Blockchain is a new industry that is developing fast and finding new applications by the day. In its most simple form, it is a collection of data blocks that are linked by cryptography and a distributed ledger that can record transactions. The blockchain cannot be changed, which means that it is especially useful for situations of heightened security. The technology is decentralised, and it also cannot be altered retroactively. The security and efficiency of blockchain make it a ground-breaking technology useful for a variety of purposes, for both large corporations and small firms alike.
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Ethereum is a blockchain platform that enables the use of smart contracts making use of blockchain technology. The terms of any contract can be upheld while funds kept in escrow by a network can ensure financial security. This capital can be delivered to certain parties when conditions are met. The fact that the contracts are indestructible is something that appeals to potential adopters of the technology.
Slock.it is an Ethereum-enabled IoT platform that uses smart contracts for the rental agreements of a range of products, from cars to apartments. The smart lock is unlocked when both parties have agreed to the terms. Smart contracts are also used by banks to approve loans and microloans.
Blockchain technology brings potential for supply chain, logistics and transport, especially in international trade for which administrative tasks and duties can be made easier. This has applications in the food industry, as Walmart uses the Hyperledger Fabric platform to track its pork produce from China, with blockchain recording the storage, processing and sell-by-dates.
The world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton, uses blockchain to keep track of the different mining stages, while DeBeers, the diamond firm, is able to follow the location of valuable stones from mining to the sale and also ensure the diamonds are free of any conflict association.
For smaller businesses, funding can be crucial for survival. Traditional bank loans can demand repayment before profits are being made, while venture capital funding can come with risks. SMEs can offer tokens for investors, in the place of company shares, at an Initial Coin Offering (ICO). This can be an effective way of raising funds for businesses and is becoming more common practice.
This has the benefits of convenience, as crypto tokens can be generated quickly and easily. Unlike traditional methods, investors can buy and sell at any point, ICOs are not regulated by any central authority and they can lead to significant returns when the token value increases.
Blockchain technology began with cryptocurrency, and among its largest applications is sending and receiving payments. Money can be sent directly and immediately to anywhere in the world and without the need for banks or third-party intermediaries. This means that payments and transfers can be made at minimal cost.
For the purposes of payroll, the first service was Bitwage, followed by companies that include Abra and Coinpip. These can save time and money for both employer and employee, as well as being especially useful for remote workers and contractors at a distance.
Given that the global cloud storage market is expected to reach $97.4 billion by 2022 (an increase on $21.1 billion in 2015), the opportunities for blockchain investors are considerable. As cloud storage and services are quickly expanding, so too is cybercrime which now exceeds narco crime in value. The total security that blockchain technology offers is naturally attractive to an industry with large amounts of sensitive data.
A relatively recent development, decentralised cloud storage solutions making use of blockchain technology include Storj, Sia, MaidSafe and FileCoin. These services offer cloud storage with an extra layer of security and at an affordable rate.
Although it is yet to be formalised and still doesn’t bear the same authority of traditional notary services, those that use blockchain technology have added benefits. These include convenience and savings in time and money that can be made by using services such as Bitcoin.com Notary, DeepVault or Stampd.io. Services can include the verification of information and website content, or the ownership of digital products.
The global cost of fraud is £3 trillion, according to a report from the University of Portsmouth, so fraud is understandably a high concern for businesses. Blockchain offers the possibility of verifying identity to avoid fraud, by tracking and managing digital identities in the most secure means possible.
This can be used for account logins, verifying identification, passports, e-residency and birth certificates. This is already used by IBM Blockchain and ShoCard.
As a sophisticated and secure technology that can bring efficiency and streamlined practices to enterprises, blockchain technology can offer exciting prospects to companies in the tech industry and beyond. It is not necessary to comprehend the complex mathematical nature of blockchain to see how it can be used to bring value to your business, streamline business practices, and save time and money. Blockchain’s applications are increasing and improving, so those businesses that have not considered the potential of this unique technology would be well advised to take note.