Ask any five people on the street what blockchain technology is typically used for, and they’ll almost certainly mention Bitcoin or some other type of cryptocurrency.
While the recent surge in popularity of cryptocurrencies is certainly a driving factor as to why blockchain technology has become equally as popular, such technology can be used - and is being used - within a wide variety of industries, for a number of purposes. In fact, it’s likely that the use of blockchain technology will soon be necessary, rather than just a "nice to have" unique selling point for companies and organizations.
To be sure, we’ve already seen blockchain technology disrupt a number of industries, completely changing the way in which organizations within said industries access, store, transfer, and dispose of sensitive data. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the revolutionary ways blockchain technology is being used by organizations in a number of different industries.
Retailers and delivery services
In the current world of ecommerce and online shopping, consumers are typically expected to pay for an item before said item even leaves the company’s warehouse - and well before the item is delivered to the person who bought it.
Unfortunately, when items are lost, damaged, or stolen on their way to the consumer, a proverbial can of worms is opened up: The customer will need to report the issue to the company, and the company will need to determine the validity of the complaint, figure out exactly what went wrong, and take appropriate action to mitigate the issue.
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With blockchain technology (and smart contract technology like Ethereum) the successful delivery of a given item can be tracked and verified in an objective manner, with payment being processed immediately once the customer verifies that they have received the item as expected. Additionally, individual items can be tracked throughout the delivery process via GPS, with this information being uploaded to the blockchain in real time.
(In fact, Walmart recently announced it would begin using blockchain technology specifically for this purpose.)
The use of blockchain technology, then, serves to guarantee a smooth delivery process; or, at the very least, guarantees the delivering company is kept apprised of any issue that occurs during the delivery process. In turn, the company can then make improvements to their delivery processes moving forward - even without receiving feedback from the customer.
Marketers and consumer relations specialists
As has recently been discussed on Innovation Enterprise’s blog, the newly-implemented GDPR holds marketers to a much higher standard in terms of keeping their customers’ data safe and secure.
While many companies have essentially needed to overhaul the way in which they store their customers’ data, the use of blockchain technology could enable them to ensure compliance almost automatically.
For one thing, the data isn’t technically stored by the company internally; while the company is still responsible for keeping said data secure, it being stored on the blockchain ensures this security with minimal effort on the company’s part.
Furthermore, consumers should be able to easily allow or restrict access to certain information via blockchain, making it actually impossible for companies to hold onto their customers’ data if a customer doesn’t want them to. In essence, the use of blockchain technology makes it impossible for companies to breach the regulations set forth by the GDPR.
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Similarly to what we just spoke around regarding consumer data, healthcare is another industry in which privacy and security is a major concern.
By law, patient data - whether it’s related to diagnoses and treatments, insurance and payments, or otherwise - must be kept confidential and secure at all times when in the possession of a healthcare organization. Again, blockchain technology guarantees that only those who are privy to such information will be able to access it. Additionally, the use of blockchain also makes following HIPAA’s “minimum necessary” rule a default practice, as personnel are only granted the information they need to complete their assigned duties.
What’s more, blockchain technology allows for the quick and easy transfer of patient data. This, in turn, enables multiple healthcare professionals to collaborate while deciding on the best course of action to take when treating a specific patient. And, again, since blockchain technology guarantees that said data remains secure while being transferred, those in communication with one another can send their patients’ information to each other with confidence.
To read more about how healthcare organizations can benefit from working with blockchain startup companies, check out this article detailing the recent partnership between the Mayo Clinic and Medicalchain.
Human resources and temp agencies
In today’s rapid-paced world, any downtime an organization faces while working to bring new employees on board is ultimately detrimental to the company’s bottom line.
The use of blockchain technology, then, can help human resource departments and temp agencies alike speed up the process of vetting and onboarding new employees in an efficient and streamlined manner that minimizes the amount of time a job candidate is kept “in limbo.” In fact, some believe that blockchain technology could render traditional resumes and applications (and even sites such as LinkedIn) completely obsolete.
Employee records (such as their educational and employment history, criminal record, etc.) can be stored via blockchain, where they will be able to be immediately accessed by potential employers and temp agencies.
And, of course, the storage of such information on a blockchain ensures that it remains accurate and verified - meaning employee prospects simply won’t be able to falsify any information regarding their professional history. In turn, this means employers won’t need to spend countless hours tracking down documentation and other such proof when vetting employee candidates.
One of the key aspects of all criminal court cases is in the proper handling of evidence. That is, prosecutors must be able to show that a piece of evidence moved along a very specific chain of custody, and has been kept in the same condition it was in once it was confiscated.
Law enforcement agencies, then, can utilize blockchain technology in multiple ways. For one thing, digital evidence (such as cell phone records and hard drive data) can be uploaded to a blockchain, where it will remain in its original state in perpetuity. Furthermore, records of evidence handling - be it digital or physical - can also be stored via blockchain technology, so that only those who are granted legal access to such records will be able to access them.
In either case, blockchain technology can help ensure that any and all digital evidence collected at the time a crime or arrest takes place remains accurate and undoctored throughout the following criminal proceedings. This, in turn, will help law enforcement agencies and prosecutors avoid instances in which evidence is thrown out due to a mere technicality.
The rise of blockchain technology may have occurred due to the recent cryptocurrency explosion, but such technology clearly has the potential to disrupt a wide variety of industries in the years to come.
That said, any company or organization that deals with private, secure, and/or classified information in any manner should be wary of the fact that the use blockchain technology will likely become necessary in the very near future. With that in mind, your organization would do well to check out some of the blockchain startups that have already begun to experience success today.