What’s new with blockchain?
December 4, 2019
Blockchain has long since stepped out of Bitcoin’s shadow, proving itself to be a highly innovative technology capable of so much more than handling cryptocurrency transactions. Businesses large and small have discovered the benefits of the technology in various fields and applications, including payments, contracts, marketing, carbon credits (look it up), and much more.
But the blockchain industry is still far from reaching its maximum potential. New use cases and startups are constantly emerging in the industry, bringing innovative applications and new services along with them.
If you’ve followed blockchain news in 2019, you know that this year has been a momentous one for the technology. And, if we believe predictions, 2020 will be even better.
Since the technology was invented for the handling and storing of cryptocurrencies, it’s obvious that this industry will have the most use cases, and is probably where we should start.
One of the most eagerly awaited events in this space is the launch of Facebook’s own cryptocurrency, Libra. Backed by several payment networks and ecommerce companies, the new global currency, to be launched in 2020, promises to be stable, fast, and scalable. The Libra Blockchain will support the new currency, serving “as an efficient medium of exchange for billions of people around the world.” However, it has seen some roadblocks which have many experts worried for the fate of Mark Zuckerberg’s most recent experiment.
Libra isn’t the only cryptocurrency causing excitement in the blockchain ecosystem. Several countries, including Russia and Venezuela, have expressed interest in launching their own national cryptocurrencies.
However, national banks and governments poking their noses into cryptocurrencies may not be welcomed by the industry, since by definition, cryptocurrencies are decentralized and ungoverned by any central authorities. The outcome of this debate is yet to be seen, but the results will definitely have a great impact on the future of the cryptocurrency spacem as a whole.
Banking, financial services, and payments
While banks have been slow to adopt blockchain, innovators in the payments industry have quickly recognized the value of the technology. Thanks to blockchain, providers like Veem have been able to offer easy, trackable, and secure payments for years. Now, banks seem to be waking up to the potentials of the technology.
Barclays, for example, has started experimenting with tracking financial transactions. This could help them combat fraud and comply with financial regulations. Other major financial institutions like Bank of America, JP Morgan, and UniCredit are also working on blockchain projects that are in various stages of development.
However, there are other exciting innovations in the financial services industry regarding blockchain. For example, global logistics giant Maersk is looking at ways to use the technology for providing marine insurance.
Blockchain has clear advantages for the financial sector, and the technology’s usage continues to grow in this industry.
Health care is a sector that could definitely benefit from the clear, transparent, and instantly available records provided by blockchain. SimplyVital Health has recognized that need and launched a blockchain network, nexus, that creates decentralized patient records. These can be immensely helpful for patients seeing multiple caregivers, since their chosen doctors will be able to access and update their medical records instantly.
Cutting out the middlemen and thus streamlining operations is one of blockchain’s best features. No other sector could use this feature as much as retail, an industry crawling with middlemen.
OpenBazaar, like many other applications, is a blockchain-powered marketplace that tries to cut out the middlemen by connecting businesses directly with each other. While the idea is not new, trusting complete strangers on the other side of the world doesn’t come easily to most people, especially when it comes to choosing business partners.
This is about to change. Thanks to its security and transparency, blockchain can create the necessary trust among participants. This wouldn’t be possible without the technology, since building trust via traditional means (i.e. meeting in person and getting to know each other) is often not feasible.
As mentioned above, several governments are already looking at creating their national cryptocurrencies. But governments’ interest in blockchain doesn’t stop there.
In fact, various countries like South Korea or Dubai are already testing or even using blockchain applications to help manage, store, and access data in a secure manner. Estonia, for example, has reconciled all its government agencies’ databases via X-Road, “the backbone of e-Estonia.” This service “allows the nation’s various public and private sector e-service information systems to link up and function in harmony.”
US government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are also looking at blockchain applications to enhance their operations. The CDC, for example, wants to use the technology to create a database that would ensure faster response to major outbreaks and disasters.
Transparency in the supply chain is one of the biggest issues in manufacturing. With a long, diverse, and segmented supply chain, manufacturers can never be really sure where their next supplies are, who’s handling them, and when they’re going to be delivered.
Provenance aims to put a stop to that. Using blockchain technology, Provenance tracks each shipment from the starting point to the finish line, providing live updates and real-time information about the whereabouts of each shipment. Besides manufacturers, the application is useful for end-users, retailers, and anybody else who needs access to transparent and trustworthy tracking of shipments.
Scammers have often used fake charities to steal significant amounts of money from people trying to help others. This hurts the donors as well as legitimate charities that inevitably end up in a cloud of suspicion, even though they’ve done nothing wrong.
And even if you’re donating money to a real charity, wouldn’t it be nice to know what exactly your funds were used for? With blockchain technology, this becomes a reality.
GiveTrack, the flagship project of the first bitcoin and blockchain charity Bitgive, promises to do exactly that. Donors won’t have to worry about their money going astray, since the blockchain-fueled GiveTrack provides “transparency and accountability to donors by sharing financial information and direct project results in real time.”
When it comes to cyber security, blockchain is one of the best solutions to ensure the integrity of sensitive data. Blockchain encrypts its data and creates a log of persons who accessed and modified it. This means that it’s really difficult to access, steal, or modify information without instant detection, which is why many experts claim that it’s impossible to tamper with data stored on the blockchain.
Applications like REMME try to strengthen cyber security solutions for businesses and individuals alike. With a decentralized authentication system, REMME aims to replace vulnerable passwords to create a new web security standard.
Although blockchain is definitely a very valuable asset in various industries, the technology has not yet reached a level of maturity that could ensure mainstream adoption. However, 2020 may be the year to change that.
With new applications emerging nearly every day, blockchain keeps edging closer to truly becoming a “household name” in businesses all over the world. Keep your finger on the pulse of technology and be ready to jump on the blockchain train when the time comes. But, some companies are working on it already, and you don’t have to bet on world events to take advantage of the technology.
Veem has implemented and innovated with blockchain technology since its inception in 2014. Find out how we use it, why, and how it makes SMB payments that much simpler.
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