Back on the Blockchain gang

Bigger than the Internet.  That’s certainly a number of peoples view about the emergence of Blockchain technologies and the volumes of domain names registered with the words “block” and “chain” in would certain bear out that we could be on the verge of a new tipping point for the world of technology.  But it is more than just a digital fad?

In a recent blog by Verisign they have revealed that the keywords feature in the top five terms in .com registrations in a February, whilst the term “blockchain” has been peaking at 30 .com registrations per day over the last 30 days.  Domain names are a good barometer of trends in the real and digital world so perhaps we should start to take note of how Blockchain could shape our future?

So why are so many people getting excited about Blockchain?  First we should define exactly what it is so that everyone doesn’t have to nod their head knowingly whilst secretly having no idea what it is.  At its most basic level Blockchain is a shared database, one that allows multiple people to update it in realtime but in a secure, encrypted way.  That doesn’t sound transformational does it?  But the number of ways it changes be used is where the interest for all aspects of global economies comes in.

Today, a database can be accessed by multiple users but there tends to be one master copy, kept updated by one party. All other users have to wait for the data to be updated and refreshed which causes issues for applications being used across time zones.  Blockchain technology means all users can update data (the “block”) and immediately see the results (the “chain”).  Add in the highest levels of encryption and a clear audit trail and you have a very powerful technology.  One that the financial services industry, for instance, is keeping a close eye on where Blockchain applications may be able to perform the role of intermediaries, agents and brokers in a faster, more secure way.

The concept has been around for awhile – it has supported the use of Bitcoin for a number of years and the fact that the digital currency has now surpassed (at the time of writing) the price of an ounce of gold suggests that these technologies are no fad.

In a recent article The FT suggested that Blockchain could root out fraud in supply chains, an issue that has caused scandal in the past in the UK in the meat industry.  One of the biggest shipping companies in the world, Maersk, have started trialling Blockchain to track inventory in their containers on shipping all around the world which they will hope will both speed up goods getting from seller to buyer but also reduce issues around tracking counterfeit and illegally shipped goods.

Economists cleverer than me (and that’s not saying a lot!) are already thinking about how Blockchain technology can be used to manipulate (positively of course) the economy and prevent some of the problems we’ve had in the past.  If technology can be used to smooth some of the peaks and troughs we’ve seen in the past then surely that’s a positive?

It may be early days for the widespread use of the technology but it’s certain to play a bigger part in all of our lives in the future.

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