Although Blockchain has now been around for quite a while, since 2008 in fact, for many, including myself up until quite recently, it has just been a name of some new technology, that may vaguely be of interest. The truth is, even if we are not interested, Blockchain technology is being widely used today and will massively impact all our lives, possibly more so than Artificial Intelligence, certainly in the short term. Possibly the reason why many of us are not aware of it, is due to its silent effect, whilst just getting on with the vital work of protecting our Data. Data protection has a particular focus at present, with huge measures such as GDPR being introduced, so perhaps now is a good time for us all to look more closely at this incredible technology.
Blockchain enables Data to be recorded and stored in a transparent, public ledger. Each piece of information, a “block”, in the chain, is linked to the other blocks cryptographically, making the system tamper-proof. The only way it can be hacked is if the hacker were somehow able to attack every computer or data storage device within the Blockchain, that was each holding the identical information, simultaneously. A tall order, especially when there could well be hundreds, if not thousands of computers forming the blockchain. Here is a 5 minute video with a great overview of Blockchain
Video by the UK Government Office for Science
Blockchain is now used in many areas, especially within the Financial services sector, enabling near instant asset transfer, asset movement, and security of data movement. Many people do not realise it, but withought Blockchain Technology, a thing they probably have heard of, namely Bitcoin, simply would not be able to function. Blockchain is to Bitcoin and other cyber currencies, what the Internet is to Email, the wind beneath its wings. But Blockchain can also be used in countless other ways, where secure data storage and sharing is required.
For example, The United Nations is using the huge so called "Ethereum" blockchain, to make sure that the aid funds actually reach the recipients who need it. This one project is expected to help to improve the lives of more than half a million people. Which brings to mind the best thing about Blockchain for me - An end to Government corruption. It is also being used within the food industry in helping to trace contamination within the food chain from field to plate across the world. The Diamond industry are now using it to prove ownership and authenticity. The fishing industry is using it to prove where and when a particular fish was caught. The list is endless, with many other Blockchain applications within Public services, Policing, Security, Farming, Education, Insurance, Immigration, Real estate, Governmental / Political agreements. Plus of course, there is the Transportation / Driverless cars / Autonomous vehicles sector.
Toyota for example, will use blockchain to gain driving data to aid development of Autonomous / driverless cars. Blockchains and distributed ledgers can then enable the pooling of billions of miles of driving data from across vehicle owners, fleet managers, and manufacturers, to shorten the development time of autonomous driving technology and therefore bringing the benefits to everyone much more quickly. The driver would have full control of their data. This has the potential to enable significantly reduced insurance costs. For example, if the information derived from vehicle sensors is stored in a blockchain, drivers will then be able to decide if they wish to give their insurance companies this detailed information about their driving habits and other data.
Toyota’s use of blockchain illustrates just one way this technology can go, beyond the financial sector and cryptocurrency. With its security, speed and autonomy, Blockchain has the potential to revolutionise almost any sector of life that we can think of. It is to me so incredible and yet in many ways so simple, that I find it difficult to comprehend its true potential.
Let's not forget the potential massive usage for Bitcoin itself. Many people believe that Cyber currency will be perfectly used to fund the countless micro payments that will be required for the various transactions encountered in a typical journey, such as, Road Tolls, Self-parking, Wi-Fi hotspots, Roadside datacoms, highway navigation data, V2i charges, Lidar, Telemetry etc. Plus the payment of more tangible products and services such as Fuel, EV charging, Servicing, and other drive in services, for food etc. Then, there are the envisaged non-car MaaS type transactions, such as Bus & Train fares, Scooter, Cycle hire etc. Also, there will surely be countless other new products and services reuiring micro payments, that are yet to be created.
(Blockchain enthusiast may alo be interested in Bitcoin Building here... )
Blockchain is definitely a thing happening right now and not just a possible maybe whim of the future. Whilst the technology will certainly evolve and develop, the main news is more likely to be about which interesting applications will employ it next.
Whilst not a competition, Blockchain remains for me, a far more acceptable technology to engage with, and with a far higher level of trust than I hold for the uncertain future of Artificial Intelligence.