In 2018, you’d be forgiven for thinking the word cryptocurrency was synonymous with blockchain. With the whirlwind of hourly news stories on volatile percentage fluctuations, inflated price speculations and individuals giving their two cents on the crypto market, the technology underpinning the digital money craze might seem a little arbitrary.
The two words that have rapidly become part of our mainstream vernacular are bitcoin and blockchain. The two are often used interchangeably as if they were one and the same. Yet this couldn’t be further from the truth. The blockchain is a chain of visible, public transactions processed across multiple computers. Each time a new transaction is processed, a new ‘block’ is added to the chain. In exchange for processing the transaction, the computer is rewarded with the blockchain’s associated cryptocurrency.
Media hype has meant that individual cryptocurrency values now overshadow the very technology they’re based on. However, as blockchain becomes more widespread and understood, I think we’re likely to see the technology coming to the fore, above its current perceived role as a means for generating cryptocurrency. Below I’ve given three example applications of the blockchain that demonstrates the technology’s inherent value.
Blockchain in science
Blockchain for science is showing promise in the form of creating a unified, transparent database that tracks every stage of the scientific process, making it almost impossible to falsify data and easier to replicate results. Instead of just having a single sheet of data to validate research, a data-trail would exist on the blockchain from start to finish, making everything more transparent. The introduction of blockchain may just spell the end of the manipulation of scientific results.
Blockchain in cybersecurity
Eliminating the lack of trust has equal benefits in cybersecurity. Owing to the decentralised aspect of the blockchain, the actual blocks themselves provide an ‘un-hackable’ data storage unit, providing much better security than present database-driven structures. If a cyber-criminal wanted to interfere with one transaction on the chain, they would have to alter every preceding block before it – an almost impossible task. With this in mind, one application within cyber security could be for users to maintain their data on their computers in the decentralised network.
Blockchain in farming
You could soon be checking the origin, quality or certification of a food product by scanning a blockchain barcode during your weekly shop. If a farm wanted to emphasise its certifications or demonstrate its produce was purely organic, you’d be able scan the barcode of their products in the supermarket and instantly view the entire supply chain from supermarket to farmer. One appropriately named start-up has taken this even further. Ripe is using IoT sensors and handheld devices linked to the blockchain to collect data on crops. The data includes important factors such as salt and sugar content, pH levels and identifies factors such as location. With farmers using blockchain, Tesco would be unlikely to sell you horse meat – or if they did, they’d have to be a lot more transparent about it.
Cryptocurrency is just the visible tip of the technology iceberg of blockchain application. Beyond the noise, we’re beginning to scratch the surface of uses for the underlying technology. Already it’s beginning to offer a secure, safe and transparent means of conducting businesses. It’s potential is huge.
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