Can Blockchain Technology Be Used For Things Other Than Cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is perhaps the most publicized use for blockchain technology. Perhaps this is why most people assume that cryptocurrency and blockchain are the same. In this article, we will show you that blockchain can be used for more than just finance and banking. This exciting, new technology has a wide array of applications that extend far beyond the implementation of digital currencies.

 

Cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin and others, merely use the blocks on the blockchain as a means to transparently and securely record a ledger of payments. Blockchain can also be used as a secure way of keeping data about other types of transactions.

 

In theory, people across various industries can use blockchain to store different data points immutably. This could be in the form of votes in an election, financial transactions, titles to properties, product inventories, and much more.

 

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Blockchain can be useful in any application where data security is paramount.

This explains blockchain’s wide adoption in vast industries like healthcare, supply chain, cloud storage and so on. We'll expound on these and other applications of blockchain in this article. But first, let's look at the technology, as it relates to cryptocurrency.

 

Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain

While people use cryptocurrency and blockchain interchangeably, these two aren't the same thing. Bitcoin was the first example of blockchain in action when it was introduced as an open-source code.  

 

Cryptocurrencies serve as an exchange medium. They are a disruptive fintech designed to make international transactions secure, faster, and easier, by putting control straight into the concerned parties' hands. These digital assets use cryptography and proof-of-work to create global currencies, secure transactions, control rate issues, all while removing aspects of government control.

 

The immutable, decentralized feature has fueled blockchain's adoption beyond its original use of supporting Bitcoin transactions. Here's how blockchain technology can be used for things other than cryptocurrency.

 

Blockchain Uses in Monitoring Supply Chain Data

 

The supply chain industry is challenged with enormous complexity, utilizing vast amounts of data. Information is often fragmented, inconsistently formatted, making it difficult to access or analyze. Blockchain technology seeks to address these and many other challenges.

 

Blockchain integration in the supply chain allows businesses to record a wide range of information effectively from date, price, location, certification, quality and other forms of critical data. This enables a more accurate and transparent end-to-end monitoring. It can also reduce disputes, as well as blockages of assets throughout the entire supply chain. By eliminating paper-based trails, companies can quickly identify inefficiencies and locate the assets in real-time.

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Blockchain integration in supply chain management will help save time and money.

 

Most companies agree that one of the biggest benefits of using blockchain technology for supply chain management is cost reduction. The ability to use real-time tracking in supply chain management proves to be one of the largest sources of cost-reduction.

 

Plus, there are other incredible benefits such as increasing automation through smart contracts, the provenance of tracking, scalability, and security.

 

Blockchain Uses In the Internet of Things (IoT) Systems

IoT is changing the way businesses run through the use of sensors and other edge infrastructure and devices. While a great thing, this poses a unique challenge for companies that have to protect data at all levels of the IoT environment. And with the ever-growing number of connected IoT devices, the need for data security has never been this complex. Blockchain technology is helping businesses resolve the security challenges in their IoT systems.

 

Blockchain combines with IoT to facilitate the machine-to-machine transaction. This blend also provides a range of potential benefits, like allowing smart devices to run autonomously without a centralized authority. It can also monitor how IoT devices send and receive information. The distributed ledger technology with IoT applies in automotive, agriculture, and banking sectors while, also, extending to smart homes, logistics and smart contracts. Blockchain application allows businesses to manage information on smart devices in an IoT system. This lowers costs linked to data transfer and IoT device maintenance.

 

 

Blockchain Uses in Smart Contracts

 

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Smart contracts are transactions that are secured by a distributed blockchain network.

A smart contract is a transaction protocol or computer program meant to automatically execute, document, or control legally relevant actions and events, as per the terms of an agreement or contract. It aims at reducing the need for external enforcement or a central entity as well as fraud losses.

 

Smart contracts use blockchain to capture, verify, approve and enforce agreements between parties. Blockchain-based smart contracts are irreversible, traceable, and transparent transactions. They are immutable, secure, and exist across a distributed blockchain network. Once recorded, it becomes impossible to change, delete or lose an agreement. The uses of smart contracts are vast, but they are common in property ownership and cross-border financial transactions. Other uses include: monitoring origin and the path of goods, banking and credit card services, among others.

 

Blockchain Uses in Cloud Storage

 

Dropbox, Google Drive, Gmail are great examples of cloud storage. Many companies are using these and other premium cloud storage services to streamline their operations. Data in the cloud is easy to access, edit and share. It also cuts out the need for physical storage and security. 

 

Blockchain applied to cloud storage breaks down user data into small chunks and adds an extra layer of security before distributing it across the network. This is thanks to its features like transaction ledgers, private/public key encryption, and hashing function. Blockchain stores these chunks of data in a decentralized location. So, when hackers try to access the data, they’ll find encrypted data that’s only in parts. They will never be able to access the entire file.

 

Blockchain Technology in Healthcare

 

There are vast applications of blockchain in healthcare. Uses include protecting healthcare data, point-of-care genomics management, managing electronic medical record data, electronics, and personal health record data management.

 

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Protecting personal health information is one of the main ways blockchain tech can be used in the healthcare industry. It can also be used to track disease outbreaks and enable doctors to monitor patients, remotely.

Specific applications of blockchain in healthcare include:

· Research

 

· Collecting data

 

· Interoperable electronic health records

 

· Mobile health apps and remote monitoring

 

· Tracking outbreaks and diseases

 

· Safeguarding genomics

 

· Health insurance claims

 

· Tracing and securing medical supplies

 

· Data security

 

Blockchain Uses in Privacy and Security of Chats and Media

Media companies are now adopting blockchain to secure intellectual property rights of content, minimize costs and eliminate fraud. Blockchain in Media and Entertainment Market report 2021 by MarketWatch reveals that the sector will reach USD 1.54 billion by 2024. Messenger services are also not left behind. With billions of devices and users, there's an inherent danger of hacks, social engineering, and so on. Blockchain technology prevents identity theft, fraud, and data tampering while also protecting critical infrastructure.

 

Is Blockchain Just for Cryptocurrencies?

Blockchain technology is an online database that offers information to organizations and enables them to record their transactions easily. The database is encrypted, so all communications are done between the organization and the peer-to-peer network only when it’s veritable.

The technology offers an excellent way to transfer data from point X to Y without worrying about false data being stored in the database because that would falsify the whole chain of millions of instances. Blockchain provides accountability since the transactions recorded pass through multiple-party verification and no transaction in the database can be changed by the parties later on.

What is blockchain technology?

As the name implies, blockchain is essentially blocks of encrypted data stored in a database (or ledger). Many would like to think of it as a robust spreadsheet. A single block of data links to a previous block, thus forming a chain. What makes blockchain unique is the fact that it’s a network of interconnected computers that don’t depend on a centralized entity to execute interactions.

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A central authority manages most databases that keep financial information. But with the blockchain database, the ledger is amended and updated communally by all the computers that are connected in the network. Since the records are held communally, no financial institution or computer is in charge. So, if a single computer in the system gets knocked offline or is hacked, the others can still function without it.

Advantages and disadvantages of blockchain

Pros

Cons

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies

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In the context of cryptocurrencies, blockchain features a stable chain of blocks, each with a list of previously approved transactions. The blockchain network works as a decentralized ledger because its run by a network of computers spread worldwide. So, each participant (node) holds a copy of the blockchain data and communicates with the others to make sure they are all on the same page.

Blockchain transaction happens within a peer-to-peer network and is what makes Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies decentralized digital currencies that are borderless and censorship-resistant. The whole point of using this technology is to allow people – especially those who don’t trust each other – to share critical data in a secure and tamper-proof manner. This is because blockchain technology holds data using innovative software and sophisticated math functions that are extremely difficult for hackers to manipulate.

Is blockchain just for cryptocurrencies? 

One of the first real-world uses of blockchain technology was in Bitcoin, a virtual currency that was announced in 2008 by Satoshi Nakamoto (pseudonym). But these types of projects are not tied to the Bitcoin network alone. In fact, most blockchains have nothing to do with Bitcoin. Once Bitcoin blockchain had been around for a while – successfully recording all Bitcoin transactions and surviving vast attacks – many entrepreneurs and programmers wondered if the Bitcoin data security design might be applied to create other types of secure databases, unrelated to Bitcoin.

Today, startups, SMEs, and large scale companies across different types of fields are increasingly integrating blockchain into their daily operations. It is now widely used in banking and finance to facilitate payments, improve capital markets, trade finance, deter money laundering, and in insurance. It also has applications in business, especially in areas like healthcare, supply chain management, real estate, media, and energy. The government, too, can use the technology for record management, identity management, taxes, voting, regulatory/compliance oversight and a virtually infinite amount of other types of real-world applications.

Blockchain’s best features for corporations

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The growing applications and use cases of blockchain technology

Healthcare industry

One of the main challenges that healthcare professionals face is to share information across platforms securely. A seamless flow of data between providers could increase the chances of accurate diagnoses and effective treatment. It’ll also lower the cost of healthcare. Blockchain technology allows healthcare institutions and other related parties to share network access without affecting the integrity or security of data.

Critical infrastructure security

The internet infrastructure has proven vulnerable to attacks, particularly when it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Since critical infrastructures like transportation and power plants have connected sensors, there’s a heightened risk to the civil society. Luckily, some companies are using the tamper-proof database to share critical information across their networks. Others are using blockchain to offer massive scale data authentication. A good example is using blockchain powered Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI) to tag and verify data transactions.

Supply chain management 

The supply chain involves a series of transaction nodes that connect to move goods from one point to another. The technology allows businesses to document transactions in a decentralized record, thus limiting delays, human errors, and added costs. Different companies are coming up with blockchain-based products that enable enterprises to engage clients at the point-of-sale with data collected collaboratively from suppliers along the supply chain.

Blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT)

Blockchain technology decentralizes cloud services, therefore increasing security, connectivity, and computational power. This solves the inefficiency problems – especially those surrounding data storage and computational resources – that are associated with launching IoT products.

Blockchain and cloud storage

Companies that provide cloud storage usually keep clients’ data in one secure server, which makes it vulnerable to attacks. Blockchain cloud storage services decentralize data storage, making it less prone to hacks that can lead to systemic damage and colossal data loss. Companies are now providing blockchain-enabled cloud storage to enhance security and also reduce the cost of storing data in the cloud.

Blockchain ensures the security of data. The information stored in blockchain is fully decentralized since it’s kept in multiple nodes across the globe rather than in a single place. This addresses the concern of data protection in case there’s an error or breach. Records that are uploaded in blockchain aren’t accessible to or controlled by an individual. But each party holding the data has a private key that they can use to access the encrypted files. So, even if a hacker gets to access a folder, he/she will only see a partial file –which won’t be useful. That’s why industries, other than cryptocurrencies, are taking advantage of blockchain to enhance their operations.

How are Cloud Computing & IoT Related?

Cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) are two very closely-related internet technologies that complement each other. The convergence of these two distinct technologies has derived numerous benefits, including better infrastructure, enhanced performance, and increased scalability.

Cloud computing and IoT have a complementary relationship and work best as inseparable cohorts. Cloud-based IoT allows for smart usage of information, applications, and infrastructure cost-effectively. But to understand the relationship between IoT and cloud computing, we’ll need to look at each technology separately.

What’s IoT

IoT is an ecosystem of connected devices that are accessible through the internet. With an estimated 50 billion devices connected to the internet by 2020 – and more than 75 billion projected to be in use by 2025 globally – IoT is a top consideration for forward-thinking enterprises.

IoT features different components, including:

The devices are fitted with actuators and sensors that gather data from the environment and transfer it to the gateway for pre-processing. The gateway serves a security level for the network and transmitted data. Once the data is collected, it is sent to the cloud, which is often a set of serves linked to the internet 24/7. The information then undergoes processing and becomes available through different user interfaces.

IoT bases its model in smart devices which intercommunicate in a dynamic infrastructure and global network. It facilitates ubiquitous computing scenarios. The Internet of Things is characterized by widespread devices with limited storage and processing abilities. These devices are prone to issues regarding privacy, reliability, performance and security.

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What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is an on-demand delivery of computing power, applications, database storage, and IT resources. It allows companies to use computing resources, like a virtual machine, rather than deploying a computing infrastructure in-house.

Cloud computing is characterized by aspects like:

Cloud computing comprises an extensive network with unlimited computational power and storage abilities. It offers a flexible and robust environment that facilitates data integration from different data sources. Cloud computing has the potential to resolve almost all IoT issues.  

Cloud computing has four types of deployment models: Public Cloud, Private Cloud, Hybrid Cloud, and Community Cloud. Since businesses have varied needs, they may have to choose a cloud computing service that fits their preferences. Examples of these services include Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

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A closer look at the relationship between cloud computing and IoT

The Internet of Things (devices, machines, and sensors) produces extensive quantities of data per second. And as we discussed, cloud computing helps in the analysis and management of this data so that companies can reap the most benefit out of their IoT infrastructure. The goal of IoT is to connect and enable communication between people, processes, and things. Cloud computing facilitates this collaboration to create greater visibility.

The fundamental idea behind cloud computing and IoT is to optimize the daily tasks, without affecting the quality of data stored or exchanged. Since the relationship is symbiotic, the two complement each other successfully. The IoT becomes the source of information, while the cloud becomes the destination for the data to be stored.

Cloud computing, with its vast models and implementation platforms, allow enterprises to analyze and manage data, improving overall efficiency and working of the IoT system. It also allows data storage and transfer through the internet or with a direct link that facilitates uninterrupted data transfer between applications, devices, and cloud.

This explains why almost most companies (96%) use cloud computing in one way or another. And with the rise of cloud platforms like Google Cloud Platform, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services, we can only expect to see a surge in the uptake of IoT solutions. Experts believe that we’ll see lots of growth in cloud services for devices in the coming years, much of it from Google, AWS, and Microsoft, along with purpose-built clouds that device makers may share or use exclusively.

A successful partnership between IoT and cloud computing

IoT is powered by the cloud, meaning that the collection of sensor-enabled devices depends on the strength of specific cloud computing techniques to thrive. This need makes IoT a critical element in the adoption and growth of cloud infrastructure, and vice versa. Companies need to employ a cloud strategy that enables them to support IoT development if they want to leverage the new applications that will be created and delivered through cloud-based platforms.

How cloud computing augments the growth IoT 

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Increases efficiencies

One of the main ways cloud computing complements IoT initiatives is by increasing efficiencies in daily tasks. IoT generates large amounts of data, and the cloud offers a pathway for this data to travel.

Data storage

Data storage in the cloud allows IoT enterprises to adapt quickly and distribute resources in different areas. And with the emergence of big data, the cloud is now an appealing option for many companies.

Providing infrastructure

Integration of IoT and cloud enables public cloud services to grant third-parties the power to access infrastructure. This, in turn, helps IoT data or computational modules running over different devices.

Augmented performance

Big data generated by extensive IoT devices need robust performance to interact and connect with other devices quickly. The integration of IoT and cloud can offer connectivity that’s vital to share data between devices and obtain quick meaning from it.

Enhanced scalability

IoT devices need plenty of storage to share data for critical reasons. Cloud services like IBM Watson, Google Cloud Platform, Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, etc. are some of the IoT-based cloud systems that provide consumers with greater storage that can be increased or decreased accordingly.

Remote computing power

Thanks to this technology, enterprises can expand their infrastructure and network without deploying extensive hardware. And with faster networking technologies like the 5G, teams can now accelerate the creation of real-time applications and access remote cloud computing services with a few clicks.

Pay-as-you-go

Pay as you go (PAYG) is a cloud computing payment method that enables consumers to pay for the data they store. The PAYG model allows businesses to expand their usage according to need. They also won’t have to spend money to buy provision servers or other infrastructure, thus saving on cost.

Conclusion

IoT devices generate a massive amount of data, putting a strain on internet infrastructure. Cloud computing comes in to help store, process, and transfer data in the cloud rather than connected devices. IoT and cloud computing technologies are closely associated, and when combined, can deliver powerful innovation that will continue to change the way we interact with our devices, with each other as well as how we store, manage and consume information.