When someone hears the word blockchain they usually associate that word with Bitcoin and a new border-less way to send and receive electronic money. But this technology can be used for so much more than just sending money from place A to place B.
A blockchain is a distributed ledger, a list of recorded information. It is verifiable and once data is recorded to the blockchain it cannot be modified or deleted. Because of that, blockchains can be used in a wide variety of industries.
The Use of Blockchain in Healthcare
The blockchain can be used to store patients' medical records electronically in a safe, reliable and widely accessible form. The problem with medical records is that each practice and each doctor can have a different way to store them. As you become older and each time you visit a doctor your medical records will become longer. But how do you synchronize those records, how do you make sure that your records are up-to-date in all the medical institutions you visit? How does your family doctor know that you visited a private physician and what has changed in your medical records? You see, one medical institution has no way of obtaining medical records created and stored in a different institution. Now imagine that you are visiting a foreign county and you need medical assistance. How does the new doctor know your medical history when he has never seen you in his life? He can, of course, contact your family doctor and ask to see your medical records or run some tests, but by the time he has all the important information, it can already be too late.
The answer is in the use of blockchain technology. A blockchain allows that different copies of a patient's medical data are synchronized with one another and even if updates are made and stored in one medical institution each copy will automatically be updated with the most up-to-date information. This data cannot be altered, it cannot be deleted or moved and it has a precise timestamp when it was created. This means that every medical institution and every doctor who is using blockchain technology can get access to valuable medical records upon consent by the patient.
The Use of Blockchain for Government Services
There are many ways in which blockchain can make government services function more efficiently. For example, the election process. The blockchain can ensure a secure online voting system. The immutability of the blockchain ensures that once the data has been verified and has become part of the open ledger it can no longer be tampered with. Manipulation of the election process would no longer be possible because the original logs are saved on the blockchain and can be verified by everyone.
People don't trust their governments because they are not transparent. There is no way to verify the information our governments release. This is because government records are centralized. They can easily be manipulated, omitted and destroyed by a handful of entities who have access to said data. Blockchain can provide governments with the needed decentralization. The power would no longer be in the hands of just a few subjects. Manipulation, fraud and the leakage of data would forever be recorded and the guilty party could easily be found.
This can make the task for law enforcement officials much easier because there is a clear path for them to follow. The evidence is on the blockchain which holds all records of corruption and abuse. But it can also work the other way around. The blockchain can be used as definite proof that a government official did not commit the fraud, he is being suspected of committing. How? Due to the irreversibility of blockchain records. The blockchain doesn't lie, it can't hide any wrongdoings or protect its partners and friends. The data could easily be audited by law enforcement and made public for anyone to check and verify that the official is innocent.
The Use of Blockchain in a Supply Chain
Blockchain technology can make supply chains more secure and verifiable. The problem with existing supply chain services is that it is difficult to verify the origin of the products, the parts used in the production and whether or not goods are genuine or counterfeit. Medicine and prescription drugs are often being counterfeited and sold at a cheaper price compared to genuine medicine. Unknowing costumers purchase these cheap drugs not knowing what consequences it can have on their health.
Companies such as Walmart are already relying on the blockchain to track the origin of their products. With the help of the blockchain, Walmart can trace back all purchased pork meat and vegetables in case there is a problem somewhere in the supply chain. That is the beauty of the blockchain - traceability and a public record that can always be checked.
The supply chain can also be of great help when verifying luxury items like expensive watches and jewelry. Counterfeiting is a big problem for these industries and if there is no trust between two parties a trusted intermediary, aka the blockchain will be needed to show the entire history of a particular watch. From the parts that were used in its production, the companies who were involved in the shipment to the route the watch took from the factory to the store where it is now being sold.
Blockchain in Education
One important way that blockchain can be used in the education industry is to provide proof of the authenticity of diplomas. When you apply for a job you are often required to submit your original documents in the process. These documents can get stolen, they can get damaged or simply lost which can create a lot of problems since there is only one original copy. The solution is to create a digital copy of the diploma which holds information that points to the issuer and place of origin. This digital can copy can be sent and used as definite proof that a diploma is genuine.