The following article, written by Yu Chen, Binghamton University, State University of New York, originally appeared on The Conversation and is published here with permission:
People hear a lot about blockchain technology in relation to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, which rely on blockchain systems to keep records of financial transactions between people and businesses. But a collapse in public trust in cryptocurrencies like TerraUSD – and therefore a massive drop in their market value – does not mean that their underlying technology is also worthless.
In fact, there are many other uses for this type of system, which doesn't rely on centralized storage and where many people can safely participate, even if they don't all know each other.
As a computer scientist exploring new technologies for future smart communication network technologies, I have, together with many engineers and developers, shown that blockchain technology is a promising solution to many difficult problems of trust and security of next-generation network applications. I see several ways blockchains prove useful that are unrelated to cryptocurrency.
Modern global supply chains require an enormous amount of information for the massive number of products being shipped around the world. They suffer from data storage capacity limitations, inefficient paper-based processes, disjointed data systems and incompatible data formats. These traditional methods of storing data centrally do not effectively trace the origin of problems, such as the origin of a poor quality product.
Storing information on a blockchain improves integrity, accountability and traceability. For example, IBM's Food Trust uses a blockchain system to track food products from the field to retailers. Participants in the food supply chain record transactions in the shared blockchain, which simplifies tracking.
Data ownership and privacy are major concerns in the healthcare industry. Today's centralized systems cannot meet all the diverse needs of patients, health service providers, insurance companies and government agencies. Blockchain technology enables a decentralized system of access control to medical records where the interests of all stakeholders are protected.
Blockchain systems not only allow health service providers to securely share patient medical records, but also allow patients to know who has accessed their records and determine who is authorized to do so.
Banking and finance
Banking and finance benefit from integrating blockchain networks into their business operations. Instead of trying to develop cryptocurrencies with new or different capabilities, the financial industry has recognized that blockchain systems are a reliable way to store information about traditional currencies like the dollar, euro, and yen. , as well as financial products.
Blockchains offer consumers the ability to monitor their transactions as they are processed, near real-time, from anywhere. Banks also benefit from blockchains, with the ability to conduct business between institutions more efficiently and securely.
Today's manual property registration process is cumbersome and inefficient. Traditional paper documentation is time-consuming, labor-intensive, not transparent, and can be lost. Blockchain technology eliminates inconvenience, inefficiency and errors, and reduces costs by moving the entire process to a digital form.
Blockchain systems allow owners to ensure that their deed is accurate and permanently recorded. Remote access is especially important for people living in areas without sufficient government or financial infrastructure.
Validating votes and maintaining voter confidentiality appear to be conflicting requirements. Blockchain systems show promise as a way to facilitate a fair and transparent modern voting system. Because it's nearly impossible to tamper with a blockchain-enabled voting system, it can maintain a transparent election process.
In the November 2018 midterm elections in West Virginia, a blockchain-based voting system was used and found to be secure and reliable.
A smart city integrates information and communication technologies into its facilities, infrastructure and services to provide its inhabitants with a practical, intelligent and comfortable living space. A smart city is essentially a network of many devices that can communicate with each other to share data. Connected devices can include smartphones, vehicles, electric meters, public safety monitoring systems, and even homes.
These systems have performance, security, and privacy requirements that centralized information systems cannot handle. Blockchain is a key networking technology for building smart cities as it is able to optimize operations, improve security guarantees and increase mutual trust between participants.
The future of information technology relies on decentralization. Today's centralized architecture fails to meet the increasingly diverse needs of people who want the freedom to customize their own services, control their digital assets, and more easily participate in democratic processes. Blockchain is a key enabling technology to build any secure and sustainable decentralized information system.
Yu Chen, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Binghamton University, State University of New York. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.