The meteoric rise (and subsequent fall) of Bitcoin stock in late 2017 brought blockchain technology to the forefront of the collective consciousness. But for many, conceptualizing the functions (and potential implications) of blockchain technology seems tantamount to decoding the human genome.
Although blockchain is most famously used by cryptocurrencies, the ease and security of this technology (combined with the relative lack of security of many other internet-based platforms and transactions) mean it’s not going anywhere. And before long, the use of blockchain is likely to work its way into just about every aspect of modern life.
Read on to learn more about the ways blockchain technology is poised to revolutionize everything from online banking to making a piece of toast.
What Is Blockchain Technology, Anyway?
The intricacies of blockchain technology can be challenging even to the tech-savviest among us. But at its most basic level, blockchain is essentially a peer-reviewed (and peer-vetted) online transaction history. Unlike other secure transactions, blockchains are visible to everyone in the “chain” — but only a blockchain’s owner can edit it.
Whenever a new block is added to the chain, all versions of the blockchain are synced in real-time, ensuring that everyone in the chain is operating with current information (much like a Google or Sharepoint document can be concurrently updated by multiple users). And because each block is vetted by thousands of computers before it’s verified and added to another block to create a chain, the ability to defraud vendors or other blockchain users through this technology is almost nil.
Take, for example, an online purchase. When using a credit or debit card to make this purchase, you’re required to provide your card number, billing address and zip code. This information must be encrypted during the transaction, as anyone who has access to your credit card number could easily use this information to steal funds or make fraudulent purchases. And often, it takes a day or more for the purchaser to process your payment information by contacting the credit card issuer, ensuring the card number is valid, and authenticating the charge.
But if you’re making this same purchase using blockchain technology, you eliminate the middleman (or middlemen). Instead of going through a third-party payment website, you can establish a peer-to-peer connection with the vendor. The blocks you build in your chain can convey your financial information straight to the vendor, allowing it to authenticate and transfer funds in seconds, not days.
The blockchain isn’t just for online purchases. It has the ability to revolutionize the following industries:
- Insurance Claims Processing
The insurance industry is a multi-billion-dollar one, but despite its profits and power, insurance companies can struggle mightily when it comes to efficiently processing claims. Between corrupted data, want-to-be fraudsters, coverage disagreements between providers, and outdated policies, agents and claims adjusters often have to track down and input data manually.
By verifying each block in the process, blockchain technology can ensure that a claim is perfectly handled from commencement to completion.
- The Internet of Things (IoT)
Any everyday item can become part of the IoT when it has internet connectivity — like a “smart” coffeepot, crock-pot, thermostat or home-security system that’s programmable from your mobile phone. By adding blockchain abilities to IoT devices, your coffeepot will be able to re-order coffee (or filters) when it’s running low, while your HVAC system can maximize its efficiency by automatically reducing power when idle.
The Future of Blockchain
Right now, around 9 in every 10 major North American and European banks are exploring the ways in which blockchain can be used in banking applications. CEOs, CFOs and COOs of multinational corporations and technology startups have embraced this technology as the wave of the future.
Some are worried about the number (and types) of jobs that will go the way of buggy-whip manufacturers and milkmen once blockchain technology becomes more mainstream. Third-party payment-processing sites may become obsolete, and the number of people employed as stock, insurance and mortgage brokers is likely to decrease.
But blockchain technology is also poised to create jobs — some of which can’t even be conceptualized at this stage. And the ability to reduce the number of individuals working in fraud-prevention and loss-prevention fields may ultimately be a net gain to society at large.
With all this, one thing is clear: blockchain technology has the ability to reshape society in a way once thought impossible. By keeping pace with advances in the blockchain system, you’ll be well-positioned to spot opportunities for your business or organization.
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