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Blockchain is more than just digital money

JudyGoldman on ‎09-29-2016 07:51 AM

By Arthur Cole

Blockchain is emerging as one of the hottest digital developments of the decade. But while its ability to track and secure financial transactions is well known, it also has the capacity to remake a wide range of enterprise processes across numerous industry verticals.

The technology first entered the public sphere as the ledger solution behind the digital currency Bitcoin. It works by maintaining multiple copies of transaction chains on literally thousands of computers across the globe. Now it's among some major tech disruptors. Virtually anyone can post new transactions—subject to verification, of course—but no one can tamper with previous records without hacking into every copy in existence. It also has the advantage of cutting out intermediary data verification checks and other processes that drive up both the latency and the cost of digital interaction.

Blockchain.jpg

This solution works for any type of data exchange, not just financial transactions. As HPE's Curt Hopkins notes, the first use of chained hash values to certify digital data was as a time-stamping mechanism, which is a key element in everything from network management to security. As the world becomes more digitized, an efficient, effective means of high-speed data verification should prove invaluable.

Alex Tapscott, co-author of Blockchain Revolution, also sees potential for this technology to transform virtually any online business. In a conversation with HPE's Terence Spies and Tim Grieveson, Tapscott discusses the challenges of blockchain and how they can be overcome to create a more efficient, decentralized work flow.

A world built on blockchain

Research house CB Insights recently published a list of potential applications outside the financial sector, including:

  • Cybersecurity: By removing intermediaries and centralized archives in the digital exchange of information, the risk of data theft declines dramatically.
  • Academia: Diplomas, certificates, transcripts, and other documents can be verified in seconds and become harder to counterfeit.
  • Government: Distribution of aid and benefits can be made simpler and less costly, while electronic voting can be made more transparent and more resistant to fraud.
  • Supply chain management: The technology can easily track products and payments as they make their way from source to assembly to distribution to retailer to customer, reducing delays, errors, and cost overruns.

The system can also impact functions as diverse as ride sharing, weather forecasting, energy production and distribution, and virtually anything else that requires secure record keeping.

In enterprise circles, the most promising application is shaping up to be security for emerging IoT infrastructure.

According to digital entrepreneur Sergio Fernandez de cordova, blockchain can serve as a highly scalable system-of-record for the billions of device-driven transactions that will hit data organizations in the coming years. As a secure, peer-to-peer sharing platform, the system can maintain a thorough archive of all activities in a widely distributed data ecosystem. It can also maintain the integrity of the databases that fuel Big Data analytics processes as they turn raw data into actionable intelligence.

Impacting the emerging digital economy

Trending now is what's being called the ultimate automation of trust: Smart contract automation goes beyond cryptocurrency and helps remove the friction from any digital transaction. Combining automation with this technology means true business value delivered from IT, especially in established enterprises at the heart of the global transaction world. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) explains that the endgame for this solution is digital business flow, paving the way for true autonomous e-commerce.

Implementing this technology is still a very fluid process due to the uncertainties around its characteristics and the potential need for standardization. Toronto-based entrepreneur and author of the upcoming book, The Business Blockchain, William Mougayar has outlined several approaches ranging from deploying basic tools like OpenBazaar and Clearmatics or building back-end application access through emerging DevOps processes—all the way to outsourcing the entire build to leading consulting firms like Deloitte or PWC. Numerous vertical solutions are entering the channel based on private infrastructure and/or various subsets of the full software stack.

This tech certainly has the potential to become a major component of the emerging digital economy, but it's important to conduct a clear-eyed assessment of both its strengths and weaknesses before entrusting it to production-level workloads. Every organization will likely implement it differently based on their unique processes and application requirements.

But the market is evolving quickly, and the enterprise that can quickly and successfully leverage blockchain will reap a wealth of benefits across the entire digital services portfolio.

To learn more, read the business white paper, "Blockchain in the financial services industry."

Related links:

Clearing the path for blockchain technology

Blockchain will rewire security, privacy—and business

HPE Business Insights Enterprise Security

 

About the Author

JudyGoldman

My work at HPE gives me a way to share my passion for emerging technology, connecting people to innovation, and sharing stories that help others engage with and understand the world around them. I'm a digital nomad, often found traveling with my micro companion KC, a 6-1/2 pound mini Dachshund.

Comments
Jenn Cloud
on ‎09-30-2016 09:55 AM

This truly is an exciting technology and a great time to be a part of its evolution! Very thoughtful and concise thoughts shared about blockchain here, thank you for sharing.

JudyGoldman
on ‎09-30-2016 12:47 PM

Jenn Cloud:

Jenn, Thank you so much for the comment. We're so glad that you connected with this article, and we appreciate your thoughts. 

With best regards,

Judy

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