Blockchain is already transforming the world of finance. Whether we’re talking about traditional forms of money or cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, the technology is bringing new levels of security and capability in how we can transfer amounts from one party to another.
Initially an innovation rooted firmly in the virtual currency world, in recent months and years the established players in both finance and technology have started to take advantage of Blockchain’s potential.
For example, IBM has been developing its own Blockchain platform which can help global banks quickly settle payments and transactions worldwide. Thanks to Blockchain, payments being made across international borders can now be made in a safer, efficient and more reliable way, compared to what IBM describes as the “costly, laborious and error-prone” methods of the past.
But why stop there?
If Blockchain can provide these kinds of ground-breaking benefits for finance, then there’s no reason why those same inherent advantages can’t be leveraged by just about any industry you can think of.
So for independent software vendors, system integrators and service providers like you that create offerings for a vast cross-section of clients, the possibilities for Blockchain opening up new business and markets for you are huge.
The process of delivering renewable electricity into people’s homes or offices, from windmill to washing machine, can be incredibly long-winded (no pun intended). With meters, registry providers, certificates, brokers, buyers, sellers and more, the journey for each unit of electricity produced is complex, expensive and at risk of accounting errors or even fraud.
However, researchers at the Rocky Mountain Institute believe that Blockchain could help simplify this process enormously. They suggest that meters can write data for each unit directly to the Blockchain, complete with the right ownership information, potentially enabling producers to be paid virtually instantly rather than after several weeks.
What’s more, the trading process of renewable energy can run on a direct peer-to-peer basis rather than going through central exchanges and attracting brokerage fees.
Intricate supply chain operations can be considered prime targets to be revolutionised by Blockchain, and the biggest players in the business are already making moves in that direction.
IBM has partnered with Maersk, the largest container ship operator in the world, to use Blockchain to better co-ordinate its supply chain, which stretches across ports and distribution networks worldwide. Point-to-point communication about shipments can easily be confused because there are so many different parties involved, from land distributors and port authorities to customs brokers and governments.
Using a system based on the IBM Blockchain Platform, however, means Maersk can run a global tamper-proof system that can digitise workflows across millions of container journeys each year. By reducing hold-ups through paperwork as well as streamlining communications, the associated cost benefits of the system are huge for a company of Maersk’s size.
Interoperability between different touchpoints of a patient’s care has long been a difficulty for the healthcare industry. What’s more, the digital age has changed patient attitudes, to the point where a co-ordinated service with transparent access to data is now an expectation rather than a desire.
It’s a key concern for patients, which Blockchain can help solve in several ways through transforming Health Information Exchanges (HIEs). According to research from Deloitte, there are possibilities for unifying data standards, creating consistent permission frameworks using smart contracts, and keeping a precise track of exactly what contact and treatment a patient has received, where and from whom.
Considering the financial pressures that healthcare bodies, especially publicly-funded ones, often find themselves in, utilising Blockchain for these services could theoretically free up vital funds for other functions that need greater support.
Globally, nearly $500billion of counterfeit goods are received by homes and businesses each year. Consumers are fed up of not receiving the genuine goods that they paid for, and retail firms are equally fed up of being duped and finding that their reputation is being eroded.
Blockchain, however, can add a level of traceability and accountability that’s often missing from online vending or auctions. Retailers can use the technology as a crucial check to ensure that the products being sold are authentic, using innovations like scannable tags.
The same principles can be applied to the tracking of retail goods that are out for delivery: with a Blockchain network that connects everyone in the supply chain, no longer can packages mysteriously disappear or easily be stolen.
Modern society is far more conscious about where their food comes from than before – rightly so, given the huge potential risks to public health should contaminated or diseased food infiltrate supermarkets. Blockchain is already starting to help prevent these outbreaks, however, by tracing the supply of crops and produce all the way back to the source.
The IBM Blockchain Platform has recently been utilised in successful trials by American retail giant Walmart. Together they demonstrated that the time needed to track down the full supply chain for any product could be reduced from days to seconds. This means that any potential health hazards can now be detected and mitigated far quicker, which therefore limits the impact on the public.
Several major food suppliers in the US have since gone on to adopt Blockchain solutions in a similar way, with a willingness to work together for the good of the consumer.
So what does this mean for a providing organisation like you?
Well, as you’ve seen in this blog, some industries are more advanced in Blockchain adoption than others: the benefits that can be found from the technology are still emerging.
But what all this means for you is that if you can keep yourself at the forefront of developments within Blockchain, then you’ll be in pole position to take advantage when the tech goes mass-market and all your clients want a slice of the action.
And the way things are going, that point might not be too far away.
You can gain a greater understanding of how you can grow your business with Blockchain technology when you partner with IBM. Find out more in our special eBook.