Blockchain, as you may well know by now, is one of the most promising technologies of our era.
Even crypto naysayers like Morgan Stanley’s Jamie Dimon and Trump advisor Gary Cohn acknowledge that blockchain tech has many promising use cases, a mentality known as the “blockchain, not Bitcoin” bandwagon.
It’s a commonly expressed view, with the reverse rarely considered. Apple founder Steve Wozniak is one of the few people to ever declare “Bitcoin, not blockchain” – but then he joined a blockchain company, so it’s safe to say he just likes both now.
While I personally feel that crypto has incredible potential that we’re already seeing in action now, the use cases of blockchain are incredible with new ones emerging every day. Here on Crypto Is Coming we already covered like 50 of them in a really useful infographic – today we’re going to focus on 5 really major ones and go into some more detail on exactly what blockchain can do.
Streamlining Supply Chains
If there’s one thing blockchain is really good at, it’s taking down the insane paper trails that tend to build up over the course of transporting goods.
In 2014 a company called Maersk tracked a shipping container full of roses and avocados on its journey from Kenya to the Netherlands and found that the process if anything but efficient.
The company found that almost 30 people and organizations were involved in processing the box on its journey to Europe. The shipment took about 34 days to get from the farm to the retailers, including 10 days waiting for documents to be processed. One of the critical documents went missing, only to be found later amid a pile of paper.
Blockchain supply chain tracking can literally eliminate the entire paper trail involved in tracking millions and millions of shipping containers worldwide, something that could have a major impact on the environment as well as the bottom line of major shipping companies.
Documents won’t get lost if they’re entered into an immutable blockchain system and instead of mountains of paperwork everything can be digitized. There are also blockchain companies working on food fraud solutions with blockchain, which is a related use case.
In my opinion, this isn’t as foolproof as it sounds as it seems likely that somewhere on the supply chain corrupt officials will still be able to replace or tamper with goods and simply enter false information into a blockchain, but it will certainly make it more difficult for them.
Handling the Internet of Things
The IoT is one of the greatest achievements of our technological age – it’s also one of the most unwieldy and unmanageable ones. Literal billions of objects will be connected to digital networks soon, and only in the last ten years has a suitable infrastructure emerged capable of handling them all – blockchain technology.
Blockchain allows businesses and manufacturers to automate IoT processes without having to set up bespoke, expensive, centralized IoT systems and related infrastructure. Operational and data gathering costs are streamlined and reduced due to the efficient nature of blockchain technology and the IoT can thrive.
IoT and blockchain have yet to be connected in a really big way, but it’s happening – IoT author Nicolas Windpassinger said:
“Blockchain technology promises to be the missing link enabling peer-to-peer contractual behavior without any third party to “certify” the IoT transaction. It answers the challenge of scalability, single point of failure, time stamping, record, privacy, trust and reliability in a very consistent way.”
Smart contracts allow IoT devices to communicate without a costly centralized system micromanaging everything, potentially revamping the entire industry.
This one’s pretty crazy and it actually has a lot of different subcategories.
Like the food fraud use case, there’s still the potential for a degree of sabotage – however, in this case, there’s generally far less of an incentive to do so.
Identity management pertains to everything from academic records accreditation to birth certs, drivers license, and medical records.
Proving who you are and what you’ve done can actually be a pretty cumbersome and expensive process relying on a long, bureaucratic chain of paid workers required to verify and stamp documents in order for processes like job applications and travel plans to go ahead smoothly.
Employers often don’t even check whether their applicants have actually got the degree they mention in their resumes, not out of laziness, but because of the cost involved.
If you want to be sure of an academic qualification, you need to verify with the university. The university needs to pay someone to check that a certain student did indeed achieve a certain degree, and that needs to be sent in a written letter bearing the university letterhead – etc. This costs around $20 and takes over a week in the US – now imagine doing that for hundreds of job applicants. It’s a nightmare.
However, universities have already started entering academic records into the blockchain. Applicants can print a QR code on their resume, employers can instantly scan it to verify free of charge, and that’s it. The same goes for ID like drivers licenses and passports.
Two municipalities in India have already started a blockchain ID program in which the citizens store their ID in a digital wallet. No need to go to the passport office, no need to wait in line – streamlined and cost-effective.
Voting and medical records are two major use cases that work in the same way and also fall under this category.
Yes, we’ve all heard of ICOs. But beyond the speculative moonshot efforts of starry-eyed investors, blockchain has a great use case for more down to earth fundraising initiatives as well.
Crowdfunding for non-speculative projects like community gardens, artwork commissioned by a group, foreign aid and relief or other charity – it can all be handled far more securely and transparently through a blockchain network.
Charities and NGOs in particular are notorious for their corrupt and ineficient sinefficientth examples like the Clinton Foundation and the American Red Cross being good examples.
The US Red Cross went to Haiti and famously built a total of 6 houses out of the planned 700 with over HALF A BILLION dollars in donations. That’s almost $85 million per house.
Worse still, they were unable to account for the funding and the enormous misallocation that took place (probably into someone’s pocket). If handled on a publicly transparent blockchain, donations can be easily tracked by the public to ensure that their money goes where the group handling it says it will.
Speaking of transparency, insurance is another notoriously opaque industry that stands to be totally overhauled by blockchain technology.
Blockchain can increase trust and reduce premiums by automating enough processes ot pass on the savings to the customers, tackling the two biggest reasons for underinsurance – high costs and lack of trust in the insurance companies.
How does it reduce costs? We’ve already taken a look at how blockchain systems can automate daat entry processes and require less people and physical paperwork to operate. Beyond that, smart contracts can improve claim processing immensely. As long as certain parameters are met, a smart contract will execute automatically, and with some careful planning insurance contracts can be entered onto a blockchain and processed automatically as well.
We’ve also discussed how identity fraud and other types of fraud are made more difficult with blockchain tech. Fraud is one of the heaviest expenses for insurers, and any system that reduces fraud could save enormous amounts of money, allowing insurers seeking to gain the competitive edge to offer cut-rate prices to their customers.
The list goes on – check out our infographic for more great blockchain use cases!
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