Blockchain is revolutionary because it enables decentralization. Cryptocurrency is only the mechanism. Find out how Blockchain is upending how things Get Done.
Bitcoin may make the headlines, but it’s Blockchain – the underlying technology – that’s revolutionizing everything from money to mobility, energy to healthcare.
It’s a key plank in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) – a confluence of technologies that blur the line between digital and physical. According to Klaus Schwab, the man who defined 4IR, it is distinct from previous industrial revolutions in being driven by advances in communication and connection, rather than the technology itself.
Blockchain is arguably the most essential of those advances. If AI, robotics, IoT and 3D printing are the trains, Blockchain is the railway.
Previous revolutions have depended on the ability to centralize resources. Blockchain enables the creation of decentralized networks that equal or exceed the resources of centralized organizations.
It’s a fundamental shift in how things get done. From the top-down status quo to the grassroots future. As we stand on the tipping point, your business must adapt to survive.
Here are some of the most innovative Blockchain projects so far, and what you can learn from them to navigate this new industrial epoch.
Let’s say you have land in sunny Portugal. You’d like to build solar panels but don’t have the capital. You tried the bank, but they decided you needed to front more cash before they’d lend you the rest.
WePower lets you sell your future energy production in exchange for capital. A decentralized network of investors buys units of energy at a discount. When the panels start generating energy, and those units are sold on the global market, investors get the full market price for their units.
For investors, it’s a near-guaranteed hedge. For producers? Well, it allows people to produce renewable energy who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
Blockchain performs two functions. The first is in keeping a completely verifiable log of where energy comes from. Investors can see that that is the energy unit they bought two years ago – a level of auditable accountability impossible without Blockchain.
The second is the use of Ethereum based Smart Contracts. The whole process is fully automated; immune to human error or tampering. Without Blockchain, such decentralized investment would be so administratively taxing – and fraught with risk – as to make it unworkable.
WePower are opening an entirely new stream of venture capital.
In an ideal world, nobody would own a car. We would be released from our dependence on oil, and untold land would be reclaimed as shared ownership keeps vehicles moving, rather than gathering dust on driveways.
That’s the ambition of Mobotiq, which is building a peer-to-peer community based on 3D printed, self-driving vehicles fuelled by a Blockchain based ecosystem.
Peers can design and build their own self-driving, electric trikes both for their own use, and for renting them out with the self-managing app. They can be used for travel or errands, everything facilitated using crypto-tokens.
The ecosystem aims to be sustainable through simple market economics: popular designs in supply starved areas will perform better than unpopular designs in oversupplied areas. Growth is fuelled by reward, and the system is sustained by a community invested in its success.
Blockchain provides the infrastructure to generate entirely new transport networks without the intervention of slow-moving central authorities, and eventually the mechanism to self-manage the entire system through Smart Contracts.
Ownership of the network is distributed amongst the local community, all engaged in its success.
In an era of murky supply chains and horse meat scandals, Walmart is turning to Blockchain for complete, auditable accountability.
By September 2019, all suppliers of leafy greens to Walmart will be required to log every lettuce on an IBM Blockchain. The move should enable the retail giant to trace the source of food within 2.2 seconds, rather than the 7 days or so it currently takes.
Why does this matter?
For starters, it improves food safety for all of us. An auditable record of provenance makes it far easier to pinpoint where lettuce carrying E. coli came from, for example. Knowing that Walmart can do that will earn highly prized trust from consumers – a coveted competitive advantage.
From a raw business perspective, it could substantially minimize losses to everyone in the supply chain should a recall occur. It will be far easier to isolate exactly which suppliers were at fault, and therefore exactly which products need recalling, rather than casting an unnecessarily wide – and costly – net.
Those suppliers are also unlikely to get repeat business, pushing unscrupulous salad sellers out of the market.
Approximately two billion people worldwide are “unbanked”. They have no access to financial institutions, relying solely on cash or other means of physical payment.
Unsurprisingly, the majority are in the developing world, where lack of access to finance can be a major hindrance to development. Micro-loans are fast gaining currency as the preferred method of distributing aid. However, without a bank account, securing even small amounts of credit can be impossible.
At a more basic level, it can even be difficult for families to receive money from relatives abroad. Global remittance is expensive, even with a bank account.
MicroMoney is joining the dots, using a combination of Blockchain and AI as the glue.
Their neural network uses 10,000 data points from a person’s mobile phone to generate a credit rating. They can then be issued with micro-loans – progressively larger as they prove their creditworthiness.
Users’ credit rating is stored on the Blockchain, updated to reflect their repayments, a score which can be used with other business’. The hope is that the unbanked can use MicroMoney to enter the global financial system without jumping through the traditional hoops.
If WePower is tapping into a new stream of investment, MicroMoney is opening a previously untapped market.
The development of electronic medical records has left a lot to be desired. The evolution of disparate, incompatible formats, with no secure mechanism for transfer means many medical secretaries still rely on fax machines to receive patient records.
And the potential for Big Data to revolutionise healthcare is held back by lack of access – patient records rightly kept under lock and key over privacy concerns.
Healthcare IT is dominated by a race to introduce the first Blockchain based healthcare data exchange.
Iryo puts patients’ medical records on their phones, allowing refugees to take their data with them for treatment elsewhere, for example. Medicalchain is seeking to create an entire ecosystem where patients can exchange their – anonymized - healthcare data for crypto-tokens, to be used for remote care or apps. Grapevine World is looking to do the same.
Blockchain is fundamental to these initiatives. Its record keeping is used to keep an entirely secure, unimpeachable and un-hackable medical record. Smart Contracts are used to facilitate transfer, and crypto-tokens are used to generate an ecosystem where patients are rewarded for contributing their data for study.
If MicroMoney is tapping an untapped market, Medicalchain et al. are generating an entirely new one.
The news may be focused on cryptocurrencies, but it’s Blockchain that’s ushering in real change. Cryptocurrencies are merely a feature of the architecture.
The lesson underlying all these projects is that the future will be built by building networks of community. It’s a fundamental restructuring of how power is created, and it’s already offering alternatives to monolithic structures that used to seem permanent.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is coming. Are you ready?