Named one of the best innovations of the 21st century, blockchain had many asking “what’s that?”
Among other life-changing innovations of the 21st century– things like 3D printing, artificial and mechanical organs, and touch screen glass were all clustered near the top of the list of the technologies that have changed our lives for the better. One of them, however, left many people wondering “Well yea, but what has Blockchain ever done for us?”
Like the timeless scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Blockchain, like the Romans, has had a number of positive, real-world applications in our lives– whether they go appreciated or not. While most people equate the technology with their stores of bitcoin and other cryptos, kept safe on exchanges like Bitvavo, the humble blockchain represents a technology that is worth so much more than just the distributed ledger system that it was built for. With applications ranging to and from nearly every facet of our daily lives. It’s no wonder that the unsung hero of technological advances this decade would go unnoticed.
What is Blockchain?
Part of the reason no one seems to pay attention to blockchain technologies is that they are designed to be seamless. Perfectly integrating and evolving many pre-existing systems to make them perform with heightened efficiency and ease. In the same way that we often forget the life-altering benefits afforded to us by things like electricity or indoor plumbing, blockchain’s many applications are also often taken for granted.
Known best for its function as a distributed ledger technology (DLT), keeping track of the untold volumes of transactions on the Bitcoin network, the tech’s most basic application is really just a fully digital system of secure record keeping. Which sounds fairly insubstantial, but– as per usual– the devil is in the details.
Purpose-built as a way to keep a public, secure, and decentralized record of every transaction made on the Bitcoin network, allowing the token to remain free of centralized authority and provide a transparent ledger open for all who engage with the network to see. The system creates an immutable receipt of each individual transaction made on the network by using cryptography- complicated mathematical problems– to ensure that each transaction is not only recorded but also unique. Which prevents double-spending without the need for a centralized authority to authenticate the action.
The system works by a series of computers that compete to solve the unique cryptographic equations presented by each transaction. Once a solution has been found, the transaction is considered valid and added to other “blocks” of transactions. Once a certain number of transactions have been validated and added, a block is considered “full” and then added to the ledger. Connecting them with other blocks of validated transactions in a “chain” like formation.
What Are Blockchain Applications?
While the ledger system used by the bitcoin network is public, blockchain technology has a few different forms and continues to evolve its practical applications alongside its functionality. The DLT can be public, or permission, meaning that it can be open to any group of people who care to look– or it can require credentials or log-in information, making it available to a precious few. This type of variation in permissions is one of the attributes of blockchain that give it any number of possible applications.
Being used to execute contracts, or in traditional financial institutions as a ledger function– but the technology can also be used well outside of finance, with applications spanning as far as healthcare records and administration, or to videogames recreational applications. Cataloging assets and information in such a way that doesn’t require costly admin positions and can be audited freely by anyone with access to it.
Blockchain has also shown real promise when it comes to the monitoring and management of supply chains. Allowing consumers and retailers the ability to trace the origin and journey of goods, which could help reduce the damage of recalls or contamination of foodstuffs, or help to prevent untoward labor practices and unfair trade violations. It could also serve as a deterrent to counterfeiting and smuggling. As, eventually, all goods could be traced back to their base origin.
The healthcare industry, particularly in the United States, has expressed a vested interest in the technology, specifically in light of the response to the COVID-19 epidemic. Allowing medical experts and professionals to keep a more critical eye on immunity, vaccinations, medical equipment, and other deeply necessary statistics and trends. Allowing the community to better focus efforts and supplies to where and how they are needed.
How Blockchain May Come to Influence the Future
While much of the technical assistance that the blockchain system offers society is currently theoretical at best, the importance of transparent and easily accessible data has never been more apparent than it is now. Finding ways to better collate, disseminate, and audit the information that we are given will undoubtedly help us to propel the opportunities of a better tomorrow. So it should really come as no shock that blockchain has been named one of the most influential technologies of our time, and possibly those well beyond us too.