Blockchain technology beyond cryptocurrencies: the new horizon of the internet

Filippo Calabrese

Filippo Calabrese

Table of Contents

Introduction

It has been some time now that the term blockchain has become part of common parlance, most often associated with cryptocurrencies almost as if it were an indissoluble link intended to uniquely describe each of the two realities.

To talk about blockchain technology is essentially to talk about cryptocurrencies, and to talk about cryptocurrencies is to talk about blockchain, in fact things are not as schematic and one-sided as one might think.

In fact, the truth is that blockchain technology is extremely versatile and its use expands far beyond the boundaries of the financial sector. This is evidenced by the fact that a growing number of large companies, including IBM, Walmart, DeBeers, etc., are investing large sums of money to implement this technology in their operations.

What, then, is behind blockchain?

Let’s find out.

 

What is blockchain?

To fully understand the use of blockchain and its benefits, it is essential to have at least the initial background necessary to understand what we are talking about.

Thus, blockchain refers to a database structured in the form of a blockchain, each of which contains certain information. However, this definition, simplistic as it is, does not take into account the complexity of this technology, which is mainly expressed in its mode of operation.

Indeed, one of the characteristics of a common database is that it can be modified by those with permissions whenever they want; this, however, does not apply to blockchain.

Databases that refer to blockchain technology are sui generis, and all the information in them cannot change once a new block is added to the chain. What this means. That the addition of new information in these databases always coincides with the creation of a new block and not the modification of an existing one.

The blockchain, then, is one of the most admirable examples of systems based on a distributed ledger, and by virtue of the fact that this technology makes it virtually impossible to modify or alter the information already entered, it is easy to see its importance and possible uses, as we shall now see.

 

Blockchain technology: a world to discover beyond cryptocurrencies

There is no doubt that Bitcoin, Ethereum, and, more generally, all the best-known and most widely used cryptocurrencies have now become a stable presence within the financial sector thanks in part to the technology on which they are based, the blockchain to be precise, but in this sense its true potential is still unknown.

Several analysts and experts in the field agree in pointing to blockchain technology as one of the most relevant innovations between now and the next few years, and in light of the more than 80 percent of representatives of large companies and corporations who during Deloitte’s recent Global Blockchain Survey 2021 stated how their respective sectors and businesses are set to be disrupted by this technology, it is evident how the future ahead is sure to be full of surprises.

But what are the professional and non-professional sectors where blockchain technology can be useful?

A female scientist in a laboratory looks through a microscope

Health sector

The use of blockchain technology in healthcare is just in its infancy, but the potential demonstrated so far has already attracted the attention of the most influential entities working in this field.

One aspect, for example, in which blockchain plays a major role is in the secure sharing of personal information, medical records and more generally data about various patients. Being able to have an advanced information management and sharing system is crucial not only to minimize any risk factors arising from its misuse, but more importantly to streamline business processes and contain healthcare costs.

A concrete example is the London-based healthcare cooperative Medicalchain. In this company, blockchain technology has been used and implemented in the proprietary platform to streamline patient information search practices, such as those related to insurance, and to identify the best possible candidates to participate in various clinical and pharmaceutical trials.

 

Security sector

According to a survey by the U.S.-based personal information monitoring and protection company LifeLock, in 2017 alone, more than 16 million U.S. citizens reported experiencing fraud and/or identity theft with all that goes with it.

This report, while based on a national sample, highlights a problem that thanks to the digital impact is recognized as such globally, that of security related to personal identity.

Any malicious person who has free access to our personal information with the ability to modify, copy or use it at will is practically able to take over our lives, and considering that in most cases the uses are not entirely lawful, prompt action must be taken to address this critical issue.

An example of the use of blockchain technology in this area we have in the IT company Evernym, which precisely thanks to a system based on distributed ledger has created a platform in which the personal information of private citizens once entered is not modifiable and, should it be requested by government or national agencies, the system takes care of ensuring in real time the uniqueness and security of the same with a significant saving therefore both in terms of time and cost.

 

Legal sector

According to a recent study by the firm Deloitte, the impact of digitization, especially in the media, has caused an exponential increase in cases of intellectual property piracy, with obvious disadvantages and losses to the various creators.

In this sense, blockchain technology can be leveraged to create a sharing and distribution system in which original intellectual property is always traceable and to enable various artists and content creators to receive the right royalties.

One example is the media company Steem, which, thanks to a proprietary blockchain-based platform and a community that uses tokens to reward the creation of original content, has so far found itself rewarding various creators with more than $40 million in tokens.

 

Conclusion

Through these few but striking examples, then, we have seen how the implementation of blockchain technology can concretely disrupt and improve everyone’s lives, demonstrating how it is a phenomenon that has been able to transcend the boundaries of the financial sector to become a promise of a future yet to be written.