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Should Your Company Care About Blockchain?

A Brief

Blockchain is an emerging technology with implications that reach far beyond its status as both a Silicon Valley and Wall Street buzzword. Increasingly, the value of blockchain is being recognized by a growing number of blockchain-based startups and Fortune 500 companies alike. And let’s be clear—the potential for blockchain applications has been recognized and separated from just Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Blockchain has been applied in solutions as far-ranging as disrupting healthcare records and changing the way the UN distributes aid and recognizes identities.

Blockchain can be difficult to wrap your head around, and that’s okay. What you need to know is that its impact is very real and immediate, and it’s going to cause ripples throughout far more industries than one might immediately guess. Here’s a highly visual introductory Reuters post that explains blockchain as both a tech stack and some of its implications.

Industries Adopting Blockchain Today

Cryptocurrency

This one you know already, but discourse over the volatility of Bitcoin and Ethereum valuations in US dollars misses the point. The core concept of decentralized, unregulated global currencies that are already widely adopted is enough to give anyone pause. Individual governmental definitions of cryptocurrency vary, but the fact that no single government agency can maintain control over cryptocurrencies has a lot of potential implications.

Healthcare

Imagine a system where all of your personal healthcare data is distributed and not held by any single healthcare provider. But you can see exactly who accesses your data and why, and with this newfound transparency your personal health data is also almost impervious to hacking attempts.

Data Warehouses

Organizations handling big data and offering business intelligence services are likely quite familiar with blockchain technology for its ability to validate data, from data sources to audits and transactions. While many organizations rely on Amazon Web Services (AWS) or other third party vendors for data warehousing, many prefer to keep data in-house, such as healthcare companies due to HIPAA compliance or financial institutions for security purposes.

Hackers sell billions of dollars of personal data per year on the dark web, fetching up to $1,000 for an individual’s health records. As everything becomes digitized, data becomes commoditized. While this is great news for data brokers like social media companies and enterprises using machine learning to leverage data to inform better products, it also means an increasing amount of data is at risk. Putting data on the blockchain is an enormous step forward in cybersecurity, far surpassing traditional encryption techniques.

Banking

Because blockchain is already a well-understood framework for currency, it’s no surprise that financial institutions are beginning to explore blockchain’s ability clean up and simplify record-keeping systems which are, let’s be honest, generally shockingly outdated for many financial institutions.

Supply Chain

Imagine a digital trail for all physical products moved globally in a supply chain. That’s the potential for blockchain in this industry, where jewelry and precious metal manufacturers hope to prove ethical sourcing of their raw materials and where IBM’s grain-of-salt–sized computer chips could literally be stuck onto goods to maintain digital records of them as they move about.

Who Gets Left Behind

As with all emerging technologies, blockchain offers a lot of hype, a lot of promising potential, and considerable pitfalls. It’s not that every company should be making a mad dash to somehow throw their data on the blockchain, but companies that do seriously handle, protect, analyze, and otherwise shepherd large amounts of data—financial or otherwise—should be scoping out the implications of blockchain in both their industry and adjacent industries, lest they be disrupted by a more forward-thinking organization who gets a foot in the door first.

 

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