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Is Blockchain the Biggest Thing Since the Internet?

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Is Blockchain the Biggest Thing Since the Internet?

February 28, 2018
By Paula Bernier
Executive Editor, TMC

Blockchain is frequently associated with cryptocurrencies. And, in fact, blockchain is an enabling technology of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and their competitors.

But, cryptocurrency is just one application of blockchain. As, blockchain can enable a whole lot more. And we’ll talk about that at The Blockchain Event May 16 through 17 in Las Vegas.

What It Is & Why It’s Important

Blockchain is a decentralized and encrypted ledger technology. It provides a secure and verifiable way to store information without the need for intermediaries.

And it:

• allows for less expensive processing of payments;

• eliminates the need for “trusted middlemen”; and

• removes risk and uncertainty related to many activities involving implicit or explicit contracts 

Blockchain technology is the single most massive disruptor to come along since the internet, says Robin Bloor, senior vice president of strategy for Algebraix Data. He predicts blockchain will have serious implications for advertising, entertainment, human resources, marketing, retail, and other departments and industries.

“In the dotcom era, the internet middlemen took over from brick-and-mortar middlemen,” notes Bloor. “Now they will be displaced by the blockchain itself.”

IDC (News - Alert) says worldwide spending on blockchain solutions are poised to reach $1.8 billion in 2018 and $8.1 billion in 2021.

An Advertising, Entertainment & Retail Game-Changer

Flackable founder Brian Hart agrees the blockchain will be an advertising industry disruptor. But, he adds, that could prompt positive change for both advertisers and consumers.

“First off, consumer data will be better protected because of added security with blockchain technology. This will limit demographic information from being sold without authorization. And consumers may even be able to own and sell their information to authorized companies,” Hart suggests.

“For ad buyers, blockchain cloud eliminate much of the guesswork required to mount a campaign. Blockchain is transparent and encrypted, so it can stamp out empty bot clicks and other threats that can saturate a campaign…. Trust and transparency are two elements vital to digital advertisers, and blockchain is likely the game-changing solution they need.”

The Potential to Standardize Shipping Processes

Blockchain also offers the potential for shipping to become much more efficient. Recognizing this potential, IBM (News - Alert) has aligned with shipping giant Maersk to form a blockchain-focused joint venture.

But this isn’t just an IBM engagement with Maersk. The companies aim to use blockchain to help the entire shipping industry reduce friction.

You know how FedEx enables consumers to track their packages? Well, an analog to that doesn’t exist for companies that ship goods today, says Ramesh Gopinath.

Sure, organizations can use connected sensors to track containers, says IBM’s vice president of blockchain. But that only happens in select cases and for piece parts of a journey, Gopinath says. Plus, there’s no standard documentation for shipping, so a port in China needs different paperwork than one in the U.S., for example.

Blockchain is attractive because it provides end-to-end tracking. And it securely digitizes and automates the required documentation needed at every step along the way. That way, if U.S. port officials need the history on a container before loading it onto a ship, they can quickly and easily locate it, Gopinath explains.

The JV, which as of mid-January was awaiting regulatory approval, expects to deliver this offering via a software-as-a-service model. This platform, and third-party applications based on it, could do more than simple tracking, Gopinath adds. Ports could also use the solution to optimize their operations. Customs officials could employ it to do security checks on containers.

“This new company marks a milestone in our strategic efforts to drive the digitization of global trade,” says Vincent Clerc, chief commercial officer at Maersk and future chairman of the board of the new joint venture. “The potential from offering a neutral, open digital platform for safe and easy ways of exchanging information is huge, and all players across the supply chain stand to benefit.”

Securing Connected Devices and Networks

Dimension Data (News - Alert) expects blockchain to be one of the top digital business trends of the year.

“Last year, when we looked at the top digital business trends for 2017, we predicted that centralized transaction models would come under attack. We were spot on,” says Dimension Data CTO Ettienne Reinecke. “In the financial services sector, we’ve seen the U.S. and European capital markets moving onto blockchain platforms, and similar activity in markets such as Japan. Considering how conservative and compliance-focused this sector is, that’s quite remarkable.”

The fact the WannaCry ransomware attack criminals asked for payment in Bitcoin only lends more credence to the security of blockchain’s digital ledger approach, says Reinecke.

“I believe that blockchain has the potential to totally re-engineer cybersecurity,” he adds. “But the industry has yet to come to terms with it.”

Edited by Mandi Nowitz

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