More Than Bitcoin: 8 Industries Being Innovated by Blockchain

While blockchain has become synonymous with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrenices, the technology actually has far reaching potential across industries ranging from manufacturing to healthcare, and even entertainment.
  • For those just beginning to understand blockchain technology it may seem that its that same thing cryptocurrency, particularly Bitcoin. What's lesser understood is that blockchain is not cryptocurrency, merely the technology that allows cryptocurrencies to exist.

    A 2018 report by ResearchandMarkets expects the overall blockchain market to be worth $7.8 million by 2022. IHS Market offers even more optimistic numbers in a 2018 analysis predicting the business value of blockchain. According to IHS the cost savings and efficiencies brought about by implementing blockchain across various industries are projected to increase from $2.5 billion in 2017 to $2.0 trillion in 2030.

    In reality blockchain is enabling more than just anonymous financial transactions. The distributed ledger technology, which spreads an encrypted database across all users on any network, offers enhancements in encryption and automation that could have a major impact on a variety of industries – some of which may be very surprising.

    Take a look at eight key industries that are already being transformed by blockchain:

    (Image source: Pixabay)

  • 1.) Autonomous and Connected Vehicles

    Blockchain is going to have implications in a number of aspects in the automotive space. The nonprofit Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative (MOBI) is an organization aimed at “working with forward thinking companies, governments, and NGOs to make mobility services more efficient, affordable, greener, safer, and less congested by promoting standards and accelerating the adoption of blockchain, distributed ledger, and related technologies.” MOBI currently counts big names such as Ford, GM, BMW, and IBM among its membership, all looking at ways of marrying automotive technology with blockchain. There are even startups beginning to crop up around automotive blockchain.

    An open-source collection of blockchain software tools and standards can create a connected public and private transportation ecosystem that reduces fraud, frictions, and costs and changes the way vehicles are not only purchased and insured, but also used. Blockchain can facilitiate secure vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-everything (V2X) communication in smart city infrastructures for everything from toll road transactions, to fleet navigation and road safety alerts by ensuring a high-level of verification and safety among vehicles and devices.

    (Image source: Chorus Mobility)

  • 2.) Aviation

    Belize-based startup Aeron Labs is applying blockchain to aviation safety. Accoridng to the company, “Aeron serves as blockchain-based flight log and aircraft maintenance data platform. With its deployment, private pilots, aircraft operators, flight schools, and aircraft owners can get access to up-to-date and reliable information, including pilot’s experience record. Aviation enthusiasts and general public can search for curated flight and training offers.”

    According to a whitepaper the company says it wants to create an “airline in a pocket,” in which a distributed ledger tracks data around from pilots, maintenance crew, base operators, and other personnell – allowing for a secure transparent system for monitoring aircraft safety as well as pilots' records. Consumers, as well as aviation companies themselves, would then have access to a log of both a pilot's and an aircrafts safety ratings, among other factors.

    (Image source: Hiljon from Pixabay)

  • 3.) Cybersecurity

    The Internet of Things (IoT) is on its steady march to having one trillion devices connected all over the world. That also means about one trillion nodes through which malicious hackers can potentially access sensitive data.

    The days of the old fashion username/password combo to secure our data are eroding. And blockchain is being hailed as the means to get a handle on the Wild West of IoT security before it becomes a serious issue. Rather than piling on extra layers of security with systems such as longer and more confusing passwords, text message verification, biometrics, and more, the idea is to distribute IoT network security so that accessing any network requires verification from a large, widely-distributed, and encrypted chain.

    If widely implemented blockchain could allow for the sort of one-service login provided by Google and Facebook to be applied across all of your Internet services and devices.

    Other blockchain companies like Gem, Chronicled, Filament, and Olea Networks are touting blockchain for IoT applications primarily for its robust cybersecurity and data protection capabilities. In a 2016 paper, “Blockchains and Smart Contracts for the Internet of Things,” published by IEEE, the authors conclude that “...the blockchain-IoT combination is powerful and can cause significant transformations across several industries, paving the way for new business models and novel, distributed applications.”

    (Image source: Katie White from Pixabay

  • 4.) Energy Production

    Imagine if all the energy you consumed, saved, and produced through use of devices in your home and work, as well as your electric car, could be cataloged and stored like currency. For example, if you used solar energy in your home and ended up contributing energy back into the grid that credit could then go toward allowing you to charge your electric car while you're out shopping.

    You could even potentially transact energy with other private citizens and not just major companies or utilities. Perhaps your friend recently sold a lithium-ion battery back onto the grid and would be willing give you some of those charging hours for your road trip in exchange for you putting some of your solar hours onto his house charger?

    Today's energy systems are centralized and highly regulated, but blockchain could enable a secure, decentralized system for the production and exchange of renewable energy in particular. Organizations like the Switzerland-based non-profit Energy Web Foundation (EWF), are already organizing companies around this idea – working to develop systems for certification, validation, trading, and tracking energy resources using blockchain.

    For more on how blockchain might revolutionize energy production. Read our recent feature.

    (Image source: Customer First Renewables)

  • 5.) Healthcare and Medtech

    According to IHS Market, pharmaceutical companies lose more than $200 billion annually in the US alone because of counterfeit drugs. Blockchain has the potential to reduce these loses. “Blockchain could be used to solve many issues that plague the healthcare industry today,” Don Tait, senior blockchain analyst at IHS Markit said in a press statement. “For example, it could be used to create a common database of health information across the gamut of electronic medical systems, spur higher security and more privacy, reduce administration time for doctors, and speed the sharing of research results that facilitate new drugs and treatment therapies.”

    What Tait is referring to is what is being called a “patient-first” ecosystem, wherein patient identities are encrypted and securely distributed to offer safe management of patient health records, prescriptions, and even the supply chain that handles the pharmaceuticals and medical devices serving those patients.

    According to analytics firm IDC Health Insights, blockchain also has potential in device interoperability. Similar to IoT and automotive networks, blockchain can be used to verify the identify of medical devices connected via a hospital or other faciliity network. A 2018 report by IDC predicts that by 2020 20% of healthcare organizations will be "using blockchain for operations management and patient identity,"

    (Image source: rawpixel from Pixabay)

  • 6.) Retail / eCommerce

    The value of cryptocurrency providing secure, anonymous online retail transactions (both legal and illegal) has been made very clear over the years. But there are other aspects of retail where blockchain can also have an impact.

    A distributed ledger could allow consumers to track the supply chain of various products, leading to more transparency about the origins and manufacturing of goods as well as futher protection against counterfeit and knockoff products. Imagine being able to verify that your fruit is from a real organic farm, or that the “Made in America” electronic device you're purchasing wasn't actually sourced from China.

    As IHS' Tait states in a press statement. “Using blockchain within the retail and e-commerce sector can lead to a direct relationship opportunity with the customer, providing companies with greater understanding of their needs and behavior...Blockchain and smart contracts can also provide the tools and framework to create a new generation of marketplaces where the supply and demand sides can engage in trusted trading transactions, according to various business rules, without the need for a central brokerage entity.”

    (Image source: StockSnap from Pixabay

  • 7.) Supply Chain

    Similar to how it enables cryptocurrency, blockchain also enables another technology called smart contracts. Smart contracts, in essence, are automated transactions that can be carried out along the supply chain (i.e. When Factory A does X, Factory B automatically does Y). The key to making these work is to have a distributed ledger that allows for not only identity verification for transactions but also allows for a system of accountability.

    There are already some emerging use cases in the enterprise space. IBM, for example, has partned with Walmart and Nestle, among other companies, to create the Food Trust to track produce shipments across the supply chain from farm to grocery store.

    Skuchain, a company that developes blockchain technology for B2B trade and supply chain finance, has created a “collaborative workflow” between cotton producer Brighann Cotton, an overseas buyer, and their respective banks using blockchain technology. In a 2016 interview with IBTimes UK, Srinivasan Sriram, founder and CEO of Skuchain, said:

    "If you take a typical supply chain, today almost everybody views this supply chain as independent transactions – the shipment of cotton, the manufacturer who purchases the raw material cotton, and the value adder who has a deal with the end buyer. Except that they all belong to the same digital thread. What we can do with Skuchain's technology is link that thread and there is a significant amount of value to all parties when that happens."

     (Image source: Thought Catalog on Unsplash)

  • 8.) Video Games

    Blockchain isn't all about being serious. It can also enhance our video game experience. Any gamer will tell you a big part of many online games is rarity. In many games, having items that few or no other players have is what separates true veterans from newbies. There are already examples of blockchain being implemented into games and the disruption will likely only continue.

    CryptoKitties is a game in which players collect and breed rare cats. Think of it like Pokemon for people who are obsessed with exclusivity. By implementing blockchain, the game is able to offer rare, one-of-a-kind digital kitties to players that cannot be replicated anywhere else or stolen. Blockchain creates digital scarcity, allowing CryptoKitties to function like baseball cards, Beanie Babies, Funko Pops, or any other real-world collectable.

    Swace, is a blockchain-based social media gaming platform that leverages blockchain to verify users' identities, allowing third-parties to create games and interactive experiences taylor-made for users. An augmented reality game could build around players accomplishing specific tasks around their location, for example. Blockchain allows all of this to be done in a way that both verifies and protects users identities – thus ensuring fairness and safety during gameplay.

    (Image source: CryptoKitties)


Chris Wiltz is a Senior Editor at   Design News  covering emerging technologies including AI, VR/AR, blockchain, and robotics.


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