February 5, 2018
Earlier this week, we walked through some of blockchain’s newer terms. In preparation for a future where more organizations turn to blockchain solutions, education about the technology is the first – and one of the most important – steps.
Now that everyone is caught up to speed, we can begin exploring how businesses can actually use the technology. At this point in blockchain’s adoption curve, there’s still the risk of over-applying the technology to scenarios that would be better solved by other solutions. However, many of blockchain’s use cases now carry real business weight, and we’re quickly replacing prototypes with functional networks.
Blockchain Use Cases by Industry
One of our 2017 goals was to better understand the criteria that makes blockchain work, as well as its overall composition and potential impact. We’ve followed the same fundamental approach that’s worked with past developing technologies, including user-first design thinking, engineering reviews that keep us true to the solution and more.
Our research has found that, in an academic sense, the industries most susceptible to digital risks are currently governmental, insurance, supply chain and health care (excluding the obvious financial industry, which has been well documented and established). The inherent security/privacy concerns for information in these sectors make them great candidates for blockchain’s new approach to managing digital assets.
Let’s explore potential applications in healthcare and supply chain:
A lack of trust and proprietary silos have driven efficiency out of the healthcare system, but blockchain counters those impulses. If you consider the information that can be exposed and exchanged between state governments, healthcare providers and patients, blockchain will disrupt existing healthcare operations to help all players share the right information at the right time, with assurances that this information is secure and not misused.
From routine appointments to life-and-death situations, blockchain can serve as the network through which healthcare information freely flows. Blockchain has the added benefit of incorporating historical patient information (useful for physicians to provide optimal care) and insurance information (useful for billing and ensures patients don’t redundantly provide personal data).
Not only can blockchain manage and record the exchange of all digital healthcare records, but it also enforces permissioned views by participant and completes all transfers on a network with secure endpoints. Similarly, because all data exchanged via blockchain must go into an immutable ledger that operates along predetermined smart contracts, there’s a built-in audit/compliance aspect that satisfies healthcare’s privacy and security watch dogs.
Ideally, blockchain will help healthcare standardize its recording process and evolve away from arduous processes and forms for which people no longer have patience.
Looking at food supply or any other good/service, it’s easy to see how assets move through supply chain systems unchecked and without awareness of downstream consumers. Reliance on distributors when scaling supply chain efforts only makes it more difficult to guarantee information accuracy and security.
Fortunately, existing package barcodes mean much of the supply chain product line is already traceable. RFID sensors, similar tech advancements and larger IoT capabilities allow for continual monitoring of products along the supply chain all the way until delivery. All of this creates a digital environment ripe for blockchain technology.
Blockchain will add a dimension of reliability that should dramatically change the path assets take throughout the supply chain, as well as how companies share product and delivery information with end consumers. Tracking assets along a single ledger and establishing unique ownership by participants at key junctures of the supply chain helps consumers get what they want – insights into where products have been, where they are now and where they’re going next.
For instance, that lobster you bought at your local grocer had to get to you somehow. What farm did it originate from? How long did it take to get there? Would this be the same at a competing store? Blockchain surfaces all of this information, offering value to both shoppers and businesses. Shoppers are delighted and feel they can make more informed purchasing decisions, while businesses earn favor with consumers by facilitating more transparent and valuable shopping experiences.
There’s little doubt that supply chain and healthcare will have working blockchain scenarios this year. Not all of these uses cases are new, but blockchain allows us to combine them in more effective and collaborative ways. This helps us improve trust within companies, eliminate unnecessary intermediaries and codify the business rules that are already in place between partners, customers and human beings in general.
Curious if your organization meets the criteria to begin incorporating blockchain as powerful way to manage and track digital information? Contact us!