Blockchain is slowly creeping into the enterprise. Outside of cryptocurrency and data storage, blockchain is also tackling several other data-related challenges that have plagued organizations for years, especially since the rise of big data.
One of those challenges is the management of digital assets, according to Stefan Kukman, CEO and founder of Ljubljana, Slovenia-based CargoX. He said,
“The blockchain is sometimes referred to as Web 3.0 because it is a revolutionary piece of technology that allows us to digitalize assets in ways that haven't been possible before. For the first time in the history of the internet it is possible to store digital assets in such a way that they cannot be copied or duplicated without permission, and that their source can always ... be known.”
The blockchain is first and foremost a public (or sometimes private or hybrid) database that is open and decentralized. By open, we mean anyone can read it unconditionally, and anyone can write into it after meeting certain conditions. By decentralized, we mean there is no governing body that can arbitrarily modify the data, nor is there a single point of failure from where the database could be hacked or destroyed.
Data in the blockchain can either be open or encrypted and readable only by those for whom it is intended. This database is guided by rules that determine how the data in the database can be modified. To use the case of cryptocurrencies as an example, sometimes the data consists of the monetary value in possession of each user. The rules would ensure that only the owner of said value may transfer it.
Here are nine ways enterprises could expand the use of blockchain beyond cryptocurrency.
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1. Fraud Detection
Ted Dhanik, is CEO and co-founder at Los Angeles-based engage:BDR, a cross-device advertising solution. He said blockchain is an important tool in fighting ad fraud because it makes transactions more transparent, which helps drive transactional efficiency. Increasing transparency gives organizations insights into where the money is going and if there are third parties involved in the transaction.
One other major issue blockchain helps solve is the issue of “float.” Generally, it takes over 90 days for brands/agencies to pay for an ad buy after impressions run. This is an issue for publishers because they are then forced to account for this lack of funding or borrow money to compensate for the time. Blockchain allows publishers to be paid immediately and, in turn, they can trade the cryptocurrency on multiple different exchanges (advertising for themselves, investing it or trading it in for money). Cutting down on float can help publishers reduce costs and be more efficient.
Richard Stroupe is the CEO of Reston, Va.-based Sequoia, a software development and engineering services provider whose clients include the national security sector. He said the U.S. public sector, the federal government, banking, energy, materials and the pharmaceutical industry are all ripe for blockchain disruption.
He said blockchain applications could help shore up the security of data stored by local, state, and federal government agencies in the United States. With blockchain, data is distributed across a decentralized network of computers. So, if hackers compromise one node in that network, other authorized users can still access the data. Such uses of blockchain could make a real difference in the sort of security risks that led to breaches like the cyberattack on the Atlanta city government in March, or the hack at the Office of Personnel Management in 2014 that compromised the data of more than 22 million people.
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3. Industrial Maintenance
As it is very difficult to change the data in a blockchain, it lends itself to a number of different use cases, according to Adrian Sischin, co-founder of Calgary, Alberta-based bitcanuck.ca, a cryptocurrency exchange. He said an excellent case is the use of blockchain in mission-critical industrial applications such as executing preventive and predictive maintenance activities that if neglected could lead to catastrophic failures. The requirement is to ensure accountability of responsible departments for the execution of such activities, on time. Another requirement is to make sure that accidents are being investigated to prevent re-occurrence.
With the cover-up culture in some organizations, implementation of record-keeping data that cannot be altered brings credibility to the investigative process and lessons learned, that otherwise might be based on altered data.
There are thousands of different electronic medical records systems used worldwide. In the city of Boston alone there are 26 different systems, Sischin explained. With people traveling all over the world, the ability to access patient records in the shortest possible time, by trained professionals, with the patient consent, can make the difference between life or death. But many questions remain in this scenario — including questions of privacy — which is leading to slower adoption.
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5. Financial Services
Rob May is CEO of Boston-based Talla, maker of BotChain, a decentralized platform for AI transparency, compliance and collaboration. He said blockchain will greatly impact the financial services industry. When applied to banking, blockchain can streamline payments quickly and securely, conduct global transactions, and minimize the need for a complex financial ledger.
Financial institutions are already beginning to use blockchain. JPMorgan is utilizing an internal blockchain infrastructure, Quorum, and has announced a partnership with Zcash, while American Express has filed a patent to use blockchain and cryptocurrency as a record-keeper for its customer reward points.
6. Smart Contracts
Alan Majer is CEO and founder of Toronto-based Good Robot. He said blockchain can now be used to create smart contracts that can be relied upon to execute automatically. With blockchain, people can construct their own systems of rules or smart contracts, enforced by the underlying protocol of a blockchain-based network. These systems create order without tapping existing law structures to implement what can be thought of as private regulatory frameworks. They endow software developers with the power to create tools and services that avoid jurisdictional rules and operate transnationally to coordinate a range of economic and social activities. These make blockchain ideal for setting up contractual arrangements that all parties can trust.
Bas de Vos, director of IFS Labs, said that because aviation involves so many moving parts, experts have turned to blockchain to connect a number of third parties that collaborate to optimize the performance and reliability of an asset (like an airplane) through its entire lifecycle. This adds not only to operational efficiencies, but also supports service provider’s service level agreements.
Using distributed ledgers, the manufacturer of an airplane can connect with the operator of the plane and the maintenance company. In the distributed ledger they can exchange information on the tasks and transactions carried out that relate to asset performance, like service calls, spare part deliveries, number of flight hours, etc.
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8. Smart Supply Chains
DontPayFull CEO Andrei Vasilesc said blockchain will provide a valuable link between technology and industry. He sees it being best put to use in developing supply chains of any business by deploying faster, smarter and more efficient business processes. By adding blockchain, inventories can be quickly monitored with confidence. This will help companies to build and maintain strong business communications with their clients based on these smarter supply chains.