In Blockchain in 2018: Year in Review, we tackled how last year, hundreds of enterprise corporations started looking at the potential of blockchain as an overarching data solution. Considering its various practical applications outside of cryptocurrency, experts have predicted that blockchain itself will be worth over $3 trillion (€2.6 trillion) by 2030. As the leading technology for decentralising and securing data, blockchain is now being used across several of the world’s most vital industries.
- 1. Blockchain is a Universal Technology
- 2. Greater Trust Between Patients and Healthcare Providers
- 3. Eliminating Barriers in the Global Supply Chain
- 4. Streamline the Arduous and Costly Voting Process
- 5. Revolutionise the Music Industry
- 6. There’s No Discernible Limit to Blockchain Integration
1. Blockchain is a Universal Technology
A lot of this has to do with the revolutionary way in which blockchain technology secures data. Every new transaction, even if it’s for editing previous information, is recorded in a new time-stamped block. Before that new block becomes part of the chain, it undergoes a cryptography-based data verification system that involves every computer in the network. Any attempts to edit the block as it is being verified causes the network to automatically reject it. It’s basically an extremely secure, quick, and cheap digital method of exchanging verified information. We’ve seen the first and most widespread application of this in cryptocurrency. And as you can surmise, the very nature of blockchain technology will allow it to be used in every type of transaction or industry that involves the exchange of data or assets.
2. Greater Trust Between Patients and Healthcare Providers
Healthcare is one of the major industries that stand to benefit the most from the continuing global integration of blockchain technology. Here in Germany, pharmaceutical company Merck has been investigating the best ways to use blockchain-based networks to set up vaccine registries as well as patient transaction histories. This will lead to an increasing need for automation in German healthcare to keep up with the demand for evolving technology. In Europe and across the world, the healthcare industry is quickly warming up to the benefits of blockchain-based systems, with companies like Merck, Microsoft, Guardtime, Gem Health, Patientory, iSolve, Medicalchain, and FarmaTrust taking the lead.
In fact, ECN reveals that health-related blockchain spending grew to around $177 million (€157 million) last year, and could balloon to $5.6 billion (€4.9 billion) by 2025. Much of this is because of how decentralised data verification can allow both patients and healthcare providers to cut through the medical red tape.
By using blockchain to maintain electronic health records, patient data verification and transfers become instant. This can eliminate many of the time-consuming and inefficient methods currently used for sharing patient information, especially when multiple private practices and/or specialists are concerned. As patient data becomes widely available and easily verifiable, this could also eliminate the need for insurance middlemen. The result is an overall reduction in basic costs across the entire healthcare industry. In short, through the decentralisation of its data, global healthcare could become much more accessible to those who need it.
Furthermore, blockchain integration in healthcare may also reduce or even eliminate the threat of counterfeit drugs. If all transaction data involving pharmaceutical shipments are time-stamped and peer-verified, it will be much easier for manufacturers and other authorities to ensure that genuine drug shipments are reaching their intended market without malicious interruption. This is especially crucial in developing countries where an estimated 10% to 30% of drugs sold are fake.
3. Eliminating Barriers in the Global Supply Chain
The aforementioned benefits are also bound to make massive impacts in the way the global supply chain operates. Much like the world’s banking institutions and healthcare industry, today’s global transport/logistics industry is bogged down by bureaucratic processes that rely on manual verification and paperwork. Furthermore, given the complex cross-industrial networks that make the global supply chain possible, it stands to benefit even more from integrating blockchain solutions into both old and new business practices.
For instance, blockchain technology could help with streamlining many of the logistics industry practices that are being modernised by current tech advances. In the UK this is being done through the increasing use of telematics. Verizon Connect provides an overview of how modern vehicle telematics have been providing business solutions for fleets of heavy trucks. This includes, but is not limited to, the following: fleet tracking software, Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, and predictive maintenance. While these services address different needs for land-based logistics, they all have one thing in common. All of them depend on the efficient transfer of verified data. The above examples show how they can be made even more efficient by applying the data transfer capabilities of blockchain-based networks.
Of course, these potential new advances are not without their unique challenges. In one of the world’s most competitive industries, it should come as no surprise that certain rivalries between business entities may limit the streamlined integration of blockchain into global logistics practices. For instance, some online retailers who rely on cloud platforms may refuse blockchain applications running on Amazon Web Services (AWS) for fear of enabling Amazon to gain both capital and influence. In the same way, some shipping companies may not want to deal with the blockchain initiative TradeLens, just because it’s ran by Maersk, a global shipping giant with many long-standing rivalries in global logistics. These considerations are already limiting the adoption of blockchain in certain parts of the global supply chain. At the same time, as Scott Mall of the Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA) explains via Supply Chain Dive, these barriers are also indicative of the growing acceptance of blockchain in mainstream business. “The interesting thing about that is it shows that there are a lot of companies and organisations and individuals that think that blockchain technology can be useful.”
4. Streamline the Arduous and Costly Voting Process
Given what we’ve already tackled about how blockchain can streamline data transfer and verification, it should come as no surprise that it can also be applied to the process of voting. The city of Zug in Switzerland proved this last year, when they launched the first successful foray into blockchain-based e-voting. Apart from being faster and much more efficient than traditional digital and paper voting methods, the move has proven to be the perfect introduction to blockchain for some Swiss citizens.
The company that developed the blockchain-based voting system, Luxoft, explained that 72 out of 220 residents with digital identities in Zug took part in the e-vote. Meanwhile, 95 participated in the online survey that gauged citizens’ reactions to the new e-voting process. Out of these survey participants, 42% were glad about the change, 16% welcomed it but had security-related doubts, while 21% believed that blockchain made e-voting more secure. While the total number of participants seems small, it’s still indicative of how people are slowly but surely warming up to blockchain technology.
In Zug, digital IDs have been in place since 15th November 2017. And apart from voting, it’s been used in an app-based bicycle sharing system around the city. It’s currently being developed so that it can be used in the city’s library system as well. Also known as Crypto Valley for its large number of blockchain-related startups, the city of Zug is just one of the many local governments around the world that are applying blockchain for efficiency and security.
5. Revolutionise the Music Industry
“A major pain point for creatives in the music industry – such as songwriters, producers, and musicians – is that they are the first to put in any of the work, and the last to see any profit.” This is how Grammy award-winning English musician Imogen Heap explains the state of the music industry from the perspective of the artists. Sharing her views on how blockchain can change the music industry, Heap expounds that the primary producers of music today have little to virtually no access to the valuable aggregate data on how and where their fans are consuming their music. She adds that today, most artists and producers know next to nothing about how their royalty payments are being calculated. Heap believes that this can all change through the music industry’s gradual embrace of blockchain.
The artist proved just that when in 2017, she crowdfunded the release of her song Tiny Human via a blockchain-based smart contract. Fans paid Heap directly through the cryptocurrency Ether, powered by Ethereum, the same network that powers Heap’s Mycelia. The smart contract that funded the song came with automatic terms that distributed royalty payments to those fans, along with anyone else who was involved with making or recording the song. Although Heap herself admitted that the revenue generated was insignificant at the time, it showed that fans were willing and able to experiment with the blockchain format in music production. And that alone shows the potential of blockchain to introduce revolutionary changes to the music industry.
Blockchain-enabled smart contracts, as Heap has shown, can allow music producers to experiment with various conditions and terms while engaging with audiences directly. This could result in new business models that could make the music industry more transparent in terms of payments. It could also lessen the power of middlemen over music producers, or even eliminate the need for labels altogether. In short, blockchain could result in new business models that could balance the scales of revenue in the music industry.
6. There’s No Discernible Limit to Blockchain Integration
Given what we already know about how blockchain can transform the world’s largest and most vital industries, it should be clear that this technology will sooner or later dominate every type of industry. Virtually every data transfer can be streamlined through blockchain, which means that it can greatly enhance any IoT or artificial intelligence (AI)-based business innovation. Also, blockchain’s peer-based verification system allows it to be used in trading not just cryptocurrencies and fiat money, but also land titles, machinery, vehicles, food shipments, and virtually any asset worth trading. In short, the fields of healthcare, logistics, music, and voting are just parts of the global blockchain equation. All things considered, it would be safe to expect the mainstream global integration of blockchain sooner rather than later.