You’ve heard this word everywhere lately, but what does it really mean? Simply put, it’s a way of structuring and storing data.
Think of how you pack things up to move. Things are put in boxes, the boxes are labeled with the contents, and then it is stacked inside the moving truck or storage unit. That’s it, really.
So why is that revolutionary? Or special?
It’s not that special or revolutionary at all. How it is being used, is what the fuss is all about. It enables something called distributed ledger technology (or DLT),which is an important step in the evolution of how data is stored and shared. Until now, most companies had private databases. They just had no other means. If they allowed anyone to look at their databases, it would have created huge security risks. With blockchain technology, it can be owned by no one, added to by its users, and all the information can be seen publicly. This use of a public ledger creates transparency never before seen, which in turn enables a company (or government) to show what they are up to, be held accountable, and thus gain trust.
Here are some real-world uses that are already applying blockchain technology:
Decentralized Internet: Much like hosting web servers and services on the Cloud where your data is replicated, hosted, and served from multiple locations around the world. This virtually eliminates all downtime.
•Smart Contracts: Smart contracts remove the expensive middleman from standard legal contracts, saving a lot of time and money.
•Decentralized Markets: You can buy or sell currencies, items, and services without interference or reliance on a third-party service and team to operate.
•Distributed Cloud Storage: Never lose your data again, and never have to worry about it being turned over to authorities, or having employees at a hosting company snooping around. If anyone remembers the witch hunt for mp3 files due to RIAA complaints in the early 2000s, you’ll understand why this is important. People shouldn’t go to jail over listening to music, no matter what.
•Decentralized Social Networking Sites: The current big social networking sites are packed full of advertisements, clutter, censorship, and give away your data. Decentralized social networks can operate without any of those problems, and in some cases, even reward you for your contributions to the network.
•Encrypted Messaging: Either by email or real-time instant messages, it can be stored on the blockchain, accessed only by a private key, without requiring any kind of personal information to be attached to it.
•Proof of Ownership: Unique or expensive items could have their ownership tracked, limiting the possibility of a stolen item being sold. It could easily be checked for authenticity around the world.
•Authenticated Voting: Keep track of who is registered to vote, who they voted for, and how many votes were counted. With blockchain, anybody could audit it and prove that the results are honest.
•Stock exchange: Stocks and other financial products often take a few days to complete their transactions. Combining blockchain technology and smart contracts could make this happen instantly.
•Real Estate: The biggest advantage is being able to check property titles and verify ownership. In addition, combined with smart contracts, transaction times can be reduced from several weeks to minutes.
•Shipping, Logistics, and Food Processing: Tracking items from the beginning of its journey and through a chain of events, culminating with the products arriving at its destination is one of the greatest uses of blockchain, allowing for complete traceability including proof of origin, processing and terminus. For example, blockchain can greatly reduce fraud from the seafood industry.