Blockchain, the ‘digital ledger’ technology that has taken the online financial world by storm, offers potential uses in many other industries – from legal to mining, transport and logistics to event ticketing.
Blockchain began life as a tool for managing the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Since then, however, its ability to securely and automatically verify, record and store high volumes of transactions digitally has thrown up a whole range of possible applications.
Many in the technology industry believe that more industries could find themselves disrupted by Blockchain. At its most fundamental level, blockchain offers a decentralized, secure platform for transactions, which could be used much more widely than only in financial and currency transactions.
Potential for blockchain in other sectors
The interest in blockchain has been driven by a growing awareness of just what decentralized technologies can do. Blockchain can be used for storing, processing and transferring digital contracts and documents in the legal industry for example. This can save legal organizations time, effort, costs and even paper.
It could be similarly used in the real estate industry, where maintaining property registration documentation is a complicated and resource-heavy exercise. Blockchain might come in useful for correctly identifying individuals who own properties or encrypted databases, for example. Blockchain’s decentralized format means it can be used in any area where confidentiality and proof of identity are factors. This includes ensuring documents are genuine and not forgeries, which is key in the fight against identity theft.
Sensitive industries mean sensitive data
In my own local market of Australasia, we see potential in many industries where data remains highly sensitive. Mining, one of the region’s largest industries, is home to some very sensitive documentation that requires careful handling. However, there have been over 20 cybercrime incidents in the mining industry over the past six years or so. How can blockchain help protect this data?
Blockchain’s digital ledger means that mining companies could sign contracts electronically without having to rely on a trusted third party like a bank to verify validity. The blockchain technology would record and encrypt the transaction, and by removing the need for a third party in the middle, also reduces the exposure of data to potential hackers.
Further to that, Blockchain has the potential to expand into improving productivity for mining companies. With Internet of Things (IoT) tools and apps being increasingly used in mining, more and more data is being generated. Blockchain could help mining organizations process that data more rapidly and even use automation to give IoT machines self-managing capabilities. It can help companies reduce costs by simplifying cross-border payments and removing intermediaries.
Another interesting area where blockchain could bring benefits to mining companies is in the implementation of “smart contracts”. Blockchain could be used to host legal agreements and collections of business rules that execute contracts automatically across multiple territories and jurisdictions. Automating contracts in this way can help mining companies reduce risks in developing countries.
Orange and blockchain
A couple of years ago Orange Digital Ventures invested in Chain, the leading provider of blockchain technology. The goal was to identify and develop areas where blockchain could bring innovative new business benefits.
A number of projects have grown out of that initiative, utilizing blockchain networks to improve end user experiences in industries including retail, transport, logistics, supply chain and event ticketing. After all, if blockchain can provide anti-counterfeit solutions for financial and legal documentation, why not for cross border supply chain and logistics controls?
A technology on the rise
Transparency Market Research reports that the global blockchain technology market is expected to be worth $20 billion by the end of 2024, up from $316 million in 2015. It is a technology on the up, and the more use cases that are developed for it, the more people will begin to see its value.
I can envisage blockchain having knock-on effects too. Another industry that could benefit by developing blockchain is the engineering sector. Engineering companies often deal in confidential and sensitive documentation, and there have always been challenges around the practicalities of storing large amounts of data generated within data-centric engineering processes such as drawings, CAD models and so on. Blockchain can offer a new, alternative solution that offers benefits in terms of scalability, storage, privacy and governance. Engineering companies can also benefit from the economies of scale and efficiency blockchain can provide.
Blockchain technology looks well set to empower users and providers, enabling complete transparency and traceability of all manner of transactions in ways not achieved before.
Learn more about blockchain at Orange Group.