We’ve been long used to thinking of blockchain technology as the tech of the future, but the reality is that it’s very much part of our present lives. An array of widely varied industries use it daily, for purposes as mundane as tracking data input at international borders or as glamorous as helping artists realize the true value of their works. Blockchain implementation is only expected to grow as more industriesbecome aware of, experiment with, and adopt the technology into their business practices.
It’s little wonder that blockchain technology is seeing such widespread adoption. The fact that it’s an immutable public ledger makes it attractive for those seeking transparency in record keeping and secure information sharing across different kinds of databases. As both governmental organizations and private industry call for increased blockchain use, the technology becomes a larger part of the economy, and as it does so, it becomes utilized in ways one might not have expected.
Let’s take a look at five of the most surprising uses of blockchain.
Our food passes through many hands, often literally, before we buy it in our supermarkets. Globally, one in ten people become sick via foodborne illness, and more than 400,000 people die. Tracking food to ensure it arrives safely can be a life or death prospect, and the supply chains that manage that shipment vary widely, and, like healthcare, so do their record keeping practices. A test conducted by Walmart found that by applying blockchain, the time it took to trace a package of mangoes to the store from the farm it was sent was cut down to a mere two seconds – a process that sometimes took days or weeks. Speed like that may save lives when it comes to food recalls.
If you’ve ever enjoyed a holiday in Europe and traveled by train, you know that the downside of the relative ease of the Eurostar train system is multiple border checks, especially between London and Amsterdam. This popular route may become even more so now that the Dutch government is looking into a way to use blockchain to check traveler data once and then share that information securely with United Kingdom authorities.
There are few other industries where advanced technologies and techniques are more in contrast with inefficient and outdated record keeping. Add to that fact that the record keeping methods and databases themselves are widely different between types of medical centers. Thanks to the blockchain, patients, hospitals, and insurance companies can now share access to their networks without compromising data security. Meanwhile, prestigious institutes of learning like Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai are developing teams to explore biomedical uses for the tech.
A standing issue for artists of all types has been the lack of an easy way of establishing a direct connection with their audiences. Musicians, in particular, have long needed to use intermediaries to both promote their work and collect revenue from it. Now, artists have a chance to keep more of their money by cutting out middlemen and collecting payments directly. Prominent names like Imogen Heap have started to use blockchain to license their work directly, and former members of acts as notable as Guns N Roses are touting token services like ArtBit to receive payments directly via a cryptocurrency.
The transparency inherent to blockchain lends itself perfectly to applications where the public has a vested interest in data and results. That’s why government organizations worldwide are using the tech to track everything from land titles in the nation of Georgia to environmental issues like the trading of carbon offsets in China.
These uses for blockchain aren’t what we’ve traditionally come to expect. But as the technology becomes more familiar to a wider range of industries, we should become used to seeing it implemented in new – and often surprising – ways.