Bitcoin and other popular cryptocurrencies may be getting all the headlines, but it is the blockchain that makes these alternative forms of payment so valuable. The blockchain concept promises secure payments, anonymous transactions, and easy traceability, something that other types of payment simply cannot provide.
Those are compelling benefits, but the value of the blockchain goes far beyond payment facilitation. Experts predict that the blockchain concept could be used for everything from securing election data from hackers to helping manufacturers manage their supply chains more efficiently.
Some of these benefits are yet to be realized, but others are already happening. In the real-world, the blockchain is already making a significant difference, changing industries, securing systems and making users and transactions more secure. Here are some of the real-world use cases blockchains are already providing.
Managing Identity in the Digital World
The beauty, and the danger, of the digital world, is the ability to share information across national borders, time zones and political affiliations. Social media sites allow users to connect with their old school chums, professional networking sites let job seekers get a sneak peek at would-be employers before applying, and photo sharing sites let people share their favorite moments with family and friends.
Unfortunately, that sharing of personal information can have a dark side, as the recent spate of hacks and data breaches has proved. Blockchain technology is already providing users with more secure digital interactions by limiting the amount of information they need to share.
The unique nature of the blockchain provides users with a secure way to manage their identity in the digital space. As a result, those users can avoid exposing their valuable personal information, all without interfering with the things they want to do.
Better Data Management
Data management within organizations has always been a challenging endeavor, but the blockchain is making it easier. The distributed nature of the blockchain is changing the way information is collected and used within organizations, freeing up resources, lowering costs and giving individual employers more freedom and flexibility.
In the world of the blockchain, it is less about managing databases and more about maintaining a system of record. This shift can provide greater stability, enhanced security and a host of other benefits for businesses of all sizes.
While cryptocurrency fans tout anonymity and freedom from governmental regulation, many governments are exploring the ways blockchain technology can aid in vital regulation. For instance, governments are looking into how blockchain technology can provide transactional authorization for things like stock market trades, regulatory compliance and even voting.
In fact, voting security is a significant area of research for blockchain proponents. After the difficulties encountered in the 2016 presidential election, some government officials are exploring the power of the blockchain to protect against hacking attempts and safeguard voter data going forward. This remains an area of intense research, and blockchain-enabled voting systems could be coming on the market sooner rather than later.
The blockchain concept has the power to disrupt the entire financial industry, from the way banks and credit cards are used to the way in which payments are settled. The blockchain is already changing the security of banks and other financial institutions, helping them protect their depositors from hackers and other bad actors.
By using blockchain technology, banks could automatically create a secure record of which users have accessed which financial records, potentially catching the bad guys in their tracks and putting an end to hacking and bank fraud.
The Security of Health Records
Privacy and security are important concepts, but nowhere are they more critical than in the world of healthcare. From hospital records to insurance billing, patients, doctors, and institutions all have a vested interest in keeping data safe and secure.
The security of patient data and billing information has been a weak spot up till now, but blockchain technology promises to change all that. By creating a complete record of every customer, client and patient transaction, the blockchain can make hack attempts more difficult and less successful, and that is good news for the entire healthcare industry.
Up till now, many ordinary people have been baffled by the enormous run-up in the price of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. As they watched the prices go higher and higher, they wondered what was behind it all. They marveled at how something that does not physically exist could be worth so much, and why intelligent and informed investors were willing to pay so much for so little.
In the end, it may be the blockchain concept, and not Bitcoin itself, that turns out to be most valuable. Even if Bitcoin never becomes a currency on par with the U.S. Dollar or the British Pound, the underlying blockchain is already providing a host of benefits to businesses, financial institutions and governments around the world. The real-world examples listed above are just the tip of the iceberg, and there are many more blockchain-enabled benefits still to come.