Cryptocurrency brands such as Bitcoin and Dash have become household names across the United States in just a few years.
Blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency, has arguably had a harder time of getting itself noticed. A recent survey by the banking giant HSBC found that 59% of correspondents hadn’t heard of the technology.
That’s led to many of blockchain’s potential upsides being underreported. Thankfully, a huge variety of blockchain startups have taken it upon themselves to showcase the wide variety of benefits the technology can offer the general public. We’ve rounded up seven of our favorites, below:
1) Reducing Crime
Any item that is purchased using blockchain technology leaves a traceable trail on an online ledger. It’s a similar process to tracking the delivery of a parcel. It’s easy to see who has purchased the item, and the process it has gone through to reach the buyer.
The advantage of this is simple: it provides a way of demonstrating proof of ownership that cannot be tampered with. In the future, this could help to prevent the sale of stolen goods, or at the very least, let consumers make informed decisions about the products they’re buying.
This blockchain method is already being implemented with success in the diamond industry as a way of ending the trade of blood diamonds.
2) Selling on the Stock Market
One of the more frustrating elements of owning stocks and shares (besides their unforeseeable fluctuation in value) is the delay in settlement. Shareholders can face a wait of anywhere up to a week for their sold funds to reach their actual bank account.
Blockchain technology can speed up this process to a matter of minutes, not days. The knock on effect of this is that the general public could theoretically react to fluctuations in the market in real time, selling shares one minute and using that same money to buy new shares in a separate company just minutes later.
3) Reducing Voting Fraud
On paper, digital voting seems like the ideal way to ensure that all voters have the opportunity to have their say on the running of a country.
Unfortunately, there’s a reason why the majority of voters worldwide are still forced to visit a polling station to cast their ballot: digital voting is susceptible to tampering. Malware on a computer, for example, could alter a person’s vote without them even knowing.
Voting using blockchain technology, on the other hand, would allow external auditors to confirm the legitimacy of every vote thanks to its traceability back to the user.
4) Reaching People in Need
There’s always huge question marks over what percentage of a charitable donation actually reaches a person in need. The British charity Oxfam, for example, recently revealed that the number of its workers earning over $130,000 per year had doubled over the last decade. Financial services, which transfer payment, also take a small percentage of any donation.
While blockchain technology can’t provide permanent solutions to humanitarian disasters, it can at least bypass the middlemen and reach those in need faster.
An example of this was recently provided by the United Nation’s agency responsible for providing food aid, the World Food Programme (WFP). They recently sent over 10,000 cryptocurrency vouchers directly to supermarkets located in refugee camps in Jordan.
Instead of having traditional cash registers, the checkouts inside the supermarkets are equipped with specialist iris scanners that allow the charity to authenticate the vouchers to each refugee inside the camp.
5) Safe Online Storage
You’ve probably head of the online cloud storage offered by the likes of Google and Microsoft. The majority of these clouds require your data – the information you place on the cloud – to be stored on one central server.
While the risk may be small, this does leave your personal data susceptible to hacking attacks, as 68 million Dropbox users found out in 2012.
Recommended: How to Ensure the Safety of Your Data Online
Cloud storage mixed with blockchain technology allows for users’ files to not only be encrypted but also “shredded” into several different pieces that are then stored across a network of computers worldwide. This means that only the user has access to the complete version of a file, helping to provide safer online storage than ever before.
6) Entering Other Countries
Having and being able to present a valid ticket and passport is a prerequisite for traveling abroad. While the former can now often be uploaded onto our smartphones, passports are still very much a physical document.
If you forget it, you aren’t going on vacation. This also leaves the public susceptible to theft and identity fraud. Over 80,000 blank passports have been stolen in recent years, according to the intelligence officials, creating a huge headache for law enforcers worldwide.
Thankfully, blockchain technology might be about to provide a solution. As we’ve already touched on, it allows users to store blocks of encrypted data, such as information about themselves, across a distributed network. Any access or changes to this information would require verification by each member of the network, making it virtually tamper-proof.
This encrypted data could theoretically be stored on a person’s smartphone and be accessible (not editable) via fingerprint scanning. When used alongside stored biometric information, such as facial recognition and retinal scans, border crossings could become safer than ever before. Perhaps more importantly, you won’t ever have to worry again about leaving your passport on your bedside table.
7) Protecting Royalties
Ownership laws regarding music and subsequent royalty rights has long been a thorny issue. The world’s largest online streaming platform, Spotify, currently pays out just $0.00397 per stream to artists.
Performers have started to fight back against such low payments, with blockchain technology helping to aid their cause. Grammy-winning songwriter Imogen Heap, for example, is spearheading a new blockchain-based music platform called Mycelia, where fans can buy music directly from the artist rather than going through intermediaries such as record labels and publishers. The technology allows the money to be transferred into the artists’ account almost instantly, with the fee automatically split at a pre-agreed rate between the songwriter(s), singer(s), and producer(s).
If proved successful, such schemes could not only help raise more money for content creators but also lower the price of the product for the consumer.