000 employees are considering or deploying blockchain. Of those considering or deploying blockchain, 35% believe the technology will cause “‘significant’ internal disruption”; 51% say it will cause “‘significant’ disruption for their partners/customers.”
Given the findings, statements and insights such as these, it is clear that blockchain and enabling/accompanying distributed ledger technologies (DLT) can expect exponential growth, impacting not only nearly every industry but also government agencies and regulators.
How could Blockchain technology help (Killer uses cases) –
- Financial Services –
- Trade Finance (The Future of Trade sharing)
- Clearing and settlement (Speeding up & Simplifying cross boarder payments)
- The benefits of Smart Contracts
- Digital Identity (How to improve online Identity Management)
- Loyalty and Rewards management
- Insurance –
- IoT (Internet of Things) Insurance Cover
- Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Insurance model
- Health Insurance
- Property & Casual Claims settlement
- Reduction in Fraudulent Claims
- Travel Insurance, Crop Insurance
- Healthcare –
- Healthcare IoT & Cybersecurity handling
- Integrity of Drug Supply Chain (Anti-Counterfeiting of Drugs)
- Regulatory compliance and clinical trial records
- Public health surveillance management
- Energy and Utilities –
- Peer to peer Energy Trading (UBER for Energy)
- EV (Electric Vehicle) Charging
- Grid Management
- Smart metering & IoT
- Retail and Consumer Goods –
- Supply Chain visibility (Tracking of goods beginning early in supply chain all the way through sales and service)
- Reducing counterfeit goods
- Product warranties and Insurance
- Product Quality and food safety
- Customer Loyalty Program
- Building Consumer Trust
- Manufacturing –
- Supply Chain Management and Digital Product Memory
- Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 Applications
- 3D Printing and IP Management
- Asset lifecycle and history
- Government –
- Increase Government welfare distribution efficiency
- Fix Government double taxation
- Can protect critical Government Infrastructure
- Assist legal enforcement (Digitize Legal codes and efficiency legal system)
- Digital Currency, Reduce money laundering
- Land registration (Real-estate registration and property title transfer) and Transparent Transactions
- Digital Identity, Digital Passport and Airport security
- Digital records and Prevent healthcare fraud
- Many more
- Telecom –
- Identity and Data Management
- Mobile Money
- IoT Connectivity (off-grid IoT and LPWAN
- Fraud Prevention (Roaming fraud)
- Smart contracts
- SLA management
- Roaming and Interconnect management
This does imply that a whole lot of technological complexities are involved. Changes are anticipated and pertinent. As this technology evolves at a continuously increasing rate, newer ideas will emerge and revolutionize these industries.
Can blockchain be the answer to cybersecurity issues?
Blockchain’s approach to store and share information provides an effective way to tackle security threats. It is the same technology that has enabled the secure exchange of Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, and can potentially serve as a tool to prevent cyber-attacks. Blockchain Technology Application can enhance cybersecurity through
- Distributed DNS System
- Blockchain-based Public Key Infrastructure (PKI)
- Distributed Evidence
- Protection against DDoS attacks via Distributed DNS System
How can blockchain help to improve transparency and sustainability?
Since blockchain is a shared database, data is readily available to all parties involved in any kind of transaction, providing maximum transparency. The immutability of data makes it even more trustworthy as well. Fundamentally, once the data is created, it can’t be deleted or altered.
What is Next for blockchain?
Blockchain will drive digital transformation of the enterprise specifically with automation, digitization of processes, tokenization of physical assets and activities and also codification of complex contracts.
Let’s gets started with this technology and see where it can lead us.
[Damodar Sahu, Digital Strategist & Partner – IoT/AI/ ML/ Blockchain (North America), Manufacturing & Technology and Communications SBUs, Wipro Limited. The views expressed in this piece are his own]