Blockchains — There Are More Use Cases For It Than You Think!

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The term “blockchain” may be a word that you have heard in the past few years. Perhaps you heard it in relation to a cryptocurrency called bitcoin. I would say the probability is fairly high, as a value of a single bitcoin raised from $900 USD to almost $20,000 USD in the calendar year of 2017. This explosion in value for a cryptocurrency which solved double spending (When a token representing digital cash is spent twice), introduced the world to a new way to transfer money without a central bank or any administrator. However, bitcoin is just a single example of a use case for blockchains.

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Now before we get into other use cases for blockchains; what exactly is a blockchain? Well, it is essentially an immutable digitized ledger which is stored in containers called blocks. These blocks are linked via cryptography and are distributed over a peer-to-peer network. Those are some heavy sentences, so let’s break them down. A ledger is something you would see if you log into your bank account. It is a file of records that shows all transactions. The word immutable, describes the nature of the ledger. It means that the ledger cannot be changed. Finally, the ledger being distributed over a peer-to-peer network, means that everyone has a copy of that ledger. These three essential facts are what make a blockchain secure enough to trust. There are some blockchains out there that have slight technical differences to support their unique use case, however most blockchains will hold true to these standards.

One interesting use case of blockchain technology that is already being implemented throughout the world, that is fundamentally different than cryptocurrency, is digital identity. Sovrin, a non-profit organization is at the fore-front of maintaining a network that uses blockchains to give individuals control over their digital identity. They’re blockchain is a bit different, in that the blockchain only has decentralized identifiers (DIDs) on it. These DIDs are what allow people to form relationships and thus send verifiable documents to each other. They also allow other individuals to verify those documents by using the blockchain. This framework allows for some revolutionary ways to manage your identity. That is because it decentralizes people’s data, and it gives users control over their identity. Let’s take a drivers license for example. A registrar of driver’s licenses can form a relationship with a user, and then issue them a document with their signature on it. The user then has that document in their wallet with their counter signature. They can then use that document at a bar to verify that they’re over a certain age. They do this by having the bar check the document against the blockchain. Their specific age can also be omitted, and can just have a property saying that they are over the legal age.

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The previous example just shows the implications of digital identity at a local government level. This framework can be used at a federal level for voting, it can be use internationally for travelling, and essentially anything in-between and around one’s identity. In fact, there are already many stewards on the sovrin network utilizing the associated blockchain. Stewards like telecommunication companies, banks, tech-companies, etc.

Notary purposes can also be handled over a blockchain. In our current standings, notarizations are mostly paper based. Which can leave the records to be tampered with and can be subjected to fraud. Moving this process onto a blockchain further deterrents chances of fraud. As mentioned in my opening paragraph, block chains are publicly available and are immutable. These two factors are what make notarized documents completely safe from fraud on a blockchain.

Blockchains are also becoming to be more prevalent in the medical sector. They are allowing the creation of immutable profiles that can be shared among patients and healthcare professionals. You may take Estonia, as an example. They have moved most of their medical infrastructure regarding billing and prescriptions on to a blockchain. The real life implication of this use case are immense, as they allow for up to date information of patient health, and can potentially save lives as a result.

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There are many more use cases, that come out of blockchains. Too many for me to cover in just a single blog post. I’ll finish by giving one last example that I find to be the most interesting. Which is paying artists the money they are owed for their music. It has been a problem for awhile where music is downloaded and listened to illegally. Even now it can be a challenge to account for the money owed to artists from a streaming service. Mediachain is a blockchain data solution that was bought by Spotify to combat these issues. Their technology can allow for publishers to have their data connected to their identity, and thus allow for its benefits to flow to them directly.

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Blockchains are often said to be the next big thing in the tech-field. They are often compared to the internet itself, and even contrasted to big data companies like google. I believe these statements to be true, as blockchains are decentralized and available to everyone like the internet, and also it gives an individual control over their information unlike google. The future implications of blockchain will definitely be defining the way we live, either way.