Like the Internet in the late 1990s, blockchain is today’s game-changer. It creates convenience for both businesses and consumers, and most important of all – transparency.
In simple terms, blockchain is a time-stamped series of digital transactions. Managed by a cluster of computers instead of one single entity, each transaction – or block of data – is linked by code, making it genuinely secure and resistant to modification.
As we continue to witness blockchain’s transformational impact, more and more governments, global businesses and other major organisations are recognising its potential and using it across a variety of real-world applications. Here are just a few of the latest incredible uses.
1. Bring back voter confidence
Election fraud or vote rigging is a problem in many parts of the world. Migrating the voting process to blockchain could transform the whole system as regulators can simply turn to the open-source data in cases where doubt is raised, and find out if attempts to alter or modify information have been made. Using blockchain technology during elections promotes integrity by reducing tampering methods often witnessed in paper voting. It also allows people to vote from their home, rather than visiting physical booths.
In 2018, the US state of West Virginia piloted online voting through a mobile application. Using blockchain to tally votes, the app uses biometric authentication to identify individual users before allowing them to mark an electronic ballot.
2. Better food safety
The transparency that comes with blockchain could revolutionise how people choose to eat. If a consumer has access to a centralised database that logs the entire production and supply chain system of food, the benefits are two-fold. First, a consumer can easily trace an item of food, from farm to fork, providing a level of transparency rarely seen before. Second, from a government or business perspective, such an open-source system simplifies the role of health and safety regulators in identifying and controlling the source of, for example, food-borne illnesses.
In September 2018, a US hypermarket chain adopted a food safety blockchain solution. Working alongside a multinational IT company, the organisation made it mandatory for all suppliers of leafy green vegetables to upload their data to the blockchain, eliminating the laborious manual process when tracing data linked to the source of food-related issues.
3. One-stop-shop for ID
Millions of people around the world have no physical documentation to prove their identity. That brings with it a host of problems. Without valid ID, securing a mortgage or opening a bank account becomes impossible. Blockchain could change that. Rather than storing public identities in a centralised system, which could leave data exposed to compromise, blockchain can empower people to have better control over their identity.
Adopting a decentralised approach to identity management minimises hacking and security breaches. Where centralisation of control allows companies to amass huge volumes of personal data on hackable servers, information stored on a blockchain is secured cryptographically, making data breaches very difficult, if not impossible. The days of cold calling could be a thing of the past too, as only the individual can share personal information with third-party organisations.
Some notable projects have already been developed in this arena, including one US-based company providing a multi-factor authentication platform without the need for a username, password, third-party authenticator or physical hardware ID.
4. Real estate made easy
When purchasing real estate, many people end up walking away with hard copies of multiple contracts. Blockchain can put a stop to physical paper trails by storing ownership and title details online. One US-based startup is using a blockchain-secured platform to track and process the complicated house buying process. By creating an enterprise-ready platform for inputting property information, including the uploading and recording of documents onto a blockchain, it allows title companies, municipalities and clients to easily view a clean record of ownership, thereby reducing future title search time, and increasing confidence and transparency.
Converting contracts to an immutable online database makes it easier for all parties to trace ownership information, and when it comes to selling you can transfer title deeds to the new buyer easily. Such a platform responds well to the needs of customers in today’s fast-paced digital world, as little inconveniences that encroach on an individual's time are often the difference between securing a deal or not.
5. Disrupt hunger, poverty
In a not-so-obvious but incredibly smart move, charities across the globe are adopting innovative ways to help curb some of the world’s most pressing issues, including hunger. Many donors today are reluctant to give to charities due to pervasive corruption and non-transparency. The good news is blockchain disruptions like cryptocurrency donations can alleviate these concerns.
The transparency that comes with transferring funds through a decentralised system means well wishers can oversee their transaction from start to finish, building trust between charity and donor. Donor information is also protected over blockchain, eliminating the risk of personal data being transferred to third parties.
One charity fighting to curb hunger through blockchain is the United Nations World Food Programme (UN WFP). Through its Building Blocks pilot, UN WFP is trialling blockchain to make cash transfers and personal data more efficient, transparent and secure. The organisation aims to speed up the processing and settlement of transactions while lowering the chance of fraud or data mismanagement through this technology.