By Natalie Lord
Blockchain is changing the foundation of our social and economic landscapes and transforming industries around the world. Full integration into our infrastructure will likely take years if not decades, but it’s definitely a topic everyone should be interested in learning about.
In the simplest of terms, blockchain is just a new form of decentralized database. It’s a real-time ledger of anything that can be recorded, from physical assets to financial transactions to contracts to supply chain information. Its main advantage is that there isn’t a single entity in charge of the chain. Instead it’s an open book and everyone in the chain is able to see the detail of each record (or block as it’s known). Each block is encrypted and time-stamped and the only person who can edit the block is the person who “owns” it. Access to the block is through a private key that only the owner has. Changes that are made to an individual block are seen by everyone in the chain in real time.
Here are a few things you should know about blockchain.
1. Types of Blockchain
There are three types of Blockchain: private blockchain, public blockchain and consortium or federated blockchain.
- A private blockchain requires written permission by a central authority. The access, visibility, and rights are totally under the control of a private head.
- With a public blockchain everybody is able to view the information and carry out transactions without the need of any centralized body. These systems only require cryptographic verification.
- A consortium or federated Blockchain is partly private and partly public. It has the benefits of both the blockchains. The transactions happening in the ecosystem are monitored by the centralized system; however, it also has cryptographic security attached to the system.
2. Global Impact
Blockchain-based identification could significantly impact more than 1 billion people globally. Microsoft recently collaborated with Accenture to create a prototype ID system for a United Nations project aimed at providing legal identification and creating digital identities for people.
This type of ID would be particularly useful for refugees who have fled their homes without any formal documentation. It would enable them to have a decentralized digital ID that would be used for banking purposes, health insurance and even travel.
3. Wireless Spectrum
The US government could use Blockchain to manage wireless spectrum. The US government currently only licenses a very limited segment of the airwaves to commercial broadcasters and amateur operators. Parts of the spectrum are used for other areas like commercial cellular signals, governments signals and your Wi-Fi at home.
According to “Wired,” Blockchain technology could manage these airwaves by setting up multiple spectrums based on demand. Individuals and companies would be able to communicate their needs through a decentralized blockchain which could reduce the cost of allocation spectrum to specific systems and devices.
4. The Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) could explode because of blockchain. IoT devices are anticipated to reach 50 billion by 2020. All of those devices need to be able to exchange information with each other whilst allowing their users a level of security.
According to IBM, its Watson IoT platform is able to track packages in a supply chain, update where they are and even what temperature they’re being stored at in real time thanks to blockchain technology.
5. Real-Time Transactions
Blockchain enables real-time transactions to balance supply and demand. As solar and wind energy expand, power markets are increasingly challenged to balance supply and demand. Previously, power supply was provided mostly on an “on call” basis, or through dispatchable sources of energy, like coal and gas generation. In many markets, power supply varies with the wind and the sunshine.
This has created a demand for flexibility to be able to either adjust power demand to better match supply, or to compensate backup sources of supply that can respond quickly in times of shortage.
6. Real-Time Infrastructure
Blockchain manages infrastructure in real time. Blockchain enables more efficient monitoring and maintenance of power-industry infrastructure, based on secure, real-time data communicated by sensors. If an anomaly is detected, maintenance can be facilitated and paid for by smart contracts, leading to faster response times. Blockchain adds a layer of security and coordination to current digital pilots, enabling quick, accurate data gathering and communication between hardware suppliers, utility maintenance, and emergency response teams.
7. Instant & Secure Payments
In the transport arena, blockchain offers opportunities to coordinate electric-vehicle charging. It facilitates energy payments at charging stations, allows electric-vehicle drivers to view maps of the charging network and highlights choices based on each user’s preference with real-time pricing data. If blockchain microgrids have been set up in the area, power prices at each station can be established by grid and residential power suppliers and drivers can pay instantly and securely using a blockchain wallet.
8. Patent Protection
Patents can be protected using blockchain as it can track and verify the authenticity of a patent.
Blockchain is most vulnerable to a breach when it first comes online.
10. Work force
Blockchain will render some jobs obsolete, just as the internet did. But it will also create new careers and opportunities that we can’t even contemplate yet as the blockchain transformation gains momentum.