For the majority, blockchain has become synonymous with Bitcoin. Understandably so, since Bitcoin was the first major adoption of blockchain decentralized Distributed Ledger Network technology (DLN). But recently the cryptosphere is broadening its horizons beyond cryptocurrencies. Here’s a rundown of the latest blockchain applications from the already-taking-place to the planned near-future up and coming.
HSBC and the first financial transaction
The banking sector: at first wary of blockchain and cryptocurrency, but now realizing that it is here to stay as a legitimate tool for business and finance. With the majority of major world banks now having a blockchain advisory board in-place, HSBC announced in mid-May that they have successfully completed the first blockchain financial transaction.
Using the Corda blockchain platform developed by R3, the bank issued a letter of credit to the US food & agriculture firm Cargill via ING. HSBC & ING reported that the transaction took a total of 24 hours. This is a major step for blockchain in the banking & finance sector as banks and financial institutions recognize the security and immutability of the blockchain applications and begin to utilize it for daily business and transactions purposes.
Computing & e-commerce: Microsoft & Amazon
Global corporations are beginning to adopt blockchain technology into their dealings, perhaps ironically so since monopolizing a sector traditionally entailed becoming the centralized, dominant force within it. However, since blockchain technology continues to widen its reach, some companies are turning to it in an attempt to get ahead of the wave.
Microsoft, one of the early supporters of the blockchain, who accepted Bitcoin payments on Xbox in 2014 (although arguably mere lip-service), has commenced blockchain applications development. Rather practical-sounding, the Confidential Consortium (Coco) Framework, based on the Ethereum network, enables businesses to grow their blockchain network. There are also plans to incorporate blockchain decentralized IDs (DIDs) and Azure, the Microsoft cloud service, has launched Azure Blockchain Workbench: a tool to speed-up blockchain app creation.
Amazon, wanting to stay near the front of the e-commerce industry, is working to develop their own blockchain framework to enable users to build and manage blockchain-powered applications. IBM and Oracle are working on their own distinct versions of the application, which would essentially enable the user to create a blockchain application via the tool (the Amazon Web Services: AWS, Cloud Formation Templates in Amazon’s case) and avoid time and labor-intensive manual blockchain network setups.
The High Seas and Supply Chain Management
The appeal of the immutability, verifiability and disintermediation of the blockchain DLN is being noticed for its real potential in the supply and logistics industry. With lengthy supply-chains and complicated processes that often lead to issues of transparency, the ability of all parties involved to track and trace blockchain transactions will render third-party consolidators and re-sellers redundant.
Transactions on low-trust supply chains will be able to be validated in real time, and since information can only be added to a blockchain (not edited or deleted) the ledger cannot be tampered with at a later stage. And it’s already being implemented: the global consultancy firm Accenture has developed a method to track international shipping with the trial-run a success.
Tokenized Real Estate
The concept used in smart contracts: protocols that execute when certain parameters are met, has particular appeal for the sale and purchase of property. Integrated into blockchain technology under the Ethereum network, by using smart contracts parties can agree on the sequence of execution of events.
In real-world terms, this means that assets and realty are tokenized and traded similarly to a cryptocurrency. The potential benefits of blockchain adoption are significant, enabling the creation of true online marketplaces and eliminating intermediaries, improved liquidity and shared-ownership, and of course the decentralized benefits of stored information and truer peer-to-peer interaction.
Insurance Blockchain Applications
Decentralized DLN security & immutability has real benefits to offer insurers:
- Assisting in claims
- Reducing fraud by only recognizing valid claims
- Reducing duplicate & suspicious claims
- Assisting in the underwriting process
- More efficient and accurate risk assessment
- And the potential for new product offerings
At present, blockchain applications need careful oversight and correct implementation, especially with regard to the legality. B3i blockchain insurance industry initiative is a collaboration formed to assess the potential for incorporating blockchain DLT within the insurance industry. Since last year, the group has grown from 5 to 38 insurers. The Institutes RiskBlock Alliance is designed to assess blockchain application within the industry, particularly for risk management and providing real-time verification of insurance coverage to verify proof of insurance. The use of blockchain in insurance raises legal and legislation questions. These will develop into a legal framework alongside the adoption of the technology by the industry.