Is Blockchain the New Frontier?

Blockchain, as a concept, is still a difficult-to-encapsulate buzzword. When asked, the majority of people can confirm that blockchain has something to do with bitcoin and that the name itself is indicative of the technology’s capabilities: Data is stored in blocks which are connected in some sort of chain system. Essentially, blockchain is disruptive. Which is great, but what does that mean for the industries where blockchain can be used?

Different industries are taking note of blockchain and investing in blockchain technology. And these aren’t just financial-adjacent industries like insurance; there’s news of music and healthcare companies — even the French government! — investing a whole lot of dollars to research and support both startups and engineers that are leveraging blockchain.

Let’s take a look.

Healthcare

Healthcare is an industry that can take advantage of blockchain’s promises of encryption and shareability. Enter DokChain, a healthcare blockchain solution, the result of a partnership between Intel and PokitDok, a healthcare API company. According to TechCrunch, DokChain can accurately and efficiently conduct identity management. DokChain can also lean on blockchain’s utilization of smart contracts, to speed up medical transactions and communication. Additionally, blockchains can validate and verify prescriptions and the order and supply management of medication and pharmaceuticals.

Government-Funded Research

Despite blockchain’s well-known scaling problem, the technology is appealing enough that the French government has begun a concentrated research effort into blockchain. The overall intention seems to be to study the existing blockchain use cases and implementations, compare cost with potential benefits and then figure out how to become the world leader in blockchain.  

It’s fascinating that government spending will now be funneled towards blockchain research. Coindesk explains that “The effort is being spearheaded by France Stratégie, a commission that reports to the office of French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.” The French government will work with both public and private companies, government agencies and tech startups, all to understand “existing variants and possible improvements” of blockchain.

Voting

The ability for blockchain to keep a record of creation date and edit date is poised to disrupt the voting system. Once a record is made in blockchain format, it cannot be erased or modified without some trail of editing. Each entry has a unique lock and key attached to it which is used specifically to authenticate identity. Should future elections be cast through a blockchain, the technology “would make fraud virtually impossible and ensure there is no question of electoral foul play,” according to Forbes Magazine.

Music

In April of 2017, Spotify acquired Mediachain Labs, a blockchain startup, to better music attribution on the platform. One of Mediachain Labs’ technologies is the Attribution Engine, which was built to ensure that creators receive “the recognition they deserve.” So far, the startup’s technology has only been applied to figuring out what image belongs to which creators, especially on images that reside in the available-to-all Creative Commons stock image datawarehouse.

However, Spotify obviously saw promise in Mediachain Labs’ Attribution Engine and the potential it had to better its flawed royalties system. Spotify is taking a leaf from singer Imogen Heap’s book and investing in technology that would pay attention to and respect musicians’ rights.  

What Else?

I wouldn’t be surprised if other industries would follow suit. Any industry that dabbles in auditing or contracts — like real estate or academia — can take advantage of blockchain’s smart contract functionalities. Even the art world would benefit, especially when it comes to things like auctions or art that exists only in digital form. The possibilities are endless, frankly.

At first glance, it’s strange to see why non-financial industries want to take advantage of blockchain technology. However, the more an interested party digs, the more they will discover that it’s the benefits that reside within blockchain that make it so appealing. Identity verification, unerasable trails of edits and transfers and data security are just some of the benefits that any company can reap from blockchain.