Blockchain technology has had a contentious reception since it was introduced in 2008 by the mysterious and pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto in the form of Bitcoin. Since then, the digital cryptocurrency has been maligned and declared “dead” hundreds of times by major news outlets and publications. Even Warren Buffet and Jamie Dimon declared it’s irrelevance.
And yet, over the past year, we have witnessed hundreds of Fortune 500 companies scrambling to investigate ways to implement blockchain technology into their business models due to a public ledger’s ability to provide transparency, eliminate middle men, and enable smart contracts.
In other words, we are witnessing a paradigm shift. This brief article is the beginning of a series of industries I’ll be exploring in greater detail in the coming weeks looking at use cases that Fortune 500 companies are already looking to implement.
Sequential, trustless tracking sounds like the perfect use to follow a product from creation to storefront. The #1 Fortune 500 Company, Walmart, seems to agree.
Indeed, the retail giant currently has 4 patents for blockchain-related supply chain technologies approved or pending:
- Blockchain-based Delivery System.
- Customer Marketplace.
- Power Consumption Management System.
- Medical Records System.
Additionally, Walmart is looking to use the distributed ledger technology to track recalled foods more accurately. It announced that all its “leafy greens” suppliers must work with the IBM Food Trust network to create end-to-end traceability in two phases. This comes on the heels of an e-coli outbreak being traced back to a facility in Arizona. Customers wereunable to identify where the items they bought had been grown. Once this system is implemented, both stores and customers will be able to scan their items and identify exactly where and when it was grown. This would also provide a new authentication method for organic and fair trade food by tracing the location and conditions the food was grown in.
Of course, Walmart isn’t the only retailer looking to blockchain technology to solve product tracking issues. Both Amerisource Bergen and Cardinal Health have publicly proposed using blockchain technology for compliance with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA). Genentech and Pfizer have already completed blockchain-based pilot programs for tracking pharmaceuticals from manufacturing to patient distribution.
The applications in the medical industry go far beyond simple pharmaceutical tracking, however.
Healthcare Data Security
In an industry where confidential data is changing hands every day, security and trust between parties are paramount. As healthcare-provider networks grow, so do communication and reconciliation costs.
Enter blockchain — specifically, “zero-knowledge proof” technology that allows for secure and trustless data transmission without revealing anything about the data itself. Every transaction is encrypted before being posted to the blockchain, making the technology data-privacy compliant for patient medical record use. With providers sharing access to the same decentralized, fraud-proof blockchain, reconciliation costs will virtually disappear.
Industry leaders including UnitedHealthcare, Optum, Humana, Quest Diagnostics and Multiplan have created a syndicate in a joint effort to drive the development of blockchain tech for the medical records industry. Change Healthcare (McKesson) has also signaled interest in blockchain tech by signing on with the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger initiative.
Of course, database security isn’t something that ONLY the medical industry would be interested in.
Cloud Computing, Database and Network Security
Massive data breaches now appear to be occurring on almost a semiannual basis. The need for enterprise-level, enhanced data-security measures has never been greater. Blockchain can ensure that all historical records remain unaltered, and any future changes are securely recorded and timestamped.
For example, Apple is exploring a system that monitors changes to the state of data stored on a network. Apple calls their developing system “multi-check architecture.” One of their proposed methods involves using a blockchain program to generate and record a timestamp of any changes to the data.
Verizon is partnering with Guardtime to achieve a similarly robust and secure solution by employing a Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI) Blockchain. This type of distributed consensus mechanism only records encrypted versions of customer data to the public blockchain. This ensures that no sensitive information is available to prying eyes.
After months of reserved judgment around the budding technology, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, announced that it’s exploring the use of blockchain for its cloud storage division. The benefits are clear and the cost of inaction by Google would be astronomical. With blockchain startups like Filecoin, Maidsafe and Storj already operating decentralized cloud storage platforms using blockchain tech, Google’s cloud would be rendered obsolete from a security standpoint.
Bitcoin had bankers extremely rattled at first, with Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein both holding extremely skeptical opinions towards the digital asset. However, as cryptocurrencies and crypto-assets began to skyrocket in popularity, they found themselves wondering how they could capitalize on this nascent technology.
And boy did they find it!
JP Morgan Chase created the Blockchain Center of Excellence (BCOE). The division is dedicated to helping businesses use blockchain applications through JPMC’s strategic partnerships and in-house solutions. Credit Suisse, along with over a dozen other financial partners, developed their own projects to revolutionize syndicated loan issuance and management.
Yet, the biggest impact that blockchain will have on the banking sector is improving process efficiencies. Blockchain provides the long-awaited modernization surrounding how information is stored, processed and shared. As processes become faster and cheaper, both businesses and customers will benefit. Companies like Ripple are already positioning themselves to partner with banks to fill exactly these needs. Ripple comes in direct competition to legacy cross-border payments giant, Swift.
Air Traffic Control
Here’s what I think is the most interesting use of blockchain use by a Fortune 500 company. Boeing has started exploring how to use AI and blockchain for tracking drones and unmanned aerial vehicles. The instantaneous and secure nature of blockchain makes it ideal for creating vehicle “lanes” that the drones would be assigned along with a paired AI.
That’s not all. A whopping 86 percent of the airline industry companies are investigating how to implement blockchain into their systems within the next three years. Due to the supply chain benefits mentioned above, this will be useful in helping airlines prevent the use of counterfeit parts, something that has plagued the industry for years.
Top companies around the world are dedicating innovation resources into exploring blockchain technology as well as most emerging tech. This trend will only continue to increase over the coming decades. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be highlighting select use cases and diving much deeper.
Stay tuned and please follow my very recently reestablished Twitter handle for updates: