Blockchain technology is best known for being the magic behind Bitcoin, but there are scores of other industries that are benefiting from this revolutionary technology. Before we take a look at the industries and companies innovating in these spaces, let’s break down this technology so we are all on the same page.
Blockchain technology is a big fancy word that describes the act of recording events in a database. The database itself is referred to as the blockchain. Once data is added to the blockchain, it cannot be removed from the database or altered in any way. The blockchain therefore contains a verifiable record of history.
The technology is fairly simple yet very profound. You might already be thinking of a business idea that could utilize such a system, and many visionaries are in the same boat. Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, has joined a blockchain firm. But before you go start a round of fundraising for your own blockchain-based company check out the disruption the blockchain is creating in these industries.
The voting industry has gone essentially unchanged for centuries. Many would say that it is in dire need of innovation! Even “modern” electronic voting systems offer little improvements. In the past few years many states have actually de-certified voting machines due to certain vulnerabilities. By design, blockchain technology eliminates the need for paper ballots and provides unparalleled security.
One company out of Blacksburg, Virginia is disrupting the voting industry with blockchain technology. Follow My Vote is a non-partisan organization on a mission to restore faith in the democratic process. This is being done through a revolutionary voting platform built on a blockchain. To take on this project Follow My Vote has partnered with BitShares, a leader in blockchain technology and development.
This means convenient and secure voting from your smart phone, tablet, or computer. Follow My Vote sees this as a great way to increase voter turnout by appealing to tech-savvy millennials. Skeptics can be at ease due to the record checking ability of the blockchain. Blockchain technology also offers advancements in transparency, by providing voters with the ability to confirm that their vote was counted. The company has also developed a revolutionary way to let users check their vote yet retain the secrecy of the ballot. And rest assured, voters will still be anonymous in the system to other voters. Check out their blockchain technology infographic for a more in depth look at blockchain technology and how they use it within their system. The company is also proud to say that the system features state-of-the-art ID verification. Follow My Vote does not see an immediate and complete migration to online voting. The fact is that not every state is ready for online voting. The system will hopefully be introduced simply as an option to conventional voting methods. However, new reports on online voting by organizations such as the U.S. Vote Foundation are promising and show that companies like Follow My Vote are on the right path.
For many, the financial industry is the first that comes to mind when thinking about blockchain technology. Bitcoin is one of the best-known applications of the technology and has a very strong brand in the digital currency space. Bitcoin has simply been a game changer for many people around the world. The book The Age of Cryptocurrency: How Bitcoin and Digital Money Are Challenging the Global Economic Order by Paul Vigna and Michael J. Casey breaks down the digital currency movement and is a perfect intro to the blockchain. Bitcoin Magazine described the book in the following way:
“The book opens with an implemented use case for Bitcoin. Because of Bitcoin young women in Afghanistan are able to write blogs and do social media and video production. In exchange for this work, they are paid in Bitcoin. Bank wires required a lot of fees. And PayPal wasn’t supported. With Bitcoin, these young women could be paid instantly.”
Blockchain technology provides cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, with a verifiable ledger of transactions. This ledger, paired with the security of a distributed network allows people to leave middlemen and banks behind and fully take control of their digital money.
Blockchain technology also allows for smart contracts and market-pegged assets. The developers behind BitShares have pioneered these blockchain innovations. Smart contracts are essentially computer programs that can automatically execute the terms of a contract. Instead of money just going from A to B, now you can choose to send or not to send money if certain constraints are met. For example, a payment will not be recorded on the blockchain unless the receiving party signs a contract, or a certain date has passed. Currently you can set recurring and scheduled payments on the BitShares smart contract platform. The BitShares ecosystem also hosts several market-pegged assets. This is revolutionary due to the fact that many crypto currencies are subject to price fluctuations. BitShares provides stable cryptocurrencies that have their value pegged to another asset. Some of the most popular assets on BitShares are pegged to the US Dollar, gold, and the Chinese Yuan. These price stable crypto currencies always have 100% of their value or more backed by the BitShares core currency.
Mainstream financial enterprises are also taking advantage of this technology. In May, NASDAQ announced a blockchain initiative to help improve its platform. NASDAQ CEO Bobo Greifeld stated,"Our initial application of NASDAQ's blockchain technology-enabled offering will modernize, streamline, and secure typically cumbersome administrative functions, and will simplify the overwhelming challenges private companies face with manual ledger record-keeping."
The music industry has some really cool companies trying to transform the scene with blockchain technology. What if you could use your awesome music finding skills to make money and support musicians? This is essentially what Peertracks is creating. With Peertracks, people can buy equity in an artist or song similar to crowdfunding models. The idea is, you would find out about Taylor Swift before she got famous. If you had bought Taylor Swift tokens, you would be supporting her music career in the beginning and later on reap the benefits of increased token value when she has a number one hit.
The blockchain can also be used for music streaming. A recent report by Rethink Music suggests that blockchain technology could be used to ensure musicians are paid fairly and quickly for sales and streams of their work. The blockchain adds a great deal of transparency. This would be beneficial for artist and industry leaders to see into the process of splitting royalties, as it would be obvious if publishers and record labels were holding on to royalties before giving them to the artist.
The blockchain is perfect for keeping records of ownership. Factom is using the blockchain to help businesses and governments manage data and keep records. Financial records secure our money. Real estate records secure our property. And citizen records secure our credit and identities. All these records can be hacked or maliciously changed if they exist in a centralized location. With blockchain technology, all the information is replicated across the servers that run the system. It is nearly impossible to hack a distributed processing network. This is one of the blockchain’s greatest assets. You will now have undisputable proof and records of ownership. And to top it off, you own the records and share them with those you trust.
5. Fighting counterfeits
Another blockchain-based company is using this revolutionary technology to build an anti-counterfeit solution. Blockverify is bringing transparency from the blockchain to supply chains. Blockverify can verify counterfeit products, diverted goods, stolen merchandise, and fraudulent transactions. Some of the best use cases the solution will target include pharmaceuticals, luxury items, diamonds, and electronics.
Now that you have an idea of the industries being taken by storm by the blockchain, you too can create your own blockchain company! Or at least invest in one.
About the Author: Will Long is the Marketing Manager of Follow My Vote.