Traditions can be good, for the most part, but when new ideas and technological advancements start to make those time-honored methods of doing things easier, faster and better, those customary actions, thoughts or beliefs are bound to change with the times.
Take blockchain technology, for instance. It’s the electronic ledger used for securely recording person-to-person exchanges of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and Ethereum. A blockchain provides a secure, open, decentralized database that uses cryptographic technology to keeps users in the loop and everyone else out. Supporters of the technology are convinced that the idea at the center of bitcoin – blockchain technology – could revolutionize industries that rely on digital record keeping.
Indeed, several industries from transportation to healthcare to online retail marketing are taking a hard look at how blockchain technology might be able to help solve some recurring efficiency and customer satisfaction problems. Danish shipping giant Maersk has partnered with IBM to utilize blockchain technology in an effort to track containers as they navigate the globe. The company hopes the technology will help solve real customer problems, reduce the cost of goods, and make global trade more accessible to emerging and developing countries, according to an article published by Forbes (http://dtn.fm/A7Dkg).
The use of blockchain technology to streamline the sharing of medical records in a secure way is also being explored in the healthcare industry. A prototype system called MedRec, under development with MIT Media Lab and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, uses a private blockchain based on Ethereum (http://dtn.fm/tPq3R). It automatically keeps track of who has permission to view and change medication records, and, instead of rewarding blockchain miners with cybercurrency, miners using MedRec are given access to aggregated, anonymous data from patients’ records that can be used for epidemiological studies.
Real estate agents have some of the same problems, as they struggle with managing contracts, clients and rental inventory using “traditional” methods. One company, ATLANT, is promoting its new blockchain technology as a way to change how these transactions take place (http://dtn.fm/4rSRK). Its platform is based on peer-to-peer rental hubs, eliminating the corporate footprint and lowering fees.
Online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay are also seeking ways to better protect sellers and buyers from hackers and fraud. Using blockchain technology could provide advantages for online retail outlets, since the system offers better security (a hacker would need to pass all the blocks on the chain to steal something), and fake products could easily be tracked down, eliminating possible counterfeits.
Blockchain technology is evolving, of course, and regulators are keen to be part of the picture. Keeping an eye on the past while stepping into the future means industry standards will inevitably follow.
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