There are already many myths surrounding blockchain technology. One example is that it will replace banks. However, the distributed ledger is finding its way into more areas than just the finance sector. Blockchains could also cause fundamental changes in logistics, public administration, and the advertising industry.
In general, technology trends all have one thing in common: they are often spoken about, but it takes a long time before they are implemented. Blockchains are the exact opposite. Hardly anything polarizes the IT community as much as the distributed database, which some people view as ominous. It has supposedly already sparked the decline of financial institutions and is about to revolutionize the energy market.
Undoubtedly, blockchain technology will create waves in many sectors. However, to what extent these changes will be carried out is still up for debate. So is it all just hype after all? That would be putting things too simply. Blockchain has already established itself as a platform for the cryptocurrency Bitcoin – even though the average consumer still sees little use in paying with digital money.
Blockchain’s success is still alarming for banks, and many are striving to find ways to profit from the technology themselves. Deutsche Bank , for example, believes the technology will mark a "paradigm shift in the prevailing financial system" and "could render certain divisions of traditional banks superfluous."
Equally, blockchain could cause similar changes in the energy market – even if PwC still foresees difficulties with security of supply and data protection. For that reason, the consulting firm questions whether blockchain technology can truly succeed in the energy sector.
Finance and energy are by no means the only sectors that could be affected by Blockchain’s disruption. According to the experts, the peer-to-peer system has potential to make notaries unnecessary and even throws the future of civil servants into question. After all, why would we need to employ people to verify a contract if the masses of users could do the job themselves?
And with connection to the Internet of Things, blockchains could make smart contracts possible. For example, if the blockchain registers that an installment for a new car is not paid on time, the car’s engine will not start. This prevents the person owing money from making a quick getaway.
The logistics industry has great hopes for blockchains. The technology could finally make it possible to continuously track every product and component from the manufacturer to the customer. To this end, IBM has launched a project in China together with Tsinghua University in Beijing. Using a blockchain, the organizations plan to enable food tracking across the entire supply chain – from farmer to shelf, and everything in between. IBM’s Haralf Murgas explains, "You could, for example, track temperatures or other conditions at any given point during transit."
German newspaper Die Zeit reports that in Silicon Valley and London – famous hotbeds for fintechs – new ideas for how blockchains could be used are announced on a daily basis. Many possible applications are being discussed, from property transfers with smart contracts to decreasing fraud in the public land registry in Honduras. However, it seems more likely that the possibilities will merely be explored, rather than turned into marketable products. Or in the words of Tobias Federico from Energy Brainpool at a recent blockchain conference: "We have a solution. Blockchain. But now we must identify where the problem is." It is safe to say that there are clear signs that blockchain technology has the potential to live up to its hype.
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