If you haven’t heard about blockchain technology — arguably the most influential phenomenon in computer science, finance, and business right now — it’s probably time to get out from under that rock you’re under. Blockchain technology is the future and if you don’t want to be left in everyone else’s dust, you need to get updated ASAP.
So, what is it exactly?
Blockchain technology first emerged with the creation of Bitcoin in 2009. This form of technology allows digital information to be exchanged without any external users or middlemen. A digital ledger (or blockchain) records all economic transactions. And although these records are not controlled by a single entity, they are accessible to all users and easily verified. The use of decentralization reduces the risk of corruption and hacking and makes blockchain transactions more secure.
However, the benefits of blockchain are not limited to cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. Let’s delve into the various ways blockchain technology can change the world as we know it.
1. Enhanced Cybersecurity
Given that blockchain was developed to provide safer transactions, it’s no surprise that it is the leading technology driving security today. Blockchain applications make clients less hesitant about having their personal information stored. This is because they are the only ones who can change their data. Believe me, no one wants to have his or her personal data stolen.
Blockchain applications were developed to improve user authentication and limit access to key control systems. Cybersecurity that is built on blockchain technology helps to reduce the occurrence of security breaches similar to what happened at Equifax — one of the three national credit reporting agencies. In this particular security breach, the personal information of close to 150 million people was exposed. By keeping data decentralized, no single location holds all the confidential records of an organization.
Decentralized data is particularly important if an organization is the target of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. DDoS attacks occur when hackers increase the traffic to a website until it can no longer keep up with requests and crashes. These attacks are hard to prevent because the Domain Name System (DNS) is only partially decentralized. Blockchain technology can facilitate the complete decentralization of the DNS so data is less likely to be stolen, corrupted, or deleted.
2. Streamlined Financial Operations
Blockchain is also having a profound effect on global finance. While cross-border payments are complex with today’s banking infrastructure, the use of a shared digital ledger to record and verify transactions simplifies the entire process. Added benefits include faster processing speeds (send money to a foreign country in seconds rather than days) and much lower transaction fees. Who doesn’t want to get better service for a lower price? I know I do.
Blockchain is an effective tool for identity verification and management. The technology decreases the occurrence of money laundering and other criminal financial activities. As financial institutions develop more secure digital relationships, transactions may be executed and settled without the need for corresponding banks. In fact, blockchain technology may even replace traditional banks in the near future.
3. Improved Advertising and Marketing
Blockchain technology is useful in marketing and public relations because it boosts credibility. For example, it helps PR firms to determine whether the clicks and mentions they receive on social media are from human beings or bots. Companies that receive genuine human engagement are better positioned to improve customer loyalty and provide improved products and services. Companies that do not use blockchain technology in their marketing efforts may have statistics that are less valid.
Blockchain technology allows PR firms to confirm the originality of their press releases, media advisories, and social media posts. It also helps companies to publish coherent content across all their social media platforms. Having a digital ledger with unreleased content may also improve content management. This is because companies can track all changes made to their records as well as the people who make them.
4. Increased Funding for Blockchain Startups
An initial coin offering (ICO) is a new way to raise funds for blockchain projects. A business conducting an ICO campaign usually writes a white paper that explains the structure of the technology, outlines how it will be developed, states how tokens (cryptocurrency sold to investors) will be implemented, and highlights its key proposition. Depending on the business’ preference, investors may buy tokens using fiat money, Bitcoin, or Ether. The funds raised are used for the development of the project.
The emergence of ICOs have made it easier for a number of crypto startups to obtain needed funding. It also plays into the current interest investors have in the next big thing in blockchain technology. All this is done without the hassle and red tape that typically come with venture capital financing. In fact, the rapid increase in ICOs in 2017 was enough to surpass venture capital funding for blockchain startups that year.
Nevertheless, there are drawbacks given the current lack of regulation of ICO campaigns. After receiving millions in funding, a number of ICOs packed up shop and simply disappeared overnight. In Q4 of 2018, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) began to crackdown on a number of ICOs to protect investors from fraud. The SEC has also begun to provide new guidelines for blockchain startups, so expect less ICOs and more STOs (security coin offerings) next year.
5. Better Healthcare
There has been a lot of controversy about the state of the US healthcare system in recent times. Can blockchain offer any solutions? You bet it can.
Blockchain can be used to maintain the integrity of medical records. Once these records have been created and signed, they can be written to the blockchain which ensures they cannot be tampered with. Blockchain startup dHealthNetwork has already made major steps in this field. The authenticity of medical records is pivotal in caring for patients and upholding justice in legal cases that involve health care services.
Blockchain can facilitate the process of consent management. The medical procedures a patient has consented to can be put on the blockchain where it can be accessed by anyone with the necessary permissions. The blockchain can also be used to track and reward patients who keep their appointments, stay healthy, and contribute their data to further clinical research.
Is A Blockchain Future Unavoidable?
It sure is looking that way. As we speak, Asia and the Middle East are making a major push in the spread of blockchain. A number of large banking institutions in Japan and South Korea have already experimented with the technology. Look out for major improvements in international money transfer settlements as well as low banking fees in 2019.
Just as the internet disrupted virtually all facets of human life in the early 2000s, expect blockchain to do the same in the next few years. A number of reputable educational institutions such as Yale, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, Duke, and MIT are already offering blockchain courses to prepare students for the future. If you want to learn more about some of the biggest developments in the blockchain industry you can do it here.
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Written by: Demetrie Thompson