To be honest, it’s hard to think of an existing industry that isn’t likely to be disrupted by blockchain technology. That being said, as while we are still in the early stages of development, we are starting to see some emerging trends concerning particular use cases of blockchain-based systems that really stand out from the crowd.
There is a lot of data about most of us floating around out there among numerous different agencies, corporations, and institutions. As “real life” becomes increasingly integrated with digital life, being able to prove one’s identity is crucial when dealing with creditors, government agencies, employers, and so forth. While all of these various entities have control over different aspects of our personal data and are monetizing it, we’re continually required to “verify” ourselves to them. The potential for blockchain-based digital proof-of-identity systems would dramatically reshape the balance of power, enable individuals to be in charge of their own data, monetizing it for themselves.
The implications for blockchain in supply chain management, overall, are pretty massive. Shipping across national borders is a big part of many contemporary supply chains, and it is an extremely complex and interrelated system. If a shipment is delayed, that delay can impact any number of factories waiting on parts to arrive, which can then impact the businesses relying on those factories to assemble products that they depend on. One delay can ultimately trickle all the way back to a retail consumer, potentially raising the price of a good in the event of a shortage, or prompting them to pick a competing product if their normal brand is out of stock – like, for example, if a shipment of perishable goods is delayed. Major administrative costs are devoted to bills of lading, and blockchain-based lading promises to bring huge increases in efficiency to the shipping sector.
The healthcare industry deals with vast amounts of sensitive data. In many countries, the bureaucracy sounding this data is remarkably inefficient and patients have little control over their own medical records. Blockchain promises to enable an auditable, tamper-proof system of record keeping that gives patients the power to grant access to their personal information to relevant practitioners. This could speed up claims processing, ensure the integrity of medical records, and conceivably extend integrate into scientific research efforts or marketplaces surrounding emerging uses of bioinformatics and genomic medicine.
The Internet of Things is growing and finding its way into household objects like smart fridges, toasters, and even a smart toilet! Beyond these everyday items, many industries rely increasingly on machine-to-machine transactions to expedite their workflow. The ability for microtransactions, such as app purchases or even energy to run your smart fridge, to be processed on the blockchain without passing through and incurring fees from a central banking entity opens up new possibilities for the future of the digital asset economy.
Particularly as more nations continue to adopt renewable energy like solar and wind, the potential for community-based microgrids is expanding rapidly. Today, most consumers that generate excess electricity – for example, from solar panels – end up selling that back to the utility company at a fixed rate. Blockchain-based systems could enable decentralized markets for neighbors to buy and sell surplus energy to one another at rates they choose.
Stay tuned for part 2 – coming soon!