Blockchain technology is no longer an obscure mystery. In early 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported that more than 40 top financial institutions were experimenting with blockchain's distributed ledger technology.
Besides the financial industry, there are several other sectors that blockchain can potentially reinvent through widespread adoption.
1: The Contracts Sector
Any blockchain adopter can use distributed ledgers to develop self-automated contracts, which can be programmed to execute contract terms once specified conditions are met. These unbreakable contracts lower costs of financial transactions, and bypass imposing regulations.
Slock uses blockchain technology to develop smart contracts. For instance, customers unlock a smartlock after both parties agree to terms, in order to rent a bicycle.
Ethereum is an open-source blockchain project with the ability to develop smart contracts as well.
2: Data Storage
Blockchain can decentralize internet file storage by distributing data across networks to protect files from getting lost or hacked.
Blockchain can also be used in cloud storage since it increases security while decreasing dependency. Distributed cloud storage can reduce the cost of data storage both for companies and individual users.
StorJ offers decentralized cloud storage, using blockchain technology.
3: Supply-Chain Communications
Blockchain also lets companies keep a detailed record of asset movement throughout their supply chains. Timestamping records the date and location of transactions according to a specific product number, which supports ethical claims that businesses make regarding the legitimacy of their product.
It also allows for permanent, digital, and auditable records of the state of the product at each step of the supply-chain.
Walmart has piloted blockchain technology to track produce in the U.S. and pork in China, which increases consumer safety.
Blockchain technology is most prominently seen in cryptocurrency, specifically as the supporting framework of bitcoin. Companies can use blockchain to pay employees and contractors easily and securely, making it especially easy, efficient, and inexpensive to compensate workers in remote parts of the world.
Bitwage is a bitcoin-based payroll service that uses a public and shared ledger, allowing for chronological tracking of payroll transactions. It can help avoid costly transfer fees associated with international transfers, and saves time.
Currently, stock purchases and sales require multiple parties to keep separate, private records of the ongoing transactions. This creates silos where each party cannot see the others' records, nor can they verify accuracy of all records.
With blockchain, there is a single record for every transaction. Everyone can see every aspect of the transaction because each step is added to the chain, from the money transfer to the broker's trade, and it requires consensus.
Once all parties have verified the transaction, it is permanent, easily accessible, and secure. This applies to crowdfunding ventures as well, where stakes that investors make in a start-up are able to be traded to anyone, at any time, in any location.
Funderbeam claims to be, "the first and only platform in the world where growth companies are funded and traded across borders."
6: Electronic Voting
Because of its ability to securely store sensitive data, blockchain technology allows for fully transparent and publicly accessible elections and poll records.
Not only can this be used in small-scale organizational decision making, but also can revolutionize the way we vote in government elections.
Boardroom is used for table proposals, to vote democratically, to establish consensus, and to develop secure contracts.
BitShares uses a consensus model, which can leverage democracy so that stakeholder and delegate approval is used to fine tune decision-making.
7: Protecting Intellectual Property
This blockchain capability stems from smart contract, which can protect the owners of intellectual property from suffering financially due to the ease of reproducing digital information. Smart contracts can protect copyrights and automate online sales, essentially eliminating illegal copying and redistribution of creative works online.
Mycelia is a blockhain-enabled, peer-to-peer music distribution platform. It can also issue micropayments, which enables musicians to easily divide royalties among contributors.
8: Peer-to-Peer Markets
By cutting out the intermediaries, blockchain technology empowers individuals and companies to sell products directly. They can offer enhanced security, efficiency, and authenticity due to the elimination of a middle man.
Open Bazaar is a secure, decentralized e-commerce platform where peer interactions are authenticated using blockchain technology when buying and selling.
Lemonade is a new peer-to-peer insurance company that is able to pay out insurance payments in seconds.
William Mougayar of Virtual Capital Ventures, and advisor to many well-known blockchain organizations, affirms that this technology has the potential to not only improve business processes, but to also be foundational in developing new technologies and business models.
Blockgeeks offers a detailed step-by-step guide to blockchain.