For the blue-collar worker, the driving force behind change was factory automation using programmable machine tools. For the office worker, it's office automation using computer technology: enterprise-resource-planning systems, groupware, intranets, extranets, expert systems, the Web, and e-commerce.
For the pioneers in crypto currency, that driving force behind change is the blockchain. This disruptive technology is the foundation stone of the credibility that Bitcoin and other digital currencies are enjoying.
Blockchain technology has revolutionized the role of trust in business. We know that a system using blockchain cannot be tinkered with. Not by any private company, not by any statutory regulator, and certainly not by the government. The beauty of the model is in its simplicity. A piece of information (the block) gets recorded on a virtual ledger (the chain), only after being verified by several thousand participants from all over the world. Once added to the chain, the record cannot be erased or altered.
It is a mechanism that allows each and every record to be traced back to its roots, hence giving more power to the people by being transparent and, so far, incorruptible. Now such a credible technological system, despite having shot to fame with applications in financial transactions, certainly holds the key to countless applications in other sectors. Let’s look at a few possibilities:
There often is much hue and cry over rigged counting during and after government elections. Imagine a world wherein a voter could register himself from an app on his smartphone and cast his vote on that same app. And the votes would all tally because that app was built on blockchain technology. All hail democracy!
Relief Project Payments
The biggest nightmare for an NGO when transferring money to a project team on site is the confirmation of receipt. Banks usually handle that well (for a fat fee of course). But what happens when we are to send money for a development project in an under developed town. Tharparkar, an impoverished town in Sindh, Pakistan, was hit by massive floods in 2012, leaving thousands of homeless families in its wake. As part of the welfare project team, looking for a bank in the vicinity to make transactions was a major challenge. Collecting cash from the bank involved trekking 100 miles over the flooded terrain to the nearest bank branch in a nearby town. A digital platform for Pakistan, like BitPesa built on blockchain technology, that connects the rest of the world with the African economies would have come in handy here.
Did you know that in June 2017, MIT awarded 111 graduates their diplomas on their smartphones in addition to handing them the conventional certificates on paper? All thanks to the secure and unalterable blockchain technology, it is now possible for the academic powerhouse to give its students the freedom and ultimately the responsibility to posses their credentials and share at will, with no concerns about their authenticity.
Compliance and Audit
What better way to install a reliable audit and compliance mechanism than by implementing blockchain technology. It significantly reduces the margin of error in data entry, as a transaction once entered cannot be changed, thus amplifying the integrity of the record. This surely is the hallmark of any financial audit firm.
The blockchain is spread over numerous servers in different parts of the world and comes replete with massive hardware infrastructure. A data storage platform based on blockchain can easily leverage the sheer mechanical capacity of the global network to provide faster uploads and downloads with greater inbuilt security for all your business needs. Check out Storj as one such example.
The ledger is sacrosanct in a blockchain. A record on the ledger is there for good. This has an abundance of applications in the supply chain industry, especially for shipping and logistics firms. Consignments can be tracked with ease and without risk of errors in the handling of documents as goods are shipped from port to port. Factom is a prime example of how blockchain technology has been used by the supply chain industry to facilitate documentation - including inventory lists, letters of credit, financial compliance, customs clearance and invoices – through a unified digital platform.
We have all heard about money laundering and financial fraud wherein the money trail followed by a certain sum to reach a recipient usually gets lost mid transaction. Enter the blockchain with its verifiable ledger. Each time the amount changes hands, a record of that transaction is verified and entered in the blockchain. Everyone knows where the money went. No hiding possible there.