Blockchain. You may have heard the term bantered about, but really don’t understand it. Or if you listen to developers and other IT professionals, say it’s too far away to make a difference.
To that I say: Nonsense. Blockchain is alive and well in many enterprise organizations including Starbucks, IBM and MIT. But to use it (or prepare for its use), you first need to understand its applicability in everyday business. Let’s start with the basics.
What is Blockchain Technology?
It’s a database that’s validated by a wider community, rather than a central authority. A collection of records that a crowd oversees and maintains.
Each “block” represents a number of transactional records, and the “chain” component links them all together. As records are created, they are confirmed by a distributed network of computers and paired up with the previous entry in the chain, thereby creating a chain of blocks.
Even though blockchain has been around for over 30 years, it has been cumbersome to manage for large datasets. Why is it being talked about now? Two reasons: AI and Bitcoin. This tool and crypto currency have made blockchain usable in ways previous programming attempts only dreamed about.
Who’s Using It?
Several industries are piloting blockchain including financial and retail establishments. In addition to the companies listed above, Bitcoin, Walmart, Amazon and Oracle are also committed to this technology.
How Are Companies Using it?
Here are three distinct examples:
- Starbucks has launched a pilot program called Sustainable Coffee Challenge that is tracing coffee beans from Costa Rica, Columbia and Rwanda to the actual Starbucks location the coffee is brewed. The intentions are to show farmers how far their beans travel and transparently share with the coffee consumer where the beans are sourced.
- IBM is using it to create cryptographic anchors that will identify gaps and shortcomings in a supply chain. They have partnered with Suncorp New Zealand, ANZ to build a blockchain-based platform aimed to ease the transfer of data and premium payments between brokers and insurers.
- Amazon has introduced Blockchain Templates, a "blockchain as a service" for AWS (Amazon Web Services) that makes it easier for developers to create blockchain-powered projects.
Why Use Blockchain?
The overarching benefits to blockchain are twofold: The ability to save time and money for supply chain organization. Using AI, the cloud and multiple user input, organizations will be able to better identify processes that slow down or speed the delivery process.
According to Markets & Markets, the market for blockchain-related products and services will reach $7.7 billion in 2022, up from $242 million in 2016.
What Does the Future Hold for Blockchain?
As far as I can see, skies the limit with this technology especially as more and more enterprise companies jump on board. Stay tuned for exciting announcements this year and next.
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