The not-so-sexy blockchain: NCET Biz Tips
Warren Buffett called Bitcoin “rat poison,” but the technology behind it is something everyone can agree on. Here are other life-changing uses you didn’t know about.
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We have all heard of bitcoin, because bitcoin is sexy. The blockchain technology behind bitcoin, however, has the potential to streamline and automate hundreds of unsexy processes we use every day. Blockchain is not about money, even though this is the technology underlying cryptocurrencies, and it is not fundamentally about replacing governments with private, decentralized systems. It’s about trust.
Blockchain is a digital ledger in which valid transactions are recorded chronologically. Each participant has a copy of the ledger that is simultaneously updated on every participating device. A block can represent transactions and data of many types — currency, smart contracts, transaction records, credentials, intellectual property and property titles. The system is designed around sophisticated algorithms and software that focus on security, and once written; an individual block cannot be altered or removed. A change to an individual block invalidates the following blocks, which means transactions cannot be tampered with. The result is a shared, trusted and definitive historical record.
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Blockchain has the potential to be a time- and money-saving boon to businesses and government entities, because much of what they do involves transactions and record-keeping. Blockchain also creates an opportunity for increased efficiency and accuracy by providing digitized records available online in a quicker and oftentimes more cost-efficient way.
For many businesses, blockchain is already saving time and money on the supply chain and logistics side. For example, by utilizing the immutable audit trail generated by blockchain to improve the tracking of goods through the economy, Walmart can now trace produce back to the farm where it was purchased in 2.2 seconds. Before implementing blockchain technology, the average time to backtrack on the supply chain was 6.5 days.
Government agencies also are beginning to implement blockchain. In Cook County, Illinois, the recorder of deeds will become the first government agency in the U.S. with a pilot program to officially reference conveyances and other instruments recorded in a blockchain. Using this system, buyers and sellers submit and access deeds using blockchain. Additionally, Cook County hopes to cut down on errors caused by documents manually data entered, and move to a consistent, electronic recording in all jurisdictions. According to Cook County administrators, Blockchain will “lock” conveyances from unauthorized transfer. The system also combines instrument (deed) and the act of conveyance (digital signatures) into one transaction, providing an open record that is more private and easily and quickly accessible by users. In addition to time, money and error-saving, Cook County hopes the system “can restore trust in government” ― and that’s no small feat.
If you are interested in learning more, the UNR Extended Studies Blockchain Certificate is a nontechnical introduction to the benefits and challenges of blockchain. Visit extendedstudies.unr.edu or email email@example.com.
Jodi Herzik is the executive director of professional development at the University of Nevada, Reno Extended Studies and NCET’s vice president of Biz Cafe. NCET (NCET.org) is a member-supported nonprofit that produces educational and networking events to help people explore business and technology.
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