The Next Big Thing: The Top Five Emerging Blockchain Technologies
Blockchain has become somewhat of a buzzword among those with an interest in modern technology. The worth of this emergent tech has been demonstrated in the make-or-break world of cryptocurrencies, with the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchain platforms bringing waves of joy or regret to early adopters.
Now, the tech world is demonstrating its eternal adaptability and turning blockchain technologies to wider uses in the varied worlds of politics, healthcare, and even space exploration.
So, What is Blockchain?
To understand the way blockchain technologies can be applied in the real world, it’s helpful to have some understanding of what it actually is. In effect, blockchain is a series of data packets, each of which is immutably connected to the ‘block’ of data before and after itself. Each block of data is verified and ‘hashed’ with a unique identifier.
Crucially, the blockchain is decentralized, traceable, and the data stored within it cannot be changed. In other words, it is immutable. Each ‘node,’ or any device capable of joining the network and holding that chain, stores a full copy of the blockchain, so data cannot be retrospectively changed. Every block of data within the chain can be securely accessed across the network.
Five Ways Blockchain is Changing the World
Opacity in the voting system is a hot topic with a theoretically easy solution. With the current climate of mistrust in postal voting and concerns over external actor influence, blockchain as a backbone for votes is the solution. With a solid underlying infrastructure, blockchain could create an unalterable, unchangeable, anonymized, and instantly auditable voting system. There would be no possibility of doubt, mistrust, tampering, or recounts.
A vendor in the area that’s making progress is BitCongress. The vendor supports a user journey where online votes are sent, peer-to-peer, without the need for a central voting register. BitCongress uses digital signatures and timestamps for non-repudiation.
Early blockchain-based voting systems are already in use in limited scenarios. A prime example is that, in West Virginia, the state offered overseas voters a chance to use mobile blockchain voting for the 2018 November midterm election, although it will not be offered in the upcoming 2020 election. The solution in 2018 was provided by Boston-based Voatz.
A mature solution to voting offered by blockchain could render paper voting a relic of an unsecured past. The possibility of interference within the current voting system will be looked back upon as a shocking oversight.
EY’s 2020 Banking Barometer found that around one-third of respondents “do not trust their bank.” With a history of crises, crashes, and an increasing disparity in wealth across the world, people are disillusioned with traditional financial practices. This mistrust has a knock-on effect on the economy.
“If banks do not have the underlying trust of their customers, it will be very difficult for them to increase their customer/product penetration and thus to strengthen their earnings base on a sustainable basis.”
Using blockchain within the banking system creates a ledger of transactions and instant identity verification. It will be near-impossible for the verified and hashed blocks within the chain to contain information that is erroneous, alterable, or biased. As the chain builds, everything will become more streamlined, with verification and authentication baked-in by design. Blockchain technologies can increase trust, streamline internal processes, and create a better user experience for employees and customers alike.
Decentralized data storage will increase interoperability across medical records and related platforms, improving access to essential and time-critical information in healthcare settings. Patient experiences and outcomes will be improved, as well as having huge potential to improve interfaces for users. Fully digitized and complete care records will increase transparency in insurance claims and itemized medical charges, as well as financial transactions across any service.
Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI)
Another technology likely to change the way we look at the past is the use of self-sovereign identity (SSI), made robust by a blockchain backbone. With the iron-clad verification of information held in the blockchain, an individual can retain control over their data—privacy is assured using zero-knowledge proofs.
There will be no more endlessly inputting sensitive personally identifiable information (PII) into innumerable services of varying security; all they’ll need to know is that that individual is verified within a trusted blockchain. Identifiable information will become strictly available on a need-to-know basis and under user control.
We live in an increasingly mechanized and industrialized world, and essential supplies come from further away than ever before. When it comes to food production, the longer the supply process takes, the greater the risk for contamination, spoilage, adulterants, and human error, which could cause serious consequences. Blockchain solutions for the supply chain and food safety ensure that data is gathered at every point along the route. Easy auditing and identification of problems will make product recalls, missed allergens, and unsafe food problems of the past. Any issue identified can be traced to its source and nullified before any issues arise.
Blockchain: No Longer Just About Cryptocurrency
With an incredible range of potential applications, there’s no better time to develop your interest in blockchain technologies and the vast technology field. Nexus at the University of Michigan Engineering Cybersecurity Professional Bootcamp is fostering new ideas and the professional development of the next generation of technologists and innovators.
Whether or not you are part of the professional cyber community, you can still take charge of Cybersecurity Awareness Month and choose to #BeCyberSmart.