That Blockchain Thing!

Is it just me, or is “Blockchain” the most talked about idea just about everywhere you look today? Maybe it’s time for many of us to start paying attention!
So, as simply as I have been able to understand it, a blockchain is a decentralized network (ledger of transactions) that allows information to be connected with transparency, and without the need to have a manager or intermediary for the chain to work successfully and without corruption. Once data has been recorded within a blockchain, it is very difficult to change it. If someone attempts to change one block in the chain, that effort is apparent to everyone in the chain and, without full agreement, the chain can become invalid. Because there is not a central entity managing the chain, and all information is available to the entire network, everyone is able to verify that the chain is valid and the information is not corrupted.
Ok, if that wasn’t simple enough, maybe you should review this article in which the author explained blockchain to his 6-year-old using a story about a magic village. It’s nice and simple and makes the major points clear to understand. And why do you care? Well, according to many experts, Blockchain truly is “the next big thing“.
This is not a brand new idea, in fact it’s several decades in the making. The concept came into prominence, most agree, with the advent of Bitcoin in 2009. The Bitcoin folks, by the way, have their own explanation of Blockchain, which is worth a review.
If you’re with me so far, and have looked at the links above, you can probably already figure out why people in financial services are interested in Blockchain. But the idea is catching on in many more areas, and even if you aren’t a financial wizard, it is going to affect you soon, or may be doing so already. For example:
  1. Medical Records: Alphabet – Google’s papa – is actively pursuing an initiative to carefully track how every shred of data on a patient’s health record is shared and used. The ability to do this will impact patient care decisions, confidentiality, and doctor/patient collaboration.
  2. Purchasing Food: Among others, Walmart is looking to improve food safety by using Blockchain to track food from the point of origin to your kitchen. Could make tracking salmonella outbreaks, and saving lives, much faster in the future.
  3. Media: Newspapers, TV, social media, and other content providers are ripe for the use of Blockchain concepts. Maybe the demise of #fakenews is actually closer than we think!
  4. Advertising: Particularly in the digital world, Blockchain principles can go a long way to preventing advertising fraud, increasing trust, and improving the customer experience.
  5. Government: The permanent and public validity of information recorded and stored using Blockchain techniques might even make it possible for the average citizen to trust his or her governing authorities once again. Who doesn’t want that?

If you want to see more about business use cases of Blockchain, and how at least one big player (Microsoft) is using it, watch this video (40 minutes). You owe it to yourself to learn as much as possible – I think Blockchain is here to stay.

Have a great day!