It has become widely accepted that blockchain technology will be one of the most disruptive technologies the world has ever seen. The open-source technology that underlies the digital currency bitcoin can be augmented to serve a wide range of purposes and to deliver an array of different functions that can be useful for both the private and public sector.
The most-cited use cases for blockchain technology include payments, the clearing and settlement of financial securities, and the digitization of the supply chain management process. However, there are much more.
In this article, you will be introduced to five industries the blockchain is disrupting that you probably did not expect.
One of the most pressing industry needs the world is facing today is robust cyber security. Cyber crime has been on a massive increase in the past three years with recent global ransomware attacks such as WannaCry and Petya being only the tip of the iceberg.
It is estimated that almost 50 percent of SMEs are the victims of cyber attacks each year and that the costs of dealing with cyber crime are projected to exceed $2 trillion annually by 2019. Not surprisingly, the World Economic Forum named cyber crime one of the key risks to businesses in its 2016 Global Risks Report.
Needless to say, there is huge demand for increased cyber security solutions in a world where businesses, as well as public sector agencies, are doing the best they can to prevent themselves from falling victim to the next, more advanced cyber attack.
The blockchain can provide a solution to greatly improve cyber security. Through its ability to securely store data using cryptography and through decentralization, it provides a better cyber security solution than most legacy systems currently in place.
Software security firm Guardtime is one of the first to implement blockchain technology into its suite of cyber security solutions. The Amsterdam-headquarter company has developed the Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI) that verifies data integrity through the running of hashing functions, which then compare the data with the original stored on the blockchain. This forgoes the issue of having to rely on individuals for data authentication and, therefore, provides “mathematical certainty over the provenance and integrity of every component in your system,” according to Guardtime CTO Matthew Johnson.
Unfortunately, elections are not always as democratic and as “clean” as we would like them to be. While election fraud is more commonly an issue in developing nations, even the US is not immune to irregularities and alleged outside meddling when it comes to their presidential elections. The electoral process is, therefore an area where technological disruption is another pressing matter for society.
Due to its inherent ability to securely record, store, and transfer data in an immutable manner, blockchain technology provides the ideal technological solution to the election process. From rightful voter registration to effective and transparent counting of votes, the blockchain could be used to make elections as fair and democratic as they should be.
One startup working on making this happen is Follow My Vote Inc., which is developing a blockchain-based end-to-end electronic voting software that will allow citizens to vote directly from their electronic devices in a transparent and tamper proof manner.
Another area where secure data storage is vital is in the healthcare sector. Unfortunately, hospitals have a reputation for having very poor cyber security measures in place, which is a major issue when you are storing confidential healthcare records that cyber criminals can exploit for their gains.
Therefore, storing healthcare records on the blockchain has become an area of interest for several tech startups. Two of the most prominent blockchain startups in the healthcare space include Gem, which uses the Ethereum blockchain to develop a secure data-sharing infrastructure and Tierion, which has created a data storage and verification platform for the healthcare sector.
Another area where blockchain disruption will be a great benefit to society, especially to those most in need, is the philanthropic sector. Unfortunately, a history of misuse of funds and other scandals in the charitable giving sector has led to decreased giving as the reputation of charities is at an all-time low in the UK, while a 2015 study found that 35 percent of Americans lack faith in charities.
It has become hard for individuals to trust large NGOs to actually deliver the donated funds to the recipients without the majority of it “getting lost along the way”. Fortunately, for both NGOs and donors, the blockchain may provide the perfect solution.
Through applying blockchain technology to track donation payments in a publicly viewable manner, confidence could be put back into the charitable giving sector as all payments could be accounted for in real time. This would make the misappropriation of funds a lot more difficult and would ensure that the planned recipients of the donations actually receive the donated funds.
A startup already working on a solution like this is the San Francisco-based BitGive Foundation, which is developing a platform called GiveTrack that leverages blockchain technology to track charitable donations. Using GiveTrack, donors are able to trace their funds on a public platform in real time to view how their donations are being spent and track the results they generate.
Perhaps the most surprising industry that is facing blockchain disruptions is the music industry. Currently, the music industry is being controlled by centralized middlemen who take a cut of artists’ royalty payments every step along the way. Record labels, music distributors, and publishers receive the lion’s share of artists’ revenues. The blockchain, however, could change that.
Recent developments in the blockchain industry could soon allow artists to be remunerated directly as well as have full control over their creative content. That is what New York-based tech startup Ujo Music envisions. Ujo Music was founded to tackle two pressing issues within the music industry; royalty payments and licensing. Ujo aims to build a platform that will allow artists to distribute, license and receive direct payments for their music directly through the use of Ethereum-based smart contracts.
Whatever industry you are working in, there is a good chance that blockchain disruption is on its way. Whether it will be to improve operational efficiencies, to reduce costs or to provide a faster and more secure way to store and transfer data, the blockchain is coming.